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2016 NBA Playoffs: Western Conference Preview

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By Monte Crisco

This has been one of the most exciting NBA Seasons in recent memory. The Golden State Warriors set the record for most wins in a season with 73. The San Antonio Spurs won 66 games and tied the 85-86 Boston Celtics for the greatest home record of all time…40-1. In the last game of his magical career, Kobe Bryant scored 60 points on 50 shots!. It is a great accomplishment.

Anytime someone can score 60 points in 48 minutes, their is obviously, some tremendous skill involved.

But, I can’t “go crazy” over Bryant because this is what he has been for the past 2 years…bigger than the team. The Lakers were more concerned with the Kobe farewell tour than winning games. Other players like Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowtizki have taken pay cuts and taken lesser roles to win and attract free agents. Kobe never did this.

So he went out with a great individual performance, but the Lakers finished the year 17-65,

#1 Seed… Golden State Warriors (73-9) vs. #8 Seed… Houston Rockets 41-41:

ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy recently said that “J.B. Bickerstaff has done a great job this year coaching the Rockets.” I couldn’t believe he said that! The Rockets made it to the Western Conference Finals last year, as an 8 seed now, they barely made the playoffs!

Talk about a coach sticking up for another coach. If this game was a fight, it would be stopped after the first game. The only way the Warriors will lose this series is if in fact a meteor lands on earth and they have to cancel the games. The Rockets want to play up tempo, the problem here is that no one plays at a faster pace…or better than the Warriors.

Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green should all average over 20 points in this series. I can’t even see the Rockets winning one game. James Harden has had a great season (29 points, 7.5 assists and 61. rebounds per game) but one man can’t beat a complete team.

Warriors sweep 4-0 and most games will be double digit wins.

#2 Seed… San Antonio Spurs (67-15) vs. #7 Seed…Memphis Grizzlies (42-40):

The Spurs have had a magical run this year, yet no one talks about them. They get very little national attention and that’s how the Spurs like it, under the radar. Kawhi Leonard continues to be the best two way player in basketball (21.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.78 steals per game).

He is now the leader of this team.

In his first year with the Spurs, LaMarcus Aldridge has really settled in during the second half of the season. Gregg Popovich continues to be one of the best coaches in the NBA and I feel he should win coach of the year.

The Memphis Grizzlies have gone through a slew of injuries. They finished the season 1-9 in their last 10 games. Center Marc Gasol is out for the year and PG Mike Conley only played in 56 games this year. Memphis will play hard and Zach Randolph will get 18 points and 8 rebounds per game until he is about 58 years old.

Spurs sweep this series 4-0.

#3 Seed… Oklahoma City Thunder (55-27) vs. #6 Seed… Dallas Mavericks (42-40):

Russell Westbrook has had an MVP like season (23.5 points, 10,4 assists and 7.8 rebounds per game). He may be more valuable to the Thunder than Kevin Durant. PG Serge Ibaka has been picture of inconsistency. I almost like the Thunder better when they play the “Twin Towers” at once (Steven Adams and Enes Kanter) The two centers can provide rebounding and inside scoring.

The Mavericks would have been better off not making the playoffs this year and getting a lottery pick. The Mavs aren’t good enough to contend for a championship but they aren’t bad enough to get a lottery pick. Being mediocre in the NBA is the worst thing to be. For all their hard work they will be lucky to win 1 game.

Thunder win this Series 4-1.

#4 Seed… LA Clippers (53-29) vs. #5 Seed… Portland Trailblazers (44-38):

The Portland Trailblazers have had a great year. After losing 4 starters to free agency they won 44 games in the brutal western conference. Most experts predicted them to be a lottery team. Their backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum average more than 45 points per game.

The problem with the Blazers is they just don’t have a consistent 3rd option.

The Clippers have had a tumultuous season, they got rid of forward Lance Stephenson and Blake Griffin punched a member of the Clippers organization and hurt his hand. Griffin only played in 35 games this season and is still not in “game shape.” PG Chris Paul is still the leader of this team and averaged 19 points and 10 assists per game. DeAndre Jordan is a double/double machine but can’t be on the court late in games. Jordan shot 43% from the free throw line. If the game is close down the stretch look for the Clippers to go small and put Jordan on the bench.

This series can be close but I think the Clippers front court proves to be the difference.

Clippers win in 5 games

Follow the Sports Whisperer on Twitter at @Montetjwitter11 and listen to the Monte Cristo Sports Thing on WRNJ Radio.

Editor’s Note: This article also appears on Nuts and Bolts, a content partner of INSCMagazine.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com

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