The Oklahoma City Thunder nailed down the number one seed in the Western Conference as they look to return to the NBA Finals for the second year in a row, possibly for a rematch with the number one seed in the Eastern Conference, the Miami Heat. The Thunder was trailing the San Antonio Spurs for much of the second half of the season for the top spot, but a late slide by the Spurs relegated them to the number two spot.
Much of the attention in the West was focused on whether or not the Los Angeles Lakers would miss the post-season despite a star studded roster, for only the third time since 1976. The Lakers were not assured of getting in until the final game of the regular season, but with an overtime win over the Houston Rockets, they were able to jump all the way to the number seven spot. The Rockets dipped to number eight.
The Los Angeles Clippers had their best regular season since moving to Southern California in the 1970s with 56 wins and their first Pacific Division title. They ended up with the number four seed and will face the number five Memphis Grizzlies, who had the identical 56-26 record as the Clippers.
The Denver Nuggets have proven to be the envy of teams who have been given the finger by their star players, longing for brighter lights in the bigger city and a chance to team up with other stars to win the championship. Since losing Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks, the Nuggets have not missed a beat. Unlike the Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic, Denver has made the playoffs both years since Melo told them to stick it. This year they won 57 games and wound up with the number three seed. They will take on the Golden State Warriors in the first round.
Here are our picks for the first round:
Oklahoma City vs Houston- One vs eight match-up. Interesting series since James Harden will face his old team.The Rockets have some good young pieces and will be a contender soon. But the lack of experience will be too much for them to overcome as the Thunder wins in five games.
San Antonio vs L.A. Lakers- Two vs seven match. This series is being brought to you by Ben Gay, Geritol, and the A.A.R.P. The Lakers would seem to be at a huge disadvantage without their star Kobe Bryant. But they still have a lot of good leftover parts and could give the Spurs a problem. If they can get Dwight Howard to play like the star he is supposed to be, and Pau Gasol plays up to his capabilities, this series could be a good one. If Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli are too beat up to contribute, then it will be very interesting. We like the Spurs in six.
Denver vs Golden State– Three vs six match-up. These two teams like to play up tempo basketball. This series will destroy the myth that the playoffs are all about half-court offense and physical play where the first team to 80 wins. These teams will break 80 points in the third quarter. If you miss playoff basketball from the 1970s and 1980s, then you’ll want to watch this one. Denver in six games.
L.A. Clippers vs Memphis– Four vs five match here. This will probably be the best first round series in either conference. These two went seven games last year and there is no reason to think it won’t happen again this year. They had the same record and every game between the two was a close one. Both of these teams are capable of making a nice run in the playoffs, but we like Memphis because they can run the half court offense a little bit better than the Clippers. Memphis in seven.