NBA Western Conference playoff preview: Round 1
It was a wild ride in the Western Conference and the fun won’t end with the regular season. Oklahoma City edged out San Antonio for the top seed while the L.A. Lakers, expected to run the table in the conference, squeaked into the No. 7 spot on the final night of the season.
The L.A. Clippers, Denver and Memphis have all looked like title contenders at times this year and Golden State and Houston are as dangerous as any team with their high-powered offenses. Needless to say, there are more surprises in store for the West during the postseason.
No. 1 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. No. 8 Houston Rockets
Season series: Thunder won 2-1 SU, 2-1 ATS, 3-0 O/U
Series prices: Oklahoma City -2,000, Houston +1,200
Why bet the Thunder: Oklahoma City lost just seven games at home and went 27-14 ATS as a host this season. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are a handful for Houston’s porous defense and combined to average just under 50 points in the three games with the Rockets. Houston’s up-and-down game leads to a league-high 16.4 turnovers a game.
Why bet the Rockets: Houston can explode offensively and finished second in the NBA with 106 points per game. The Thunder have struggled in close games, going just 3-6 SU in contests decided by three points or less. And don’t forget about former OKC guard James Harden, who averaged more than 29 points in the three games versus his former club, including a 46-point performance in their last meeting.
No. 2 San Antonio Spurs vs. No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers
Season series: Spurs won 2-1 SU, 1-2 ATS, 0-3 O/U
Series prices: San Antonio -1,600, Los Angeles +1,000
Why bet the Spurs: San Antonio lost only six games at home all season while L.A. was terrible on the road, going 16-25 SU and 15-25-1 ATS. Spurs PG Tony Parker is going to be a handful for the Lakers’ unathletic duo of Steven Blake and Steve Nash, who is less than healthy. San Antonio shoots better than 79 percent from the foul line, L.A. shoots an NBA-worst 69.2 percent. No Kobe. Who makes the tough shots?
Why bet the Lakers: Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard is the best frontcourt tandem in the league and should push the Spurs around under the basket. Los Angeles was the second-best rebounding team in the NBA while San Antonio finished second last on the glass in the West. Lakers get Games 3, 4 and 6 at Staples Center, where they have lost just once since the All-Star break (13-1 SU, 7-6-1 ATS).
No. 3 Denver Nuggets vs. No. 6 Golden State Warriors
Season series: Nuggets won 3-1 SU, 3-1 ATS, 3-1 O/U
Series prices: Denver -600, Golden State +400
Why bet the Nuggets: Denver was the best home team in the NBA, going 38-3 SU and 28-13 ATS inside the thin air of the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets dominate the boards, ranking tops in the league in rebounding, especially on the offensive glass. Denver is tough to game plan for with seven active players averaging nine or more points. The Nuggets rolled into the postseason, losing only two of their final 10 games.
Why bet the Warriors: Golden State can bust a game wide open with its 3-point threats, topping the NBA from distance at 40.3 percent. Stephen Curry has been insane since his All-Star snub, averaging 26 points since the break. Andrew Bogut is getting back into shape and could be a problem for Denver down low, especially if Kenneth Faried continues to miss time.
No. 4 Los Angeles Clippers vs. No. 5 Memphis Grizzlies
Season series: Clippers won 3-1 SU, 3-1 ATS, 1-3 O/U
Series prices: Los Angeles -185, Memphis +145
Why bet the Clippers: Los Angeles brings momentum into the postseason, having won seven straight to end the year (5-2 ATS). The Clippers have the mental edge over Memphis, having won the season series and eliminated the Grizzlies in last year’s playoffs. L.A.’s athletic frontcourt of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan made life tough for Memphis leading scorer Zach Randolph last spring. The Clips thrive on turnovers, leading the league in steals and forcing opponents to cough the ball up 16.1 times per game.
Why bet the Grizzlies: Memphis’ slowed-down pace could keep the Clippers’ fastbreak in check and limit turnovers. The Grizzlies were the best team in the West at limiting turnovers, coughing the ball up just 14 times a game. Memphis has excelled in tight games, going 4-1 in overtime and 6-4 in games decided by three points or less. The Clippers were 0-2 in OT and just 3-5 in games decided by three or less.