SPORTS

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April 16, 2015

NBA Playoffs Preview: Western Conference Edition

The NBA finished out its regular season this past Wednesday night, concluding a year that saw the rise of young superstars, injuries to veteran superstars, and dominant performances by Western Conference teams. There are some unfamiliar faces atop the standings in each conference; the Atlanta Hawks haven’t been the 1-seed since the 1993–94 season and the Golden State Warriors’ last top seed was in 1975–76. Familiar faces such as the Oklahoma City Thunder and their duo of Russell Westbrook (who won this year’s scoring title) and Kevin Durant (out with injury) did not make the playoff cut. And the dynastic Spurs will have to work their way up from a 6-seed in the deep West to get back to the Finals.

WESTERN CONFERENCE PREVIEW

1. G.S.Warriors (67–15) vs. 

8. N.O. Pelicans (45–37)

This matchup is all about young talent, which includes three of the League’s top 10 scorers: Stephen Curry (23.8 PPG), Clay Thompson (21.7 PPG), and Anthony Davis (24.4 PPG). While each team boasts an MVP candidate and franchise cornerstone in the Warriors’ Curry and the Pelicans’ Davis, Golden State’s dominant offense and deadly three-point shooting clip of nearly 40% will prove too much for the up-and-coming Pelicans.

Season series: Warriors 3–1

My pick: Warriors in 5

4. Portland Trail Blazers (51–31) vs.   

5. Memphis Grizzlies (55–27)

Both teams enter the playoffs sustaining late-season injuries to earn playoff berths. Games in this series will feature the contrasting styles of the Blazers high-powered offense (102.8 PPG) led by Damian Lillard against the Grizzlies stout defense (allowing 95.1 PPG). In the end, Memphis’ presence of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph inside should subdue the Blazers, who are without guard Wesley Matthews for the remainder of the year.

Season series: Grizzlies 4–0

My pick: Grizzlies in 5

3. Los Angeles Clippers (56–26) vs. 

6. San Antonio Spurs (55–27)

This star-filled matchup will feature a physically superior Clippers squad against the team-oriented defending champion Spurs. No team in the NBA is hotter than San Antonio right now, as they have won 21 out of their last 25 games behind the emergence of Kawhi Leonard and his 16.5 PPG. The Clippers will make it a series behind the impressive frontline of Blake Griffin (22 PPG) and DeAndre Jordan (15 RPG), but Tim Duncan and the veteran Spurs will emerge victors.

Season series: Tied 2–2

My pick: Spurs in 6

2. Houston Rockets (56–26) vs. 

7. Dallas Mavericks (50–32)

James Harden, the MVP favorite who has only started 12 playoff games in his career, seemed like he was on a mission this season, averaging 27 points, six rebounds, and seven assists per game. The return of a healthy Dwight Howard will only take more pressure off Harden. The experience of the 2011 Champion Mavericks led by Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler will foster a battle all series long, but the winner of this all-Texas matchup might just come down to home-court advantage.

Season series: Tied 2–2

My pick: Rockets in 7

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