Golden State and the Splash Brothers have been one of the best storylines of the NBA regular season. Carrying the league’s best record into the postseason, it’s impossible not to see them as serious title contenders.
However, the West is also home to the defending champions and while San Antonio had what might be considered a “down year” by their standards, nobody is looking past the Spurs.
Tim Duncan & Co. finished the season on a tear winning 16 of their last 20 games. The Clippers, who face the Spurs in the first-round, sported the same record over their last 20 games, too, including seven in a row to finish the season.
San Antonio-L.A. is the series to watch in the first round, and whichever team makes it out alive poses the greatest threat to the Warriors’ hopes—and many experts are picking the Spurs to win not only against the Clippers, but also to win the conference finals against Golden State.
The Spurs and Warriors are a study in contrasts and San Antonio’s perimeter defenders Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green match up well against Splash Brothers Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
But then you read that Stephen Curry sank 77 threes in a row in practice and you wonder if anyone can stop him but himself. Then again, we talkin' ‘bout practice? It’s just practice. But it’s still amazing. Amazing enough that you might not want to bet against him.
Here are capsules for each matchup:
(1) Golden State (67-15) vs (8) New Orleans (45-37)
Warriors won season series 3-1
The Pelicans finally make it to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history but they have to face a team looking to make some history of its own. If anyone can stop the Warriors, it won’t be New Orleans.
(2) Houston (56-26) vs (7) Dallas (50-32)
Rockets won season series 3-1
Houston and Dallas don’t care much for each other—not just the basketball teams, the actual cities. Houstonians and whatever you call someone from Dallas (Dallasites? Dallasers?) could find a reason to throw dukes over just about anything. This series might be like a barroom brawl and that might actually cause a few barroom brawls around the big-knuckled state of Texas.
(3) Los Angeles Clippers (56-26) vs (6) San Antonio (55-27)
Season series was tied 2-2
Now or never for the Clippers. And that now could easily be turned into a never by the reigning champs. Both teams played inspired ball at the end of the season. Is this the end of one era and the beginning of another or will it just be more of the same from Duncan & Co.?
(4) Portland (51-31) vs (5) Memphis (55-27)
Grizzlies won season series 4-0
If there can be a dark horse in a conference so loaded with serious title contenders, Memphis might be the team. If they can slip past the Trail Blazers—which might not be that difficult given that they swept the season series. Good team? Yes. Dark horse? We shall see.
And here’s the TV schedule for TNT and ESPN:
Saturday, April 18
Washington at Toronto, 12:30pm (ESPN)
Milwaukee at Chicago, 7pm (ESPN)
Dallas at Houston, 9:30pm (ESPN)
Sunday, April 19
Brooklyn at Atlanta, 5:30pm (TNT)
Portland at Memphis, 8pm (TNT)
San Antonio at Los Angeles, 10:30pm (TNT)
Monday, April 20
Milwaukee at Chicago, 8pm (TNT)
New Orleans at Golden State, 10:30pm (TNT)
Tuesday, April 21
Boston at Cleveland, 7pm (TNT)
Dallas at Houston, 9:30pm (TNT)
Wednesday, April 22
Portland at Memphis, 8pm (TNT)
San Antonio at Los Angeles Clippers, 10:30pm (TNT)
Thursday, April 23
Cleveland at Boston, 7pm (TNT)
Golden State at New Orleans, 9:30pm (TNT)
Friday, April 24
Houston at Dallas, 7pm (ESPN)
Toronto at Washington, 8pm (ESPN)
Los Angeles Clippers at San Antonio, 9:30pm (ESPN)
Saturday, April 25
Atlanta at Brooklyn, 3pm (TNT)
Chicago at Milwaukee, 5:30pm (TNT)
Golden State at New Orleans, 8pm (ESPN)
Memphis at Portland, 10:30pm (ESPN)