Western Conference Playoffs Preview: Spurs-Lakers anyone?

San Antonio Spurs (+425)

Why they’ll win it all: San Antonio is really the only team in the Western Conference that poses a legitimate post-season challenge to the purple and gold.  Sorry, Mark Cuban.  The Spurs held a firm grasp on the West’s number one seed all season long.  And before we forget, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan actually have more championships than L.A. over the past eight years.  While a Lakers-Spurs Western Conference Finals is not a foregone conclusion, it will determine bragging rights between the West’s most competitive rivalry.

Why they won’t: Despite winning 60 games this season, the Spurs’ window is arguably closing.  Duncan is an old 34 and neither Manu Ginobili nor Tony Parker are 100%.  There wouldn’t be as many questions surrounding San Antonio if the Lakers simply didn’t exist.  But they do.  The Spurs locked up home court advantage throughout the Western Conference Finals and they’re going to need it, as the O’Brien Trophy still runs through Los Angeles.  Assuming both the Lakers and Spurs get that far, odds makers will likely list L.A. as the favorites to win that series.  There’s a reason for that.

Los Angeles Lakers (+165)

Why they’ll win it all: You’ve heard of this guy named Kobe Bryant, right?  As is always the case, the Lakers coast through the regular season (if you want to call 55 wins coasting), only to remind other teams come the post-season there’s a reason they’re two-time defending champions.  The last Western Conference team other than the Spurs or Lakers to win an NBA championship was Hakeem Olajuwon’s Rockets fifteen years ago.   Even though the Spurs finished the regular season with a better record, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the Lakers went into San Antonio in the Western Conference Finals and won one of those first two games.

Why they won’t: It’s hard to come up with valid reasons why the Lakers won’t three-peat… again, unless of course you want to consider their recent five-game losing streak and near slide out of the two hole.  Skeptics point to Bynum’s health but they’ve won in the past without him.  Kobe still has something to prove, his next title will equal Michael’s six.  Odom is having the most productive season of his career and Zen Master Phil is looking to ride off into the Montana sunset, leaving a trail of rings all the way there.  It’d take a lot for any team, other than perhaps a perfectly clicking Spurs team, to ensure Los Angeles doesn’t make a return trip to the Finals.

Dallas Mavericks (+1600)

Why they’ll win it all: They have Dirk Nowitzki, a top-ten player in the league, one of the greatest all-time point guards in Jason Kidd, Jason Terry coming off the bench and Tyson Chandler averaging just shy of a double-double.  They’re also 8-0 against the Heat, Knicks, Hawks and Celtics.

Why they won’t: Why won’t they?  Because they never do.  This is a team that has yet to shed that soft label.  They’re a regular-season mainstay but never have the roster balance to pose a serious Finals threat.  Dallas’ championship hopes may very well have gone out the window with Caron Butler’s knee injury.

Oklahoma City Thunder (+1300)

Why they’ll win it all: Within no time at all, Kevin Durant has become one of the league’s most un-guardable players.  The Thunder shocked everyone last year by taking the Lakers to seven games in the first round of the playoffs.  This season, they proved they’re no one-hit wonder by winning 55 games.  Russell Westbrook has become one of the league’s best young point guards and the addition of Kendrick Perkins brings size, toughness and some well-needed playoff experience.

Why they won’t: While dangerous, this team is still young and without a playoff series win.  They will likely advance out of the first round this year but when facing a more playoff-savvy team, they may crumble.

Denver Nuggets (+2200)

Why they’ll win it all: The Nuggets surprised everyone when they started playing better after trading away Carmelo Anthony, going 18-6.  During that stretch, they beat San Antonio, Boston, L.A. and Dallas twice.  They were also the highest scoring team in the league and George Karl loves the way his new team is playing.

Why they won’t: They couldn’t win it all with Carmelo Anthony.  Even though they’re playing better basketball now that’s he gone, there’s really no reason to believe they can win it all without him.  Their recent, regular season success may soon run its course.

Portland Trailblazers (+3500)

Why they’ll win it all: LaMarcus Aldridge had himself one hell of a season, leading the Trailblazers in scoring in Brandon Roy’s absence.  The addition of Gerald Wallace gives them an intimidating frontcourt.  Portland, who many thought would go far last year, will not be an easy out for any one of the top four teams in the West.

Why they won’t: The Trailblazers are still a franchise in flux.  One can’t help but wonder how the loss of Greg Oden and potentially Brandon Roy due to back spasms will affect this team in the playoffs.  Roy only played half the season.  If the Blazers want any chance at advancing, they’ll need a healthy Roy and that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.

New Orleans Hornets (+9000)

Why they’ll win it all: They won’t.  Sorry, Jeremy.

