NBA Playoffs: Western Conference Playoffs 2nd Round Preview

Posted by Michael Kelly on Monday, May 05, 2014 with No comments
San Antonio Spurs (1) vs Portland Trailblazers (5)

The Spurs were made to work hard to progress to the next round by the Dallas Mavericks, with the series going all the way to seven games. After scraping in to the playoffs in the last few days of the regular season, the Mavericks were pleasantly surprising, almost pulling off an upset the likes of which we have not seen since the top seeded Dallas lost to the eight seed Golden State Warriors in 2007.

Considering how well rested the Spurs were during the regular season, it was expected that they would be able to make light work of the Mavericks, but it almost seemed as though they were rusty in the first round. San Antonio lost a couple of close games that you would normally expect to see them close out, although it is hard to account for shots like the one Vince Carter made to win game three!

After being tasked with guarding Dirk Nowitzki in the first round, things are not going to get any easier for Tim Duncan, with LaMarcus Aldridge waiting for him in the next round. Aldridge believes that there can be no doubt that he is the best power forward in the league, it is going to be exciting to see how he plays against arguably the best power forward of all time.

Portland was excellent in their first round match-up with the Houston Rockets, winning the series in six excellent games. With two of the highest scoring teams in the league going toe-to-toe, the Blazers were able to survive the shoot-out, although it took a shot by Damian Lillard with 0.9 seconds left of game six to see Portland through.

LaMarcus Aldridge was a monster in the first two games, scoring 46 and 43 points in game one and two respectively. The Rockets switched their line-up to try and slow Aldridge down, starting Omer Asik in place of Thomas Robinson, but even this could not slow Portland’s big man down.

Lillard's game winner in game
six against Houston
Damian Lillard was another of the standout players in the first round, with the second year player playing with the poise of a seasoned veteran. His game winner in game six to send the Blazers through to the next round showed why his team so often defer to him in late game situations. The Blazers will need his sharp shooting again for this series, as these games will surely be decided by the finest of margins.

This is going to be a very interesting match-up, with the positional battles at power forward and point guard particularly exciting. The Spurs will need to call upon all of their experience, as well as their defensive prowess, to defeat a Blazers team that can explode on offense. This series will come down to which team is able to sneak a victory away from home, as the first team to do that will have a huge advantage considering how well they both play at home.

Winner: Spurs in 6

Oklahoma City Thunder (2) vs Los Angeles Clippers (3)

Oklahoma were made to work very hard to make it into the second round after being taken to seven games by the Memphis Grizzlies, with four consecutive games going into overtime. Zach Randolph was suspended for game seven after punching Steven Adams in the previous game. Had he been available for game seven, it is arguable that the Thunder could easily have been eliminated.

The controversial newspaper
The press in Oklahoma was critical of their star player, Kevin Durant, as he struggled in the first few games of the series against Memphis, due to the irritable defense of Tony Allen, which Durant even admitted that it had affected him. One newspaper headlined with “Mr Unreliable” to describe Durant, so what better way to reply to the critics than scoring 33 points in game seven to lead his team, indeed his city, into the second round.

The Thunder will need Russell Westbrook to play like he did in games six and seven of the first round if they want to progress. He was aggressive, but not out of control as we are so used to seeing. Westbrook has a tendency to take bad shots, usually early in the shot clock too, so Scott Brooks will need to find a way to keep his point guard focused for this series.

The Clippers also needed to play seven games to navigate their first round opponents, the Golden State Warriors. They will be particularly pleased to put the last round behind them after it was overshadowed by the Donald Sterling saga. With that passed them, the Clippers will hopefully be able to concentrate on basketball once again.

DeAndre Jordon was massive for the Clippers, taking advantage of the absence of Andrew Bogut through injury. Against the Warriors, he averaged 12 points, 15 rebounds and 4 blocks per game in the series. If he can replicate these performances against Oklahoma, there is no-one on that roster who will be able to stop him.

Chris Paul has been struggling with a hamstring injury throughout the playoffs, but that did not stop him from having a number of big games in the first round. Paul is known for stepping his game up another level when playing against elite point guards, and he will certainly need to do this against the bigger, stronger and faster Russell Westbrook.

This should be a very interesting series, with two teams that have not seemed to enjoy the sight of each other over the last couple of seasons. The athletic Clippers big men will look to cause the Thunder problems, especially when Kendrick Perkins is in the game. The problem for the Clippers is that they have no-one who can defend, or indeed match the scoring output of the soon to be named MVP, Kevin Durant. Despite this, the balanced Clippers attack will be more than capable of outscoring this Thunder team.

Winner: Clippers in 7