State of the West

NBA: Playoffs-Houston Rockets at Golden State WarriorsBy Stefan Anderson

Perennially, the Western Conference, has the superior conference of the National Basketball Association and this year, it will be no different. Preceding the NBA Champs, the Golden State Warriors, repeat their success of the 2014-2015 season, everyone out West is looking to take the conference for their own. Here is some things to take in perspective as we look at the West.

Watch the Throne

Of course the Warriors will be the team to beat this year, but some teams are after the reigning champs’ title, specifically the Spurs and the Clippers. San Antonio and Los Angeles have made the big free agent splashes, with the Spurs snagging up prized FA prospect LaMarcus Aldridge and veteran David West. The Clippers were able to bring back DeAndre Jordan after the dilemma he starred in for weeks, along with veteran leadership in Paul Pierce and great assets in Lance Stephenson and Josh Smith. The irony that both Coach/President of B-Ball Ops, made the moves to dethrone the Warriors, but both teams present the greatest threat to Golden State and I believe can complete the jobs unless they meet in the playoffs.

The Last Harrah

Which one of the superstars in the final moments could lead their team to a better season? Kobe Bryant or Dirk Nowitzki? The answer was clear that it was more likely for the Mavs to be in a better position with the addition of Wesley Matthews and DeAndre Jordan, but following the negation of Jordan left Dallas in the same position as Los Angeles. Both have great rosters filled with good role players and prospects but with their aging stars it will difficult to surpass the top tier teams of the West.

The Forgotten Team

After appearing to jump to the forefront of the conference, the Thunder, took a step back and missed the playoffs after the concurring injuries to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The two nearly seen any action together and have yet to progress with their roster that has been bolstered after last year trade deadline. “Loud City” has been forgotten of their past success and have not been mentioned for whatever reason it may be, but with Billy Donavon at the helm, new beginnings could help to find that output they could not find with Scott Brooks.

First out the Hole

The Suns and the Kings have been on the outside looking in for the past few season, both teams showcase great rosters but yet have made the efforts to see the next level.  Both teams have veteran leadership this season, with the Suns acquiring Tyson Chandler and the Kings with Caron Butler and Rajon Rondo. Both teams could be this year’s New Orleans Pelicans, with the new additions.

Team of the Future

After the departure of their starting lineup, except for Damian Lillard, the Blazers have put together a group of young players that would be outcasts elsewhere but could join forces to become the team of the future. But the Blazers will have to compete with the young talents like the Utah Jazz and Minnesota Timberwolves, who both possess an abundance of young talent looking to make their splash in the league and quit be the doormats for the superior teams.

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Wild Wild West

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By Stefan Anderson

The Playoffs are here and the Western Conference is an all-around juggernaut with great games in each matchup. Let’s take a look and make predictions on the Wild Wild West.

(1)    Warriors vs. (8) Pelicans : Many might highlight the huge game winner over the Thunder, but the April 7thwin over the Warriors is what helped New Orleans reach that 8th seed in the Western Conference.

Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis stated “We look at ourselves as an elite team. We feel like we can play with anybody and we can beat anybody on any given night”. New Orleans will have that same character to complete a first round upset over the Warriors. But Golden State has the best team in and has an abundance of styles they can play with.

The fear of the Warriors high pace game to slow down with the playoffs is their biggest worry but their depth can solve that solution easily. The Pelicans bring a physical style but can move with small ball as well, and can compete with Golden State  most nights if they can contain them under 100 points.

Overall, it’s going to be a tough feat for the Pelicans therefore, I am going with Golden State in 6.

(2)    Rockets vs. (7) Mavericks: After surviving the toughest division in the NBA on top, the Southwest, and The Houston Rockets have to face their first test, the battle tested Mavericks in a Texas showdown.

The Rockets have been impressive all season without their defensive anchor in all-star Dwight Howard, but it will be interesting to see how they respond to the former DPOY’s return.

With the loss of Patrick Beverly, this could be the perfect opportunity for the underachieving Rajon Rondo to have his redemption against the aging Pablo Prigioni and Jason Terry.

