Monday 18th June 2018,
The Hoop Doctors

If the Playoffs Started Today: Predicting the First Round in the West

While the playoffs aren’t scheduled to start for another five weeks, it’s never too early to start thinking about possible first round match-ups. Considering the Eastern Conference is so top heavy, the Western Conference is much more likely to have a competitive, drama filled first round of the playoffs.

After all, only 5.5 games separate the fourth seed from the eighth seed. So, which teams would be facing off if the playoffs started today? Who would win these hypothetical match-ups? Let’s take a look.

(8) Memphis vs (1) San Antonio:

The Grizzlies are somewhat of a surprise at this point sitting in the eight spot. The team has shown some mettle recently by winning big games against the Mavericks and Thunder without Rudy Gay.

The Spurs currently have a league best 51-12 record. The Spurs’ success can partially be attributed to the core of Duncan, Ginobili and Parker managing to stay healthy all season. In addition, the team can thank a new offensive-centric philosophy for the resurgence this season.

Final Verdict: Spurs in five games. While the series would not lost very long, I have a feeling every game would be hotly contested. However, the Grizzlies’ inexperience would be the ultimate kicker in the series.

(7) New Orleans vs (2) Dallas:

Some people think that Dallas is ready to contend for a title this season. While others aren’t convinced the Mavericks won’t fold like a cheap suit come playoff time. New Orleans has been streaky all season. The Hornets have had winning streaks of eight and ten games this season. However, aside from the winning streaks, the team has been very average.

If these two teams played today, I believe the series would be very competitive. While the first two regular season games played between these teams were way back in November, they were decided by a combined total of five points, with each team earning a victory.

Final Verdict: Mavericks in six games. Ultimately, the Mavericks have more fire power and the homecourt advantage.

(3) Los Angeles Lakers vs (6) Portland:

This series would have the potential to be a first round classic, similar to last year’s first round match-up between the Lakers and Thunder. The Lakers and Blazers have both played great basketball since the all-star break. The Lakers are currently on an eight game winning streak, behind the stellar defensive play of Andrew Bynum. All of the talk concerning the Lakers lacking the youth and heart to win three in a row has suddenly subsided.

Portland has won four in a row and seven of their last ten. LaMarcus Aldridge has played like an All-Star this season, averaging 22 points and nine rebounds per game. Brandon Roy has recently made his way back into the Blazers’ lineup after missing more than two months with injuries to both knees. If Roy is able to regain his old form coming down the stretch, the Blazers could be very dangerous come playoff time.

The Lakers have notoriously struggled in Portland, and the Blazers have conversely struggled to win in Los Angeles. Final Verdict: Lakers in six games. If Brandon Roy was at full stregnth, Lakers in seven. Considering there is no love lost between these two franchises, hopefully this match-up will holdup come playoff time.

(4) Oklahoma City (5) Denver:

Since Carmelo Anthony was traded to tow to the New York Knicks on February 21st, the Nuggets have valiantly won five of their first seven games without Anthony. The new look Nuggets can score the ball with the best of them. However, their lack of defense and a go to player have some wondering if they will have enough down the stretch to even qualify for the playoffs.

The expectations for the Thunder going into this season were huge. Some expected them to be a 60 win team this season. While the Thunder have not lived up to the lofty expectations, they are still plenty dangerous. At the trade deadline, the Thunder acquired Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson from the Celtics. The acquisition of Perkins should make the Thunder even more formidable come playoff time.

Final Verdict: Thunder in four games. While this series would have tons of scoring from both squads, the Thunder would have the defensive prowess to stymie the Nuggets.

Joshua Sexton is a lifelong basketball fanatic, who watches as many games as possible. In addition, He has played and coached the game at the high school level. He has recently started writing about the game of basketball.

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