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Western Conference Playoff Series Previews
by Matt Fargo - 04/19/2007
Golden St. Warriors (8) +1000 vs. Dallas Mavericks (1) -1600
Itâ€™s not often you see a team favored in a playoff series by so much after getting swept in the regular season series by the opponent. That is the case here as the Warriors were the only team that Dallas did not defeat this year. Can the Warriors continue this success? Probably not but they are going to give the Mavericks a challenge as they come in playing their best basketball of the year and playing with some serious confidence right now. Golden St. has actually won five straight in this series, six of the last seven and four in a row at Dallas.
The Warriors are in the playoffs for the first time in 12 years and for a while, it looked as though this drought was going to continue. Golden St. got hot at the perfect time as it came in down the stretch wining nine of its final 10 games and 16 of its final 21 to claim the final playoff spot on the final day of the regular season. The offense has been firing on all cylinders as the Warriors have averaged an amazing 117.4 ppg during this 10-game stretch and averaged 111.6 ppg in the three-game sweep over the Mavericks.
The Mavericks finished with the best record in the NBA and after resting some players for a few games, they came back Wednesday and blew away the Sonics to gear up for the playoffs. Not that this team needed any confidence heading into the postseason but every little bit does help. Dallas stresses defense as it allowed 92.6 ppg on the season which was 4th best in the league. The Mavericks will need to have that on display against the 2nd best scoring team in the league. The Warriors streak ends but not without a small fight. Mavericks in Five
Los Angeles Lakers (7) +1100 vs. Phoenix Suns (2) -1800
The Lakers avoided facing Dallas in the first round by winning their last two games but as a consolation, they get to face Phoenix. Los Angeles comes into the playoffs as the coldest team in the Western Conference, barely ahead of Utah, and it was very close to falling out of the picture as the Clippers finished just two games back. The Lakers lost 21 of their final 33 games and once a top ten team, they no longer are a threat. Defeating Seattle and Sacramento in their final two games stopped the bleeding but those certainly are not quality wins.
The Suns were a surprisingly streaky team this season. They started slow with losses in five of their first six games but once Amare Stoudemire got going, the team did as well. Phoenix won 35 of its next 38 games with winning streaks of 15 and 17 games but then things went south again with losses in four of its next seven which virtually dropped the Suns out of contention for the top spot in the conference. Phoenix closed the year a very average 11-7 including losses in its final two games but it could be just saving up for the postseason run.
The rematch of last seasonâ€™s exciting seven-game series will likely not live up to the billing as the Lakers simply do not have the weapons. The Lakers beat the Suns on opening night but lost their other three games in the season series and although those final three meetings were competitive, Phoenix found ways to pull away. The Suns finished 13-2 after the break at home while the Lakers were just 6-8 at home over that span. Winning on the road is huge but holding on your court is more important and the Lakers wonâ€™t be able to even do that. Suns in Four
Denver Nuggets (6) +600 vs. San Antonio Spurs (3) -800
San Antonio took the regular season series 2-1 and didnâ€™t sweep only because the Nuggets took the final regular season game as San Antonio rested all of its key players. Denver won the game by 23 points and even though both teams played with reserves, the Spurs are not going let Denver forget it. San Antonio finished 31-10 at home and had won nine straight prior to Wednesday but a three-game losing streak to end the season does not inspire a lot of confidence. Itâ€™s a good thing that the Spurs are experienced as it should not play a part.
Denver finished the season as one of the leagueâ€™s hottest teams, winning nine of its final 10 games and itâ€™s the perfect time to playing its best basketball. Getting the Spurs in the first round is not very favorable but any of the top four seeds are extremely difficult from the Western Conference so it is what it is. The Nuggets finished 22-19 on the road this season and any team with a winning record away from home needs to be given some consideration and a chance since winning on the road is a must come playoff time.
This is a rematch of the first round series two years ago. Don't think the Spurs won't remember what happened in Game One, getting beat 93-87 at home. It definitely fired them up as they went on to win the next four games to take the series in five. Even though the series was never in doubt, expect San Antonio to come out strong to avoid a repeat. Four starters from that team, the last to win an NBA title, still remain so the message will be loud and clear. The Nuggets have the offense to go far but San Antonio will be too tough and takes this series. Spurs in Six
Houston Rockets (5) -240 vs. Utah Jazz (4) +200
Utah won its final two games to close out the regular season but those games were meaningless. The Jazz could not win when they needed to as they had homecourt advantage all but locked up but losses in 11 of 16 games handed that over to the Rockets who finished a game better in the standings. Utah finished 31-10 at home which was tied for the third best home record in the NBA so three wins in this series in Salt Lake City is a must. That is, if they can even make it to that sixth game.
The Rockets had a solid streak of 11 wins in 13 games to close March but three consecutive home losses followed that which led to some questions. However, five straight victories followed to secure homecourt in the first round. The Rockets were just 12-15 against teams that finished in the top ten in the league so beating the quality competition was a problem. Conversely, Utah went 20-7 against those same teams so despite finishing the year on a downer, the Jazz might be better prepared coming into this series.
This is another series where both teams played each other in the regular season finale but with key players not getting minutes, it has no bearing on this playoff series. Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady didnâ€™t even see any action. Utah won the regular season series 3-1 and it is healthy for the first time in quite a while so it is very possible there is life left. The Rockets, who are back in the postseason after a one-year absence, have not won a playoff series since 1997 and even with homecourt, they will find a way to blow it a