NBA Playoffs: Western Conference Predictions

Published: April 16, 2010

It’s playoff prediction time here at Hornets247. No, the Bees won’t be part in the postseason, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t have some fun talking about the 16 teams that have earned a shot to compete for the title. The seeding is set, players and coaches are preparing, and we’re predicting.

Ryan Schwan: If ever there was a time when seeding was unimportant, it was this year in the Western Conference.  Seven games difference between the 1 seed and the 8 seed?  Point differentials that only vary by 2.6?  Crazy place, the Western Conference.

#1 Los Angeles Lakers vs #8 Oklahoma City Thunder

Joe: Despite the Lakers recent play, it’s hard to give this one to Oklahoma. With Bynum in the lineup, the Lakers front court should completely dominate the Thunder on the boards. It’s hard to win games when you are over-matched inside and therefore not surprising that the Lakers have won nine of the last ten between these two teams.

The Thunder can win if…

  • Their bench can really take it to LA. It’s their biggest advantage since aside from Odom, the Lakers don’t have any real weapons on the pine. If the Thunder can really stick it to them when Pau, and/or Kobe are out, they should be able to keep the games close until the end.
  • Russel Westbrook plays out of his mind. It’s no secret that the Lakers have a hard time against good point guards, and Westbrook has the physical tools to be an absolute menace. Think Rajon Rondo versus the Bulls last season.
  • Kevin Durant goes bananas and single-handedly wins game one or two. For a young team like the Thunder, confidence can be everything. Losing two in a row in LA would effectively end the series.
  • Bynum either can’t play, or is mostly ineffective.

Ryan: OKC couldn’t get the Lakers at a better time, with the defending champs struggling with injuries and consistency.  I’m tempted to take this series in favor of OKC, seeing shades of 2007-2008 with the Hornets taking on the Mavericks, but I think that the Lakers still have enough guns to handle OKC this year.

Joe: Lakers

Ryan: Lakers

#2 Dallas Mavericks vs #7 San Antonio Spurs

Joe: This is a battle worthy of a state the size of Texas. Both teams are packed with stars, and the seventh seeded Spurs are considered by some to be legitimate contenders. Both teams have key players on the wrong side of 30, sothere might not be too many chances left to win titles. The Mavs probably want it more at this point, especially with Jason Kidd getting closer to the end of his career. It’s hard to write off the Spurs considering they seem to be healthy, but the Mavs have won 23 of 29 games and have just seemed the superior since their mid-season trade.

Ryan: The three best players on a team matter most.  Which would you rather have?  Parker-Ginobili-Duncan or Kidd-Terry-Nowitzki? Mark Cuban has built a team that is solid across the board – but I’m not convinced it can peak like it needs to in the playoffs.

Joe: Mavs

Ryan: Spurs

#3 Phoenix Suns vs #6 Portland Trailblazers

Ryan: Portland would destroy Phoenix if it was healthy.  It’s not – and with Roy hurting it’s got no chance against a Phoenix team riding the New-Contract-Seeking Amare Stoudemire.

Joe: Should be an interesting series from a coaches perspective as the Suns will try to push the pace against the NBA’s slowest team. To have a chance, the Blazers are going to need some big games by Andre Miller, who scored 52 points in a game in January, and 43 total in the six games surrounding it.

Speaking of wanting it, this realistically might be Steve Nash’s last real chance at a title as a main guy. He’s 36 years old, Amare is probably possibly heading out of town after this season, and let’s face it- Nash has never proven he can lead a team to a title. If it’s going to happen, this is probably the year.

Ryan: Phoenix

Joe: Phoenix

#4 Denver Nuggets vs #5 Utah Jazz

Ryan: I think this is the closest of the Western battles.  People underestimate how much Kenyon Martin means on this team in terms of defense.  Without him, Millsap and Boozer are going to wreck Denver.  Plus, the Nuggets try to rely on JR Smith for scoring punch off the bench.  That’ll kill you 2 games out of three.

Joe: My dislike for the Nuggets knows no bounds after the alleged thrashing they gave the Hornets last year. Even so, The Jazz are just too good, and something tells me that Boozer will fare better in his return from injury than Martin, who is coming back from platelet-rich plasma therapy. Unless Martin is near full strength, I don’t even see this being close.

Ryan: Jazz

Joe: Jazz

Tomorrow: A short post on the Eastern Conference.

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