With the Nuggets finally defeating the Spurs after 7 tough games, the Western Conference Semi-Finals are set and start today. Here is a look at what to expect:
Photo Credit: Cover the spread
Golden State Warriors vs Houston Rockets
This has the be one of the most covered matchups on our website over the past few months. The Rockets matchup extremely well with the Warriors with Capela’s ability to switch on to guards at a level no other big men can. James Harden and company were so close just a single season ago and only lost in a game 7 without Chris Paul AND shooting historically bad. This series is going to be another instant classic, the biggest difference is the lack of home-court for Houston.
During this year, if you have read any of my NBA articles, you know I strongly believe the Rockets can beat the Warriors. This series is going to test Golden State like they have not been tested before, and after a round 1 struggle against the Clippers, they look more beatable than ever before. The Warriors are still the Warriors and will continue to beat teams with the off ball screens that have killed so many teams. Against the Rockets that becomes more difficult because of the comfort of Capela on the perimeter and Chris Paul still being one of the smartest defensive guards in the NBA.
Kevin Durant could be a bigger fact with Trevor Ariza not around, but the Rockets have managed to become the 3rd best defense according to defensive efficiency since the All-Star break. When KD is the player trying to carry the Warriors is when they often look the most beatable, as they become more of a normal super team. The Rockets will continue to put Paul on Curry and switch everything not allowing open shooters running off screens. Clint should still be a force inside, and don’t be surprised if PJ Tucker plays big minutes trying to guard Durant.
I expect a long drawn out series, and while I really do think this series is a 50-50 series and I want to pick the Rockets to be different, the home court for Golden State in game 7 could provide to be too much. Then again the Warriors lost 2/3 at home vs the Clippers… sooo I guess I can go with the Rockets.
Prediction: Rockets win series 4-3
Photo Credit: CBS
Denver Nuggets vs Portland Trail Blazers
Portland did it, they got through the first round and the Thunder. The Nuggets also completed a big feat beating a Spurs team despite having little playoff experience on their roster. Those were both huge accomplishments, but now both teams should see a very winnable series for a chance to advance to the WCF.
Just a series ago I wrote that Damian Lillard would outplay Russ and I was right, what I got wrong was the Blazers interior defense. I thought Steven Adams would cause massive issues for a team without their starting center. I was wrong. The Blazers got after it on the inside, clogging the lane and forcing the Thunder to shoot the ball. That will be tougher in this series with Jokic and more shooters on the outside. Damian Lillard should still be the best player on the floor, but Jokic will be a close 2nd.
Jamal Murray will be the X-factor in this series. If he can score at a similar rate to what he allows CJ McCollum to score, then the Nuggets will have a great chance to win the series. On paper, the Nuggets seem like a strong pick to win the series, but inexperience and a long first-round series will provide issue. The Blazers have had almost a week of rest, while the Nuggets are just coming off 7 games against a talented Spurs team. The Nuggets are typically very good at defending home court, but Portland is too. Much like the Spurs vs Nuggets series, these are two of the best home teams in the NBA (each ranking top 5 in home record: Nuggets, Bucks, Blazers, Spurs, Raptors). This time however the Blazers are also a decent road team, unlike the Spurs team (why the Blazers were the 3 seed and Spurs the 7 seed). Portland is far more likely to take a game off the Nuggets in Denver, something that the Spurs shockingly did in game 1.
This series should be close, but I don’t see the Nuggets having a player like Lillard that can shoot from everywhere down the stretch. Maybe Murray steps up and proves me wrong, or Jokic can dominate the inside enough to negate the need for a star guard to close the game; history tells us that a star guard is needed to win big games.
Prediction: Trail Blazers 4-2
Check out my predictions for the East here
For a deeper look at the Rockets and the Warriors look here