I look for the Rockets to feature Harden at the 1 in a lineup alongside Brewer, Ariza, Smith and Howard that could present problems on both ends of the floor for the Mavs.

Overall, I think Houston has more firepower than Dallas and scrapes away this series in a 7th game win.

(3)    Clippers vs. (6) Spurs: For the LA Clippers their window of the opportunity is closing in on them and have put the pressure on themselves but one thing is the way, The Spurs. San Antonio who has been on cruise control the entire season and fret about the window of opportunity closing .

To fear the Spurs is understatement, because you can never expect less than a hard fought series out of the defending champs. The Clippers on the other hand have yet find playoff success since the resurgence of the franchise a few season ago. LA will have to find offensive output from their role players like Matt Barnes and J.J. Redick which is asking a lot.

With the health of Tiago Splitter in question, DJ and Blake Griffin can take the battle down low that will extend the series a game or two, or possibly taking the series.

Overall, I would be crazy to bet against San Antonio, which is the reason why I am taking them in 6.

(4) Blazers vs. (5) Grizzlies: The heart of the West always collides in the 4-5 series and this year is no different. The Grizzlies grinded their way into another playoff spot and will have to face the great play of Portland. This matchup is going to heavyweight bout between the two, with the battle of the bigs Gasol/Randolph versus Aldrige/Lopez and not to mention guards Lillard and Conley fighting to make their conversation amongst the elite point guards in the league.

But the key to the series is the wings for each team, Portland has Affalo, Batum and off the bench McCollum and Blake, while Memphis features Allen and Green with Vince Carter and Courtney Lee off the bench. The key each to team to gain the edge amongst each other it will come from these players.

Overall, this is going to be a hard fought battle that goes to the Grizzlies in Game 7. I think Memphis grinds their way past Rip City.

We’re Just Getting Started

By Stefan Anderson

After the NBA’s scandal, lifetime bans, Floyd Mayweather winning again (Is He Ever Going to Lose?), the NBA playoffs continued. Returning to a first round, that has been more competitive than any in the years past. This year’s opening round of the playoffs is a great introduction to what could be a legendary postseason, which could be discussed centuries from now.

Aside from the Miami Heat and the Washington Wizards, every team had a very competive series leading to a record 5 game 7’s. One of the most intriguing series that didn’t lead to a game 7 was the Rockets vs. Blazers series, which nearly went to a deciding but was ended after a cold blooded dagger by Damian Lillard. These playoffs have had fans on the edge of their seats and reaching near heart attack but a joy to watch.

Throughout these game 7’s two things remained supreme, Star Power and Experience.

• In the Eastern Conference:
The #1 seed Indiana Pacers where on the ropes and were almost knocked by young, hungry Atlanta Hawks team. Down 3-2 in their series Indiana went on the road to fight for championship aspirations. After a lineup change that helped the Pacers downsize they were able to compete with the undersized Hawks teams that continued to spread their defense out and knock down 3’s. Including two tremendous games by their star Paul George and their leader David West.

The Toronto Raptors already had defied the odds this season they went on to win the Atlantic Division and earn 3 seed this season. The task of knocking off the veteran Brooklyn Nets seemed like a tough task but they were close to making it look easy. Putting the Nets in an uncomfortable position after 3-2 defeat, they looked to close out the series in game 6. But Brooklyn responded quickly by returning the favor in a 97-83 blowout to send the series into a game 7. In a game 7 where Brooklyn looked like the team everyone predicted them to be, the young Raptors made a final run to save their playoff hopes and show what they made of. Down 1 with a few seconds left, the Raptors lacked a prime go-to scorer or big shot maker and left the game in Kyle Lowry’s hands where he seen his last second floater get returned by the Veteran Paul Pierce. Aint that The Truth.

• In The Western Conference
The Spurs have had so many tough battles between them and the Dallas Mavericks, that you knew this year’s matchup would give you the same. The Mavericks different from those teams that once featured Dirk, Nash, Finley, etc. now have a new cast but still possess the same great talent with Monta Ellis, Vince Carter, Devin Harris, and of Dirk . But the Spurs have never lost core of stars and show that chemistry does mean something in this league. After watching Vince Carter hit the time machine and hit game winning shots, Manu Ginobli turn back the clock and show vintage Manu, this series reminded me of the early 2000’s. After former Spur now Mavericks Dejuan Blair come out and make clutch plays against his former team in 6, the series would be decided in Game 7. The Spurs proved once again why they had the best record this season and trampled the Mavs 119-69, led by Tony Parker’s 32 point performance.

