#1 Golden State Warriors vs #8 Houston Rockets (Warriors won season series 3-0)
Key To The Series
After a record-breaking regular season, the Warriors start the playoffs against the struggling Rockets. With the Warriors winning the regular season series 3-0, they just need to keep doing what they’re doing and not get complacent. The Warriors received so much praise during the regular seaso that they started feeling themselves, which does not need to carry over into the playoffs. For the Rockets to have any chance of winning this series, they’ll need to dig deep and play lights out defense. It will come down to how coach J.B. Bickerstaff utilizes his best defensive players, Trevor Ariza and Dwight Howard, against an explosive offensive like Golden State’s.
The X-Factor for the Warriors is Marreese Speights. He provides a spark off the bench shooting as well, which gives him the nickname Mo’ Buckets. He also provides a quality backup center option that can block shots and grab rebounds. The X-Factor for the Rockets is Michael Beasley. He has been a key addition to this team down the stretch averaging 12.8 ppg (3rd on team) and 4.9 rpg (4th on team) in just 20 games. He is going to add depth and create a potential match up problem with his length at 6’10”.
Prediction: The Warriors will be too much for the Rockets, winning the series 4-1.
#2 San Antonio Spurs vs. #7 Memphis Grizzlies (Spurs won season series 4-0)
Keys To The Series
The Spurs, who tied the all-time record for most home wins in a regular season, start the playoffs against the injury riddled Grizzlies. The key for the Spurs is to continue their philosophy of rotating players and don’t change just because it’s the playoffs. The Spurs have a deep team and just need to play to their strengths. The Grizzlies would need nothing short of a miracle to beat the Spurs in this series. Losing Marc Gasol and Mike Conley has hurt their playoff success. They will have to rely on a starting five of Jordan Farmer, Tony Allen, Matt Barnes, Zach Randolph, and JaMychal Green to beat one of the best teams in the NBA.
The X-Factor for the Spurs is Kevin Martin. He’s a great scorer that hasn’t truly found his niche in San Antonio, but is guaranteed to be a secret weapon in the playoffs. If the Spurs are struggling offensively, he can come off the bench and provide a spark. The X-Factor for the Grizzlies is JaMychal Green, who’s been getting a lot of run with Marc Gasol injured. Green has played well this season averaging 7.4 ppg and 4.8 rpg. He will provide some offense down low with Zach Randolph and could have a big series.
Prediction: The Grizzlies are no match for the Spurs resulting in a 4-0 sweep for San Antonio.
#3 Oklahoma City Thunder vs #6 Dallas Mavericks (Mavericks won season series 2-1)
Keys To The Series
The Thunder are one of the most explosive and talented teams in the playoffs but their downfall is having a tendency to self-destruct. Although Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are the most dynamic duo in the post season, they need the role players to step up so they can reserve energy if they make it to the next round. Meanwhile, the Mavericks still depends on the ageless Dirk Nowitzki in which won’t be enough to keep up with the Thunder. It has to be a collective effort from the entire team to be able to have a fighting chance.
The X-Factor for the Thunder is Dion Waiters. He needs to be able to provide consistency and become a valuable third option. He takes pressure off of the two superstars when he’s playing well and the bench feeds off that energy. The X-Factor for the Mavericks is Deron Williams. This the time where he needs to just be a shadow of what he was in his prime. If he limit turnovers and shoots the ball well, the Mavericks may have a chance.
Prediction: The Thunder will win easily because of their young legs and offensive domination with a 4-1 series victory.
#4 Los Angeles Clippers vs #5 Portland Trail Blazers (Clippers won season series 3-1)
Keys to the series
The Clippers need to play like the more experienced team in which they are. Blake Griffin might only be 75 percent but it will definitely provide a boost for Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan to have his presence back. They don’t want to give the Trail Blazers any chance but the longer the series is the the better for Griffin to get his rhythm back. Damian Lillard has shown that he’s not only the best player on the team but he’s developing into a bonafide leader as well. The lethal combination of Lillard and his back court partner C.J. McCollum can be a problem for the Clippers and just might give Griffin a chance to get in rhythm by prolonging the series.
The X-Factor for the Clippers is Jeff Green. Green has to become what the Clippers sought after for when they traded for him. if he’s able to pick up the slack in scoring that they are lacking with Griffin still paying into to shape, then the series can be easy. The X-Factor for theTrail Blazers is McCollum. McCollum needs to play as if there has nothing to lose and fire away. if he’s on then that opens the door even more for Lillard.
Predction: The Clippers win in a grinding series 4-2.