Jarael and Ryan continue their predictions of the NBA Playoffs with the Western Conference.
Lakers (1) v Blazers (8)
Jarael: With the year we have had, I think the storylines in the West are exciting. A year ago, Melo wasn’t playing games in the league; now he is set for a first-round exit with his banana boat brother. Now, I don’t think this will be an easy series by any means. The Blazers have been playing well and if you told me last year they would be the 8th seed, I would have slapped you, but here we are. I like their chances with most teams in the West with the exception of the Lakers and Clippers. LeBron will control the series and if LeBron is playing passive (which he probably will with his first series with Davis), Davis will be a man among boys. I have tremendous respect for Whiteside and the other bigs, but I think LeBron puts Davis in positions to be successful against their defense and the Lakers come out on top. We will have some Dame time but the king shall prevail. I’m taking the Lakers (4-2).
Ryan: When LeBron left the East for the West, we all understood he would be faced with a tougher road to reach the Finals and this is the case with the first-round matchup of the red hot Lillard and Blazers. This is my most exciting match up. Dame pulling up from 50 feet and NBA assist leader LeBron James throwing lobs to Anthony Davis. This will be very exciting and high scoring, but in the end, the Blazers have no chance of stopping the duo of LeBron and Davis. I predict a game-winner buzzer-beater by Dame, but that is about all they will get. (Lakers 4-1).
Clippers (2) v Mavericks (7)
Jarael: The Clippers have the best opportunity to win a championship this season. Their depth is unlike any team in the league. My favorite thing about this team is that I don’t think I’ve seen them play their best basketball. When you have guys that are dedicated to their roles and play their roles at a high level, I think it’s a recipe for success. The Clippers have a tough matchup because the Mavericks are starting to play more consistent basketball. If Doncic is able to manipulate the defense the way he destroyed the Bucks in the bubble, I think they make this interesting. Either way, Dallas falls. I am taking the Clippers (4-2).
Ryan: Kawhi is again in a position to lead another team to the NBA Finals. But he has to first get through the duo matchup nightmare of Luka Doncic and Porzingis. While Kawhi has a solid sidekick in Paul George, this will be a tough matchup. I feel that the Mavs will go up early 2-0, but the Clippers are going to storm back and eventually take the series. Let’s get a game 7. (Clippers 4-3).
Nuggets (3) v Jazz (6)
Jarael: This matchup is more challenging because I am not sure who is going to play for each team. I’ve seen the Jazz compete at a high level and I have also seen the Nuggets overachieve while giving some of their future stars some confidence going into the playoffs. When I look at the rosters and the history of these teams, it still makes it hard to choose who is going to win. I think, with the loss of Conley for at least a game or two, I will lean on the Nuggets. Jokic always makes it hard for Gobert to sit in the paint and with the other bigs for the Nuggets continuing to step out and shoot the three, Gobert will be less effective at the rim. I can also see Mitchell taking his offensive game to another level and proving he is the best player in this series. I am going with the Nuggets (4-3).
Ryan: This is a tough series to predict as I feel that both teams match up fairly well. The Jazz is equipped with the talented Donovan Mitchell, Bojan Bogdanovic, and COVID infamous Rudy Gobert. The Nuggets come with a full offensive force of Jamal Murray, Will Barton, and stat stuffer Jokic. These types of series are always determined by an x-factor, and I feel like that is Michael Porter Jr. who is averaging 22 ppg. in the bubble. A close series, but I give the edge to the Nuggets. (Nuggets 4-2).
Rockets (4) v Thunder (5)
Jarael: I am really excited for Chris Paul to lead a team of afterthoughts through the West. I believe there has to be some sort of a surprise in the first round. If there is anything we learned from these eight games, it is that any team can win on any given night. I think the Rockets are in for a treat. Especially if Russ isn’t able to go. I like the consistency of the Thunder and how they never seem to give up or lack confidence. I think Harden will play like an MVP candidate, but their lack of defense worries me. I am taking the (Thunder 4-3).
Ryan: The Rockets come into the playoffs limping as Westbrook’s quad will keep him out for a couple of games. This will put a lot of pressure onto Harden, who I know won’t disappoint in giving us a show. While the Thunder are led by a veteran Chris Paul and new young upcoming stud in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Houston will have plenty of veterans to help keep the Rockets in the series until Westbook comes back healthy to finish off the series. (Houston 4-3).