Why they won’t: It wasn’t all that long ago that Chris Paul and the Hornets snuck up on everybody by winning 56 games.  They’re not surprising anyone anymore.  Although they’re one of the better defensive teams in the league, it’s hard to imagine the same old formula of Chris Paul and David West making it very far.

Memphis Grizzlies (+8000)

Why they’ll win it all: They won’t either.  At least I don’t think they will, but don’t be surprised if the Grizzlies give a higher seed one doozy of a playoff series.  Zach Randolph had arguably the best year of his career, leading the team in both scoring and rebounding

Why they won’t: Memphis is actually a fun young team to watch but losing Rudy Gay to season-ending shoulder surgery might be too much for this team to overcome. The odds are certainly long on the Grizzlies to make a run, but anything can happen. Speaking of odds, if you enjoy calculating stats and odds, check out an accounting degree at
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Enjoy the playoffs, everyone!

26 thoughts on “Western Conference Playoffs Preview: Spurs-Lakers anyone?

  1. The Lakers’ bench isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and with Bynum now injured it makes their hold on retaining the trophy somewhat more tenuous. One more thing you over look the bench of the Spurs that has come up big a number of times this season .

    I love the fact that Stern can fine Phil $75k but the league is still on track to lose $ 300 million this season !

    tophatal ………..

  2. Pingback: Western Conference Playoffs Preview: Spurs-Lakers anyone?, NBA | BallHyped Sports Blogs

  3. Bynum’s health is always a question mark, Al. That recent knee hyperextension didn’t help matters.

    We both know Phil’s a master at using his supporting cast. They still have Odom, Shannon Brown, Steve Blake and Matt Barnes.

    Kobe averaged 34 minutes a game this season. He’ll be averaging a helluva lot more than that over these next six weeks.

    And if Stern never opened us all up to the details of the Donaghy case, what makes you think he’ll open the books to what NBA owners and the league are actually making?

    You’d think the amount of LeBron James jerseys being sold alone would be able to get the league out of the red.

  4. I’m a little surprised how many people are jumping on the OKC to the finals bandwagon. I can see why after Durant showed his alpha status on Team USA this summer, but there’s no way the Lakers get beat in Phil’s final hurrah before the lockout…

  5. I like the Thunder too, Al, but I have to go chalk out West.

    I mean, we’re talking the Lakers here.

    It wouldn’t totally surprise me if the Spurs got upended on their way to the Western Conference Finals. I actually think even Memphis could pose a problem. (Don’t tell Al I said that).

    San Antonio’s health scares me. Ginobili has to play for them to go deep.

    And a lot of people are on that Portland over Dallas bandwagon as well. If that’s the case, we might see a crying Cuban on the sidelines.

    I liked their chances with Caron Butler but definitely not without him.

    I say… BRING ON THE PLAYOFFS!

  6. Check out Chap’s comments on the Thunder, Snake.

    He’s right, too. They’re a sexy pick, but you and I have both watched enough NBA basketball to know that young teams don’t win titles.

    I think a lot of people like Durant because of his demeanor. One need look no further than the contrast between how he and LeBron handled their off-season signings to see why he gained a whole bunch of new fans.

  7. Finding it hard to get pumped to go to these Hornets/Lakers home games. Not sure why.

    Really thought owners were going to make a move this year to give Chris a reason to stay. Wait. Owners? Where’d you guys go? Hello….? Why is it so cold and dark….

  8. Yeah, man.

    He might be gone. Look at the bright side though. You might be able to see him in Orlando when you come to town. I hear it’s a groovy arena.

    Even worse, J, is that if Paul leaves, the entire team might be right behind him.

    Maloof anyone?

  9. Chris

    Is there something that the guys in Vegas and you are forgetting ? Other than the Lakers or Spurs who else has been the West’s only other representatives in the NBA Finals over the last decade ? That’s the dominance these two teams have had within the conference .

    You bet against either and you do so at your own risk !

    Dwight there’s a reason why I didn’t jump on the Howard bandwagon the way that you have done . Namely yesterday’s show was a prime example of that . He scores 46 points and the team still comes up with a loss . And you and Hollinger in particular view him as a more worthy candidate for league MVP ?

    All you need to know why Rose is a better player than Dwight is simply to look at what the Bulls’ player did in blocking Collinson’s shot and then weaving his way thru’ the Sixers’ defense to score during the game and in essence change its course . Need I say anymore on the matter ?

    tophatal

  10. That’s exactly what I mentioned in the post, Al.

    The last Western Conference team other than L.A. or San Antonio to win it all was Olujawon’s Rockets.

    There were lots of reasons to point to the Hawks upsetting the Magic. In fact, I’ve got money on Atlanta to win that series at 5:1.