Oklahoma City has had a great amount of trouble dealing with Memphis and their grind out style play in the past few years, especially in the playoffs. This postseason was no different. After 4 straight overtime games between the two, Memphis put OKC in a tough position once again. Down 3-2 facing elimination, who could the Thunder rely on to help guide to the promise land, Kevin Durant. The MVP Candidate went off for 36 and 10 to help force a game 7. After losing their star Zach Randolph due to an altercation, Memphis lacked their star power to compete for a final game where Kevin Durant chipped in 33 points and Russell Westbrook put in a triple double himself.

The Warriors and Clippers series went as planned as both teams were poised for a heavyweight bout in the first round. After facing so much attention of the court and it affecting the play on the court, The Clippers looked to be down and out for this series. But after their big man duo of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan put their team on their back the Clips stayed alive to continue championship dreams. Not that Warriors, do not hold star power in this time, they just need some extra help from a big man which they lost in the unhealthy Andrew Bogut.

For this to be the first round of the playoffs, shows exactly why the NBA playoffs are what they are for a reason. The Win or Go Home attitude gives the players that extra enthusiasm need and gives up fans the great show that we love to see. I cannot wait to see what happens in the second round.

2014 NBA Playoffs: 1st Round Predictions

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By Stefan Anderson

Now that the 82 games have been played and teams had made the last minutes adjustments it time to bring home what you play every season for, A NBA Championship.  Although, the Eastern Conference packs a great value of entertainment, the best games throughout the playoffs are on the Western Conference playoffs. The first could knock off a potential powerhouse or help a good excel for a final push after competing with a team with the same potential.

Here are my first round predictions for the Western Conference.

  •          1. Spurs vs.  8. Mavericks: The Texas showdown has brought some of the greatest battles throughout the past decades and will provide some exciting games this year as well. I have the Spurs winning in 6 games, I believe that Spurs will ultimately win the series but I believe Dirk has a few more magical games left in him. Dallas doesn’t possess enough talent and star power to compete with the perennial winners in San Antonio.
  •          2. Thunder vs. 7. Grizzlies: This has been a great battle between the two teams in the past 3 years and can alter the outcome of this year’s playoffs as well. As the majority of NBA fans believed the Thunder will reach their redemption after being the defeated by the Miami Heat in the 2012 Finals, the Grizzlies were there to kill their championship dreams. The tough paint play with Gasol and Z-Bo versus Ibaka and Perkins should, 1990’s style of banging down low. The Grizzlies do have two defenders in Tayshaun Prince and Tony Allen who can help to slow down to be named MVP Kevin Durant, but have no answer for the X-Factor Russell Westbrook. OKC in 6 tough, brutal games.
  •          3. Clippers vs. 6. Warriors: High scoring, highlights, high flying, intensity on the highest points, this should be the most interesting series out of all the playoff series. The matchup between CP3 and Steph Curry should be a lot of ankle breaking, high floaters and 3 pointers that you wouldn’t hit in a game of H-O-R-S-E.  This series will include some of the best games seen throughout this year’s playoffs but will end in game 7 loss for the Warriors as they will have a tough time containing Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan without their big man Andrew Bogut.
  •          4. Rockets vs. 5. Blazers: Two of the NBA’s quietest teams this season and I believe this series will be overlooked as well. While the two teams mirror each other, this series should be another one that goes down to the wire as well. With the matchup of Patrick Beverly guarding Damian Lillard and Howard versus Aldridge, this should be a good matchup on both sides.  The X- Factor will be how Rip City contains James Harden, and I don’t believe they will be able to, so I have the Rockets in 6.

With so much excitement and buildup, the 2014 playoffs will be a beauty to watch. I can’t wait to tune in and watch “Where Amazing Happens”.