The Playoffs are rapidly approaching and while we all think we know what will happen, the playoffs can be fickle. Styles make fights, and if you get the wrong match-up, that can end your season. Now, most people think that the western conference finals will be between Golden State and the Spurs. And while that’s probably going to happen, it’s not like it’s written in stone. What follows are the two teams that neither the Warriors or Clips want to see in round 1.
[Authors note: I decided to keep this in the realm of possibility. In reality, the Warriors don’t want to see San Antonio or OKC in round 1, but that won’t happen]
Warriors v. Utah
Let’s be honest here. The Warriors will beat anyone they play in round 1. It’s going to happen. But the team that I think causes them the biggest headache would be Utah, who currently sit in 7th (a half game up on Houston). Utah have won 8 of their last 10 and have beat teams like Houston, Sacramento, Milwaukee, and Cleveland. They also just beat the living hell out of the Lakers. They’re a good defensive team, ranking 2nd in Opp Pts/game and 7th in Def. rating. While Derek Favors and Gordon Hayward would match up well with the Warriors, I know that the guards are a real problem for this team. Trey Burke and Shelvin Mack are going to have a really hard time matching up against Curry. But if Utah can slow the pace down, and force the Warriors to grind out games, they could, maybe make things a little competitive.
My main reason for picking Utah is more vague than any particular match-up problem. Utah is a young team on a hot streak, and there is a reasonable chance they could come into that series with a lot of energy, too young and inexperienced to be afraid. It’s easier for me to see a team like Utah get hot and give the Warriors hell, than a team like Houston, who has more talent, but is less cohesive and seems content to pack it in and try again next year. I also can’t bring myself to pick Dallas, who are succeeding despite the fact that the team is old and the makeup of the team doesn’t make any sense. I can see Utah getting hot, hitting a bunch of threes, and then, just maybe… they’ll still lose to the Warriors in 6. But I can certainly see them possibly, maybe, kind of, making it a little more difficult than you might have at first glance thought. (How’s that for faint praise?)
Clippers v. Trailblazers
Memphis is currently 2.5 games up on Portland for the 5 seed. And Clipper nation is praying that they hold on to that lead. No one, NO ONE, wants to see Damien Lillard in round 1. Lillard is averaging 25.4 pts/36 and 6.9 assists/36 with a 22.6 PER. While Chris Paul is putting up similar numbers, he’s not that much better than Lillard and Lillard is on a hot streak. If Dame
catches fire in the playoffs continues to play like he’s been playing, the Clips could be in trouble. The Clippers are only a slightly deeper team, but if Portland institutes Hack-a-Deandre, or if Blake doesn’t quite click with the team coming back from his injury/suspension, then the Clippers will once again be looking to JJ Reddick, Paul Pierce’s corpse, and Jordan Crawford to save them. Portland will take their chances with that.
The 1-2 punch of Lillard and McCollum should be enough to scare any team. Portland currently ranks 2nd in 3pts and 5th in 3pa. If they start hitting 3s then the Clips could find themselves in trouble. Basketball has evolved a lot, but sometimes, its just as simple as the team with the guy who’s playing best wins. This might be this version of the Clippers’ last ride, and a first round match-up with Portland is an absolute nightmare for them. That’s why Chuck the Condor is holding his breath and pulling for the Grizzlies.