    5:1, Al? Who the hell set that line? The Magic are not five times better than Atlanta. Shit, they might not even be better at all. Other than Dwight, name one person on the Magic who’s better than Al Horford, Joe Johnson or Josh Smith.

    I don’t like to jinx my bets but I’m always down for talking a little trash. This Magic team is dysfunctional while Atlanta has had that same core for a while now.

    Just because they got swept last year means nothing other than Atlanta has something to prove.

    A lil payback.

    The question is… who takes the fall for a first round Magic bow out?

    This team has gone backwards every year since making the Finals.

  11. Chris

    Way to go Magic ! Howard puts up 46 and Nelson ably abets him but where was everyone else ? Presumably at a seance or something ?

    The Spurs got the kick in the ass they needed ….. as too did the Lakers . Now we’re really going to have some competitive series on hand and hopefully the zebras (officials) won’t interject themselves in the midst of it all !

    tophatal ………………..

  12. There’s only ONE person in Orlando to take the fall for the Magic’s woos and the answer is OTIS. It was his decision to put it together and its his alone.

  13. Al…

    Las Vegas actually forced me into taking the Hawks in the series. Again, after watching that first game, it wouldn’t surprise me if Atlanta went in there and took Game Two.

    The Spurs are in trouble, Al. I had them penciled into the Western Conference Finals but they need Manu on the floor and healthy. Memphis is no pushover.

    And let me know when they’ve figured out an answer for Zach Randolph.

  14. I’m inclined to believe you on that one, Snake.

    As I’ve been preaching ever since they pulled the trigger on that deal, I would really have liked them to give the Carter-Lewis-Gortat thing one more chance.

  15. Chris

    The Spurs I don’t believe are in trouble as they needed that kick in the a_s to shake them out of their complacency ! I also feel that the Lakers will come out firing on all cylinders and put the pedal to the metal against the Hornets ! They also needed a wake up call.

    I watched Andre Berto defend his WBC welterweight title over the weekend. He’s a local with his family living here in Polk Co (Winter Haven) . He got knocked on his a_s by the challenger and how he managed to get up was a miracle because I thought he was out for the count ! He lost on a unanimous decision to an opponent he took way too lightly !

    Put a body on Randolph at all times and don’t let have his shots or create for others either , that’s the answer !

    So that Rays’ ….. win streak was somewhat short lived and the Yankees now sit atop of AL East ! No surprise there then !

    Ahh the beauty of baseball !

    tophatal ………….

  16. Chris

    To me the Hawks are more of an enigma than a lot of these so called teams that many view to be a contender ! Joe Johnson is literally stealing money from the organization while only putting up marginally decent numbers in the regular season . If they (Hawks) bow out in the first round this year then there’s a legitimate reason to state that this team has no guts whatsoever !

    Was it me but was Shaq and his ( Jermaine ) namesake missing from that Celtics’ lineup ? The two O’Neals . God if there’s a reason why GM Danny Ainge ought to be castrated then those two would be it ! Their contributions to the Celtics only marginally exceed those of the contributions made by Muammar Ghadafi in promoting peace in Libya at present . What a cluster #_ck that experiment has been !

    tophatal ……………..

  17. It was insane to get rid of a great backup center in Gortat when you have a guy like DH who’s foul prone.

  18. Chris

    If Dirk fails to win an NBA title with the Mavericks will that make him this generation’s Susan Lucci ? I mean she’s never won an Emmy despite all those years on that eponymous soap . As for Dirk and the Mavs if they don’t do it this year then they’ll never do it as their window of opportunity to my mind has already been slammed shut in spite of the current roster ! They’re missing Caron Butler more than anyone really cares to admit .

    tophatal …………..

  19. Al…

    The Spurs are in trouble if Ginobili’s not healthy. The Grizz are a tough match-up for them, man.

    Who would you suggest they put on Randolph? It’s not like they have a ton of bodies to just throw out there? And then what about Gasol?

  20. Al…

    I’m still calling for the Hawks to win that series. This team has too much talent for them to be one and done AGAIN and the Magic are the perfect team for them to take advantage of.

    Hey, and the Celtics still ended up winning. We knew the Knicks would give them fits.

  21. Oh, they know they miss Butler, Al. That was a tough team with him. Without him, it’s the same old Mavs.

    By the way, I love the Dirk Nowitzki-Susan Lucci comparison.

    Only difference is, I believe she ended up winning.

  22. Chris

    I think the reason she (Lucci) won that Emmy was as a consolation after all those years of near misses !

    The Mavs are like a roll of Charmin’ that’s all I gotta say ’bout that !

    I think that Neal , Blair and the bench in particular have got to step up their game if the Spurs are to prevail in the series !

    Another great performance by the Rays —- taking it to the White Sox . Price put on a very good performance .

    tophatal …………………

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