The first round of the NBA playoffs are in full swing, and there have been surprises in nearly every opening-round series so far. Coming into the playoffs, it was apparent that even the low-seeded teams in the Western Conference had the potential to make some noise in the postseason. Through the first week of the playoffs, some of the lower-seeded teams in the West have legitimate shots at knocking out title favorites in the first round.
The sixth seeded Golden State Warriors took a home game from the third-seeded Los Angeles Clippers to take the early lead in the series. After losing game two on the road and a hard-fought game three at home 98-96, the Warriors are still alive in the series, but they have a long road ahead of them. While the Warriors will have a chance to tie the series in game four, it will be difficult for them to complete the upset in round one.
With no Andrew Bogut anchoring the defense, Golden State does not have an answer for Blake Griffin. Griffin scored 32 points on 15 of 25 shooting in the Clippers game three victory, and both he and Deandre Jordan will continue to dominate in the paint for Los Angeles. Look for the Clippers to take this one in six games.
After taking a 1-0 lead in their series over the Dallas Mavericks, the San Antonio Spurs had an uncharacteristic performance in game two, as Dallas pummeled them 113-92. The Spurs committed 24 turnovers to Dallas’ eight. With the series tied at one there is no reason for the Spurs to panic. They have the coach of the year in Gregg Popovich and are one of the most experienced teams in the playoffs this year.
The one thing the Spurs do have to worry about is the fact that Dirk Nowitzki has not had a “Dirk-like” performance yet. In both games to start this series Dirk has struggled shooting the ball. If the 2011 playoffs showed the NBA anything, it was that a hot Dirk Nowitzki is capable of carrying a team through the postseason. Expect Tim Duncan and the Spurs to regroup and hold off Dirk Nowitzki in a tight seven game opening series.
One of the most surprising storylines in the West has been taking place in the Memphis-Oklahoma city series. After an amazing season by Kevin Durant, which will likely result in his first ever MVP award, the Thunder came into the playoffs as favorites to make it to the Western Conference Finals. The Grizzlies however, seem to have different plans.
After a dominant 100-86 victory in game one by the Thunder, the Grizzlies responded with back-to-back overtime victories in games two and three. Ever since the Grizzles upset the first seeded Spurs in the 2011 NBA playoffs, Memphis has been regarded as a giant killer in the postseason.
If the Grizzlies are able to maintain their defensive edge and physical play down low, Kevin Durant’s quest for his first NBA title may come to a halt much earlier than expected. Look for the Grizz to take down Goliath again in a seven game marathon first-round series.
The Portland Trailblazers and Houston Rockets had the same record coming into the playoffs so it is hard to say that there was any potential for an upset in this series. The fact that these two Western Conference squads are so evenly matched makes it even more surprising that Portland won both road games to open up the series.
While it would not be an upset for Portland to take down Houston in the first round, the Trailblazers may very well be responsible for some upsets later on in the playoffs. With LaMarcus Aldridge scoring 40 points at will, look for the Blazers to get past the Rockets in five games and advance to the Western Conference Finals, upsetting some title favorites on their way.
It was expected that the Western Conference would be a wild ride in this year’s NBA playoffs, and so far, the West has not disappointed. It is only a week into the NBA playoffs, so expect more craziness to ensue in the Wild, Wild West.
Commentary By Eric Kummel