The Western Conference playoffs in the NBA will include Oklahoma City’s attempt to return to the NBA Finals, plus a rematch of a contentious first-round series from the 2012 postseason.
Here’s a look at the 1-8 and 4-5 NBA series prices along with a prediction on who’ll advance.
(8) Houston Rockets vs. (1) Oklahoma City Thunder
Odds: Thunder -1800
Expect to see offensive fireworks from beginning to end in this series. Houston and Oklahoma City both love to push the pace. Each team is blessed with open-court players who like to get up and down the floor, setting the stage for a series in which there will be a lot of fast-break basketball and comparatively less standing around. This sets up favorably for Oklahoma City, which is perfectly equipped to take on any other NBA team in a run-and-gun shootout. The Thunder’s wings are so lethal, and point guard Russell Westbrook is a scorer who can take over games in his own right. Oklahoma City is vulnerable against a team that has the appetite and the ability to defend vigorously. Houston is simply not that kind of team. The Rockets could be great in a few years, but they’re not ready to win.
It is worth pointing out that Oklahoma City’s opponent doesn’t know how this rodeo known as the playoffs works. The Thunder are veterans of these kinds of wars, while the Rockets have not made the postseason since 2009 and will therefore have to make adjustments – not just tactical ones, but emotional ones. Playoff basketball is different from regular-season basketball, and the awareness of this point is something that will sink in for the Thunder. One can’t quite say the same thing about the Rockets, certainly not with the same level of confidence. This difference will matter as the series progresses. Oklahoma City will know how to handle crisis moments with more serenity than Houston.
Pick: Oklahoma City In Five Games
(5) Memphis Grizzlies vs. (4) Los Angeles Clippers
Odds: Clippers -165
O It has to be very discouraging for Memphis that this past Saturday, April 13, the Grizzlies – playing the Clippers at home – dictated play for the first three quarters and built a five-point lead, only to then collapse in the fourth quarter at the offensive end of the floor. Memphis scored only 14 points in the fourth quarter, even with its bruising frontline prowess and the ability to crash the offensive glass for putback baskets. The Clippers, as long as they can play even on the boards, will likely be able to limit Memphis’ offense in this series, because the Grizzlies will need a fair amount of second-chance points to win.
One should also point out that last season, Los Angeles didn’t have DeAndre Jordan as its main man in the middle. Jordan, one of the most pleasant surprises in the league this season, has given the Clippers a lot of added muscle and heft in the paint. This presence is going to minimize Memphis’ advantage in the paint; Jordan can enable Los Angeles to withstand the tag-team quality of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Chris Paul can dominate the game at the point and enable the Clippers’ wing playmakers to flourish. This series will be close, but the Clippers are going to trust themselves more in fourth-quarter crucibles.
Pick: Los Angeles Clippers In Seven Games