Eight western conference teams made it through the marathon that is the regular season. Not every team left standing was expected to make it here, but they’re still here and ready to make some noise! Let’s breakdown all the Western Conference matchups and betting odds for the first games. Seeding number matters far less this year than it has in previous years, so it shouldn’t come as a shock to see a lower-seeded team win. Either way, hope you’re ready for some competitive playoff basketball!
Matchup: Golden State Warriors (1) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (8)
The 1-8 matchup in the West isn’t really a fair one, but it usually never is. The Warriors truly had a mess of a season for their standards, but still managed to finish out with the best record in the regular season. They’ll face a sharp Clippers team that excelled after trading away arguably their best player at the time.
Although the Clippers did play excellent to finish out the regular season, this is not a good matchup for them at all. They may take a game or maybe even two off the defending champs, but it won’t take the Dubs long to whip into playoff form. Afterall, they did coast all season waiting for this time of year.
- Golden State is 3-1 against the Clippers this year. LA won the first game, but Golden State took over after that and the last two weren’t even close. Their last game was on 4/7, a game which the Dubs decisively won, 131-104.
- This is a tale of the best and worst point differential teams. Strictly in the Western Conference, the Warriors lead at +6.5 points per game, while the Clippers are last with +0.9.
- DeMarcus Cousins will play in his first-ever postseason. Will he show up on the biggest stage? In 2 games, Boogie averaged just 13 points and 7.5 rebounds on 35% shooting against LA this year.
Series Prediction & Game 1 Odds: Golden State -12.5
The Warriors will almost certainly win Game 1 at home, which will set the tone for the rest of the series. Golden State has a legendary roster that didn’t exactly translate to regular season dominance. They were waiting for late April to bring out their best efforts, and now it’s time to start cooking. Good thing Chef Curry is in the house and ready to bring the heat! The Dubs should roll in this game and never look back. Expect Golden State to take a 1-0 series lead en route to a series that should be over in 5 games or less.
Matchup: Denver Nuggets (2) vs. San Antonio Spurs (7)
While the Nuggets and Spurs are technically a 2-7 matchup, this feels much more like a 4-5 brawl. Here we have the (arguably) over-achieving Nuggets facing off against the always-steady Spurs. Denver certainly won more games in the regular season, 6 to be exact, but that doesn’t necessarily give them an advantage heading into this series.
It’s always hard to pick against a team led by Gregg Popovich in a best of 7 series, because the man knows how to gameplan and make adjustments between games. Who comes out on top – the young Nuggets on the rise, or the aging Spurs, fine like wine?
- Season series is tied 2-2 between the two. The teams have traded off wins, with San Antonio taking the first and third game, while Denver won the second and fourth game. The last came on 4/3, when the Nuggets obliterated San Antonio, 113-85.
- Keep a close eye on whoever matches up with LaMarcus Aldridge. He’ll likely either be covered by Paul Millsap or Nikola Jokic, both great defenders. Despite that, Aldridge is averaging 22.3 points on 56% shooting against the Nuggets this year. LA always elevates his game to another level in the playoffs, so whoever he matches up with becomes crucial.
- This series will become a tale of two great benches. The Spurs have the 2nd best scoring bench of Western Conference playoff teams at 38.2 points per game, while Denver is close behind at 37.7.
Series Prediction & Game 1 Odds: Denver Nuggets -5.5
Even though the last game was a blowout, the series between Denver and San Antonio has stayed fairly competitive. There likely isn’t a better coach in the league than Gregg Popovich, making the Spurs a great team in the playoffs. This definitely won’t be a short series. Playing at home in Pepsi Center, expect Denver to jump out to a 1-0 lead. The Spurs look like they’re going to fall short in this series, with the Nuggets winning in 6.
Matchup: Portland Trail Blazers (3) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (6)
This might not be the best matchup of the four, but it will certainly be one of the most entertaining ones. We have an elite Blazers squad missing their second best player facing off against a slumping Thunder team that doesn’t look like it has two superstars on the roster. This series is almost certainly going the distance.
Unfortunately for Portland, Jusuf Nurkic’s injury will be more impactful than it was to close out the season. Without Nurkic, Steven Adams will run wild on the offensive glass. Does Lillard have any tricks up his sleeve to topple the boys in blue?
- Despite a rocky season, the Thunder dominated the Blazers all season, finishing a perfect 4-0 against them. Their last game was on 3/7, a game in which Dame scored 51.
- 5 points, 13 rebounds, 1.8 steals, and 1.5 blocks on 52% shooting to go along with elite, All-NBA level defense. That’s what the Blazers will miss without center Jusuf Nurkic.
- Look for a hungry Damian Lillard in this first round. In last year’s playoffs, Dame disappeared, averaging just 18.5 points and 4.8 assists on 35% shooting while getting swept. In comparison, he averaged 26.9 points and 6.6 assists on 44% shooting for the 2017-2018 regular season.
Series Prediction & Game 1 Odds: Oklahoma City Thunder +2.5
The Blazers and Thunder matchup would’ve been the best by far if Nurkic was healthy, but without him this heavily tips the scales in OKC’s favor. This doesn’t rule Portland out, especially considering how inconsistent this Thunder team has been. The Blazers will undoubtedly stay competitive, but they’ve been bounced from the playoffs in the first round for two years in a row now, and without Nurkic look prepared for yet another early exit. Expect Oklahoma City to take a 1-0 series lead on the road. This feels very wrong to say, but the Thunder will escape victorious in 6 or 7 games.
Matchup: Houston Rockets (4) vs. Utah Jazz (5)
The 4-5 matchup in the West will likely be the most competitive seeing as the Blazers are short-handed. This features the Rockets, who really should be a higher seed, playing against the stellar Jazz.
This series will show an unstoppable offensive team and a great defensive juggernaut. Throw in a wildcard in Donovan Mitchell, and this series could really get interesting. Does James Harden still have juice left in the tank after an exhausting regular season workload?
- The season series is tied 2-2. The Jazz did win the first two games, but the Rockets took the final two, including a 125-98 blowout in their last game, although that was on 2/2.
- The key matchup in this series is Donovan Mitchell vs. Chris Paul. CP3 is a legendary defensive player and one of the best point guards of all time, but he’s aging and hasn’t managed to stay healthy late in the playoffs. Mitchell is inexperienced, but he can shoot the lights out and has a bright future. CP3 is averaging 11.5 points and 7 assists in 2 games on just 38% shooting, while Mitchell averaged 23.3 points and 5.8 assists on 40% shooting in 4 games.
- In wins, Houston is 3rd in the entire league in offensive rating at 118.9. Comparatively, Utah is 1st in the entire league in defensive rating in wins at 100.1. Red hot offense meets stone cold defense.
Series Prediction & Game 1 Odds: Houston Rockets -6.5
Although the Rockets are a 4th seed, they’re the 2nd best team in the Conference. They nearly toppled the Warriors last year, until Chris Paul was sidelined with a hamstring injury. Now he’s healthy and Houston has a chance to return to the Conference Finals this year. The Jazz are a great team, but their best player is just 22 and doesn’t shoot the greatest field goal percentage.
He’ll be covered by a Hall of Fame defensive player in Chris Paul, making matters even worse. Houston will take a 1-0 lead tonight, and should finish the series in 6 games.