It was one of the more exciting finishes to an NBA regular season that saw plenty of unanswered questions all the way up until the final day of play. Now, we have whittled the 30 teams down to 16, who will all compete in the 2018 NBA Playoffs starting this Sunday morning.
The Western Conference was a particularly tight race, with the 3rd seeded Trail Blazers and 9th seeded Nuggets separated by just two games at the conclusion of the final day! We preview the four series in the Western Conference and give our tips below. We might only be tipping the series results in this article but make sure you give @SmitTips a follow on Twitter who will be tweeting game by game tips for every game of the 2018 NBA Playoffs series!
After a dominant regular season that saw them finish with the best record in the NBA, the Houston Rockets will enter the playoffs as one of the hot favourites to take out the Western Conference. It’s been on the back of star shooting guard and MVP favourite James Harden that the Rockets have been able to boast the most dynamic offence in the league, and he’ll need to be big again in Round 1 to overcome the Wolves.
Jimmy Butler returned from injury late in the Wolves regular season and will be the barometer for the Wolves in this series. His defence on Harden will decide whether or not Minnesota will be competitive in this match. The one positive for the Wolves here as they’ll come into the series fully fit, while the Rockets will carry injuries to Ryan Anderson and Luc Mbah a Moute into the series.
The Rockets start as almost unbackable favourites here at $1.04 to win the series. However, I think Jimmy Butler’s defence will have a massive influence in this season. I think the Wolves are a big chance to pinch a couple of games here with the series ending in 6 or 7 games.
The major talking point of the Warriors vs Spurs series heading into Game 1 on Sunday is whether or not we will see Spurs star forward Kawhi Leonard in action at all. Kawhi’s status has been the best kept secret in the NBA throughout the year, and no one knows whether it is actually injury, or some outside factor keeping him out of the line-up.
Kawhi will be needed desperately if the Spurs want to give themselves a chance here. Steph Curry being out for the whole series is a plus for them, but they desperately need someone that can stop Kevin Durant on the offensive end if they want to be competitive.
Apparently, Kawhi has already been ruled out for Game 1 of the series, but the fact that the Spurs have officially listed him as out for only Game 1 and not the entire series is promising. The Spurs led the Warriors by 24 point in the first game of their Western Conference Finals matchup last year before Leonard went down with an ankle injury. With no Curry in the line-up and the potential for Kawhi to return here I love the Spurs line.
Really interesting matchup here between the 3rd seed Trail Blazers and the 6th seed Pelicans. Portland finished the regular season in a flurry to claim the wide open 3rd seed in the West on the back of some strong play by all-star point guard Damian Lillard. Lillard averaged almost 27 points on the season while the addition of Jusuf Nurkic has really aided on the offensive end.
The Pelicans were dealt a massive blow around the all-star break when DeMarcus Cousins was ruled out for the entire season with a torn Achilles. The Pelicans were able to hold onto a spot in the Western Conference playoffs on the back of MVP calibre play by Anthony Davis, who will be the barometer in this series.
Portland definitely boast the more impressive team and the home court advantage here, but there’s something about this series that just makes me think the team with the best player on the floor will get the job done, and that’s clearly Davis. I’m backing an upset here.
After all the dust had settled on the final day of the regular season, it was OKC who took out the hotly contested 4th seed, just ahead of Utah and New Orleans on tiebreakers only. The Thunder have battled injury all season but will enter the 2018 Playoffs relatively healthy with their key four players in Russel Westbrook, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony and Steven Adams all firing.
The Jazz won seven of their last 10 games to finish 5th in the Western Conference and book a place against the Thunder. Rookie Donovan Mitchell has been the story of the year so far for the Jazz, but can he continue his hot offensive form when the defensive intensity is turned to another level in the playoffs.
Rudy Gobert is definitely a big defensive factor for the Jazz here, but their offence is a real problem in my opinion. I think OKC will be too damaging on the offensive end and take this series out in 6 games or less.
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