Six of the Eastern Conference playoff spots have been clinched with a little over a week left in the regular season. Four teams in the Western Conference have clinched a spot. Up for grabs still are several positions that could affect the pairings however, the most important being #1 in the West between San Antonio and Oklahoma City. Number four in the West between the L.A. Clippers and Memphis is starting to look as if it will go to the Clippers after their big win over Oklahoma City couples with the Grizzlies’ loss at New Orleans on Sunday. The match-ups if the season were to end no are as follows:
1 vs. 8- San Antonio vs. Phoenix. Neither of these spots are secure at all. San Antonio is tied with Oklahoma City and Phoenix is tied with Houston, a half game ahead of Utah. But these two are playing the best basketball and both own the tie breakers so we will go with this matchup. For now.
The Spurs will beat the Suns, but not without a fight. This would be a great first round series. Plenty of veterans who have been there and done that. Spurs in six games.
2 vs. 7- Oklahoma City vs. Dallas. So you’re Oklahoma City. You’ve been cruising right along in the top spot all season. Then at the last minute the old men from San Antonio sneak and and get the top seed from you. You’re punishment? You get the defending champs in round one. Dallas has been relatively sleep-walking through the regular season. But sometimes that’s what older teams who know how to get to the finish do. OK City remembers who knocked them out last year though and will be ready this time. In a tough series Thunder win in seven.
3 vs. 6- LA. Lakers vs. Denver. The people at the Staples Center will be busy swapping floors and ads out when the Lakers and Clippers are both hosting first round series. Maybe they’ll get lucky and the Kings will be eliminated by the Canucks by then. The Lakers will be a dangerous team once a rested Kobe Bryant returns. If they can get Andrew Bynum to focus and continue to get a solid contribution from Sessions at the point, I can see them going far in these playoffs. Lakers in five.
4-5- L.A. Clippers vs. Memphis. The Clippers have been red hot going into the playoffs. They have two wins over the Thunder and have won 12 of 14. One of those losses was to Memphis however. This promises to be a tight series. Experience may pay off in keeping the Grizzlies close. Many of the Clippers will be in the playoffs for the first time. But in the end Chris Paul makes the difference. Clippers in six.
SECOND ROUND: Assuming I’ve gotten the first round results correct, the second round goes like this:
Spurs vs. Clippers. Youth wins out in the Spurs-Clippers match-up. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin figure out a way with a big help from Moe Williams, Randy Foye, and Deandre Jordan. Let’s not forget about K-Mart. The Big Three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli keep the Spurs in it, but their age catches up with them. Clippers in seven.
Thunder vs. Lakers. A great series in round two between these two. Gotta go with the Thunder. They’re just too good. But the Lakers will put up a fight. Kobe will finally start to sho a little age in this one when Durant takes over in the fourth quarters. Thunder in six.
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS:
Thunder vs. Clippers. This one is going to be good.If you watched the Thunder play the Clippers the last wo weeks, you might think the Clippers are ready to take them down. Not quite. Regular season is one thing, the Playoffs are another. The Thunder was there last year. That experience will make the difference. Thunder in seven.
So your Western Conference Champions in 2012 will be: Oklahoma City Thunder