NBA Playoff Preview – Western Conference – First Round

James Harden and the Rockets expect to be in the NBA Finals. Photo Courtesy: Dominic Ceraldi

By Joel Montgomery

The 2019 NBA Playoffs are here, and we’ve got the previews you need to get ready for every high-stakes matchup. Here’s the picture of the Western Conference in the first round:
 
1. Golden State Warriors vs 8. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers, similar to the Celtics after the Big 3 era, have bounced back quickly since the conclusion of Lob City. Another similarity is the involvement of Doc Rivers, whose taken considerable strides with the team he has in front of him. With GM Jerry West pulling the strings, the Clippers look primed to make some big moves going forward.
 
Another coast through the playoffs seems par for the course for the loaded Golden State Warriors, but with some intrigue of Kevin Durant’s next move clouding the team’s future, they may need to prepare to say farewell to not just Oracle Arena come the end of the season. But for now, let the perfect basketball continue.
 
Game 1: Saturday, April 13 7:15 p.m.
 
2. Denver Nuggets vs 7. San Antonio Spurs
The young, but valiant Denver Nuggets have impressed throughout the course of the season. But Nikola Jokic and the rest of the gang have had some concerning performances against contending teams recently. Will they be able to put things together and make an impressive run?
 
As for San Antonio, in their first season of the post-Kawhi Leonard, find themselves in the playoffs. Not new territory for coach Gregg Popovich or anything, and stars DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge look to man the front and make some noise this postseason. They might be the 7th-seed, but don’t think for a second the Spurs won’t give the Nuggets the business all series long.
 
Game 1: Saturday, April 13 9:30 p.m.
 
3. Portland Trail Blazers vs 6. Oklahoma City Thunder
Portland once again had a great regular season that earned them a cozy 3-seed, but that’s no reason to relax as the team lost key piece Jusuf Nurkic to a devastating leg injury for the remainder of the season. Star point guard Damian Lillard and right hand man CJ McCollum are used to carrying the load for this team, but they’ll have their hands full in the paint as Steven Adams runs freely without Nurk to stop him.
 
After a worrisome final month of play that had them staring at Golden State for a first round matchup, the Thunder fell fortunate and now find themselves on the favorable end of the playoff bracket. In the spot they’re in, they would only have to face one of either Golden State or Houston if they’re to make the Western Conference Finals. Can Russell Westbrook prove the doubters wrong, and can Paul George justify his decision to see it through with this team?
 
Game 1: Sunday, April 14 2:30 p.m.
 
4. Houston Rockets vs 5. Utah Jazz
In Donovan Mitchell’s 2nd year outing as a pro, his Utah Jazz reached the impressive 50-win threshold and once again find themselves in the playoffs, and up against the Rockets. Beaten cleanly 4-1 last year, the Jazz look to get some revenge against this offensive powerhouse. Can their grit and team synergy be enough to overcome Houston’s historic offense?
 
James Harden has just wrapped up an incredible regular season on the offensive end, averaging 36.1 points per game on the year, being the most any player has averaged since Kobe’s 35.4 in 2006. Carrying the team when they were missing the likes of Chris Paul and Clint Capela, Harden became the apex of a new twist to D’Antoni’s offense: one with a single dynamic force that both scores and distributes at an insanely elite level. With the team now fully healthy, they have their eyes on the prize as they look to make things right from a year previous.
 
Game 1: Sunday, April 14 8:30 p.m.