Now that that the matchups are set, let’s take a look at the Western Conference Semifinals pairings.
(1)San Antonio Spurs vs. (5)Los Angeles Clippers
The San Antonio Spurs had no trouble dismantling the under-matched Utah Jazz 4-0 in round one. The Clippers should put up a little more resistance in round two.
In round one the Spurs didn’t whatever they wanted offensively. It sounds weird saying it but I think the Spurs have to get out and run a little bit this series. The Clippers aren’t a great transition defense team so the Spurs need to exploit that more than the Grizzlies did. Tony Parker is continuing to play some of the best ball of his career so he must press the issue and make Chris Paul work defensively. The Spurs younger talent like Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Tiago Splitter, and Dejuan Blair have to get up and down the court and force the Clippers to work defensively.
On the defensive end Tim Duncan and the Spurs’ big men must be physical down low with Blake Griffin much like the Grizzlies were. Even though the Clippers have a lot of outside shooters if the Spurs can control the low post it will put a lot of pressure on the Clippers shooters.
The Los Angeles were in a dog fight with the Grizzlies but went into Memphis and defeated them in game 7. They are in for another dog fight web they take on the San Antonio Spurs.
The number one thing the Clippers have going for the is Chris Paul. He is the stabilizing force on that team and is the engine that drives them. Paul is going to have a huge series scoring and distributing if they Clippers hope to win. They also have to get Blake Griffin going early. If they can’t get him going then this great Spurs defense will lock in on the perimeter shooters.
They first key defensively for the Clippers is to get back defend the Spurs transition. Tony Parker and Manu like to push the ball so the Clips have to be prepared for that. The Clippers must also guard the perimeter. They can’t let shooters, Ginobili, Danny Green, Matt Bonner, Stephen Jackson and others to get open shots. If they have to give up retro performances then so be it.
In the end I feel that the Spurs are just too good. The Clippers will get a few games in this series but I like the Spurs 4-2.
(2)Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (3)Los Angeles Lakers
In what many thought would be a tough series turned out to be a sweep for the Thunder over last years champions the Dallas Mavericks.
We know that Kevin Durant is the superstar and leader of this team an will undoubtedly get his numbers. That being said, the key players for the the Thunder will be Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Westbrook has the habit of getting a little wild in the Playoffs and start forcing shots. It is critical that Westbrook plays patiently because none of the Lakers points guards can stick him. James Harden, the league’s top player off the bench needs to show why he was the Sixth Man of the Year. The Lakers don’t have an answer for him and he should be able to go off.
The Thunder have improved into one of the better defensive teams in the league. A lot of that has to with their enforcers down low Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka. Ibaka is the league’s top shot block why Perkins is one of the toughest low post defenders. Perkins and Ibaka will have to bang Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol down low and make life difficult for them.
The Los Angeles Lakers got a surprising test from the Denver Nuggets before pulling out a game 7 victory. They are sure to be tested by the Thunder in round 2.
The Lakers still have the best player in the world Kobe Bryant, and he will once again be great, but he is not the key for the Lakers. That man is Andrew Bynum. Bynum has to impose his will early and often to command control of the paint. If Bynum can do that it will open the court up for Kobe and Pau Gasol.
On the defensive end the Lakers have to slow down Westbrook. If Westbrook gets it going early, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kobe Bryant switch onto him. Metta World Peace is going to have to be the physical defender that he is and force Durant to catch the ball further out than he wants and force him to play a more physical game than he’s accustomed to.
The Thunder are a much improved ball club, and I think they are ready to make that next step. I expect them to win this series 4-2.