The first round of the NBA playoffs had only a couple of competitive series, but still proved to be highly entertaining. In the West, Dallas limped to the finish line behind the enigmatic Rajon Rondo while the Dwight Howard of Orlando resurfaced in Houston. Anthony Davis showed the nation why he is a NBA superstar, but couldn’t beat the Warriors on his own. Portland couldn’t overcome a myriad of injuries and the toughness of Memphis. It seemed only fitting that the best matchup of them all (Clips/Spurs) would end on a last second shot from Chris Paul in game 7 to defeat the ageless Tim Duncan and the defending champs. In the Western Conference Semi-Finals, the energy will only ramp up along with the fierce play. Let’s preview the matchups:
Memphis Grizzlies vs. Golden State Warriors
Both of these teams had a relatively easy time dispatching their first round opponents. The Grizzlies boast more size down low with Gasol and Randolph, but this is what makes Andrew Bogut so important for Golden State. His presence will negative some of the huge advantage Memphis would otherwise have in the paint. They will still do pretty well in the paint on offense, but should struggle to matchup with the Warriors on the other end. The loss of Mike Conley really rears its head here and could be enough to make this series non-competitive on its own. His defense will especially be missed against a superior Warriors back court. In the end, the offensive prowess and shooting of the Warriors will bury the Grizzlies pushing the NBA’s best team into the Western Conference Finals.
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Houston Rockets
Houston looked scary as James Harden got plenty of help from an explosive Dwight Howard and a rejuvenated Josh Smith. It was a three pronged attack that Dallas couldn’t handle in the slightest. They did what they did best: get layups, hit threes, and move the ball. The Clippers played an incredible first round series with the Spurs that saw a back and forth battle. Despite their lack of depth, the combination of Chris Paul’s and Blake Griffin’s will led them past a veteran team that looked on top of their game. I see them riding this momentum past the Rockets in another seven game marathon. I’m not sure anyone on Houston can check Blake after seeing him excel in the first round series.