The NBA playoffs start this weekend and in part two of our playoff preview, we look at the picture for the Western Conference, which was once again the premier conference in the league.
We analyze each matchup and as well as that detailed guide, give our predictions and picks, with reference to the sportsbooks’ betting odds. To read USAbetting’s Eastern Conference preview, published yesterday, then please click here.
#1 Golden State Warriors vs #8 Portland Trail Blazers – Game 1 – Sunday, April 16 – 3:30 PM ET – ABC
When the Warriors signed Kevin Durant in the offseason, there was the question of whether the team that won an NBA record 73 games would actually improve with their new star. Adding Durant meant adding another high volume scorer to an offense that already was distributing anywhere from 50-60 shots per game among Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. While Golden State only won 67 games, their three headed monster of a team worked incredibly well and has them as favorites to win the championship this year after finishing in a disappointing second thanks to a 3-1 blown series lead in 2015-16.
The Trail Blazers meanwhile face an uphill battle and have been all but counted out. During the season series, Portland was swept by Golden State, an outcome that could be similar to what happens this series. However, those four games took place before the All-Star break which represents almost a completely different team. The Trail Blazers have won 17 of their last 23 since acquiring center Jusuf Nurkic, who helped spark the team’s post All-Star break turnaround. In addition, Portland is led by 26-year-old All-Star Damian Lillard, who averaged 27 points, 5.9 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game during the regular season.
If you’re wondering if the Trail Blazers have any chance in this series just check the offshore sportsbooks’ odds. Bovada has the spread at an incredibly lofty 14.5 points in favor of the hometown Warriors for game one. That’s not exactly promising. That being said, it’s hard to imagine that Portland will find itself being swept out of the first round.
- Take the Warriors to win in five as they work their way back to the NBA Finals. Expect Portland however to best the spread in a game one loss. Take the under on 223pts total points to be scored. Americans can get their bets on with Bovada, 5Dimes (best for heavy hitters) or BetOnline, all of which do a good job.
#2 San Antonio Spurs vs #7 Memphis Grizzlies – Game 1 – Saturday, April 15 – 8 PM ET – ESPN
There is something incredible and almost magical about the Spurs and the run they have had over the past 20 years, reaching the playoffs each season during that time. San Antonio once again won 60+ games, doing so this year for the second consecutive season, which marks a franchise first. It is hard to believe just how consistent the Spurs have been and how they have managed to stay on top for so long but a lot of the credit goes to the one person who has been there since the beginning of the turnaround, head coach Gregg Popovich. While the veteran coach has been criticized in the past for his tendency to rest players, there is no denying the results have paid off as once again San Antonio has a great shot to win another championship.
In order to get there however, the Spurs first have to get past Memphis, a team that is no stranger to them as they just faced off in the playoffs last year and four times in the last seven years. San Antonio has swept Memphis in three of the previous four meetings, including last year where they averaged a 22+ point margin of victory. However, those seasons are in the past and this year, it was Memphis that actually took the first two meetings thanks to Zach Randolph dominating with his strength on the inside and contributions from Marc Gasol. Memphis did have its issues, limping into the playoffs with just seven wins in the last two months of the season but this is a team that knows San Antonio well and could cause the Spurs some trouble.
The Grizzlies and Spurs always tell an interesting playoff story and this year will be no different. This is a much better Memphis team than the one that San Antonio swept last year so don’t expect the team to go away so easily. That being said, this is still the Spurs’ to win, especially since they boast the best two-way player in the league in Kawhi Leonard.
- Take the Spurs to win in five and take them to cover the spread in game one. Take the over on 191pts as well. Both betting predictions and picks can be bet on with Bovada.
#3 Houston Rockets vs #6 Oklahoma City Thunder – Game 1 – Sunday April 16 – 9 PM ET – TNT
Only one story is going to dominate this series and it’s the one that revolves around the MVP race.
Leading the charge is Russell Westbrook of the Thunder, who set an NBA record when he recorded 42 triple-doubles, besting Oscar Robertson’s mark of 41 in a single season. Westbrook also joins Robertson as the only two players in NBA history to average a triple-double. It’s a feat that is quite remarkable and one that has helped the Thunder find success this season without Durant.
Then there’s James Harden, who just a few years ago was on the Thunder himself. Harden has likely been the biggest beneficiary of leaving his old team as the MVP candidate has truly become a star with the Rockets. The former sixth man of the year, Harden’s stats are impossible to argue against as he averaged over 29 points and 11 assists per game during the regular season. Harden’s Rockets have emerged as one of the top teams in the NBA and are true dark horse contenders to upset the presumed Spurs/Warriors Western Conference Finals.
While the entertaining portion of this series will come in watching Harden and Westbrook, these two alone likely won’t decide the outcome. The Rockets have the deeper bench and if they can continue to sink three point shots at the record rate they did this season, Houston should have no problem coming out of this series with little to no real trouble. Take the Rockets to win in six.
- As for the game one predictions, take Houston to take that as well and cover the 7.5 point spread. Take the over on 228pts too given the way these two teams will be lighting up the stat sheets. These picks can be placed with any one of our recommended top bookies for US players.
#4 Los Angeles Clippers vs #5 Utah Jazz – Game 1 – Saturday, April 15 – 10:30 PM ET – ESPN
The Clippers have been on the verge of breaking through the Western Conference for some time now but despite victories over the Spurs and other top teams in the past, have never quite gotten to that point. This year might be the last chance as the now veteran core of this team is getting older and could perhaps find itself splintered in more ways than one during the offseason. That’s because Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and JJ Redick will all be free agents this summer and its likely one or more could leave to play for big money and a better chance at winning a title elsewhere.
The Jazz meanwhile haven’t won a playoff game since the 2009-10 season and haven’t even been to the postseason since 2012. However this is a team that has been steadily building through the draft and a team that is in the position the Clippers were not too many years ago. Gordon Hayward has been able to develop at his own pace and the All-Star now leads a young and hungry Jazz team which is ready to make their own mark in the highly deep and competitive Western Conference.
Utah will be around in the future that’s for sure, but this year, the Clippers should manage to at least get out of the first round. There is a sense of urgency in LA no doubt and the team has been playing hot, perhaps aware of this possibly being their final chance as a unit.