Monday, May 2, 2016

Your NBA Western Conference Semifinal Primer

San Antonio's top-ranked defense, led by reigning DPOY Kawhi Leonard, made life miserable for Kevin Durant and the Thunder in Game 1. Can OKC make a series out of it?
By Adam Lowenstein (@StatsAdam)

Ed. Note- Yes, we know that the second round has already begun in the West, but we wanted to wait until all the NBA's playoff matchups were set to post our previews. Deal with it.

Anyways, here are Adam's breakdowns of the Western Conference Semifinals.


#1 Golden State Warriors vs. #5 Portland Trail Blazers

Those who are worried about the Warriors without Stephen Curry, have no fear, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are here! Thompson outscored the Trail Blazers by himself in the first quarter of Game 1, as he put up 18 points to the Portland’s 17. In addition, Thompson, who finished with a game-high 37 points, accomplished that first-quarter feat on 7-for-10 shooting in just 10-and-a-half minutes.

Green also enjoyed the first quarter, as the only Warrior to play all 12 minutes of it. His four points, three rebounds and three assists helped Golden State get to its 20-point lead. He would eventually register his second career postseason triple-double, as he finished the contest with game-highs in rebounds (13) and assists (11) to go along with 23 points.

On the other side of the court, Damian Lillard made half of his eight 3-point attempts and all of his 10 free throws. However, he and C.J. McCollum combined to shoot 13-for-43 (.302). In addition, McCollum missed all four of his 3-pointers, marking the first game of Portland’s postseason in which he did not make a shot from downtown.

With the Trail Blazers depending on McCollum’s outside shots, he will need a better performance in Game 2. The team’s winning percentage is very dependent on his 3-point percentage, and the playoffs have been the perfect example of this phenomenon: if he shoots 33 percent or better, the Trail Blazers are 4-0. If not, Portland is 0-3.

We will have to see if that statistic holds throughout the series, but if the Trail Blazers have another quarter like the first one of Game 1, this series will not be long. If so, Curry will be able to rest even more in preparation for the next round. He'll likely need to be 100 percent ready for what should be a hard-fought Western Conference Finals.

Prediction: Warriors in 5

#2 San Antonio Spurs vs. #3 Oklahoma City Thunder


The AT&T Center crowd sang “Don’t Stop Believing” near the end of Game 1’s drubbing of the visiting Thunder. That seems to be related to how we all cannot believe how this Thunder team is not better given the amount of talent it has. San Antonio dominated Oklahoma City so much in Game 1 that the Spurs owned their largest lead they have had in a playoff game under Gregg Popovich.

Not only did the Spurs’ NBA-best defense keep the league’s second-most prolific offense to just 20 points each in the first and second quarters, but San Antonio’s offense was firing on all cylinders. The Spurs became just the fourth team in NBA playoff history to shoot at least 60 percent overall, shoot at least 60 percent from 3-point land and attempt 15 shots from 3-point distance in the same game.

The last team to accomplish the impressive shooting feat was the 2011 Dallas Mavericks, who went on to win the NBA championship. If Curry is not feeling 100 percent or not playing at a high level on the court soon, San Antonio is definitely the favorites to win this year’s NBA Finals. Popovich’s squad sure showed why in Game 1.

Although the Spurs and Thunder split their regular season series, with each team winning at home, San Antonio should steal at least one contest in Oklahoma City this series. With the Spurs starters each owning plus/minuses of at least +20 and the Thunder starters all being -20 or worse in Game 1, it seems to be an appropriate opinion.

Prediction: Spurs in 6

For more sports coverage, follow Adam Lowenstein on Twitter at @StatsAdam. Statistics used from Basketball-Reference.com and ESPN.com.



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