Western Conference Playoff Takeaways Thus Far
Updated: Apr 27, 2022
The NBA postseason is here! And man have we had some great action and storylines thus far in just the first round of the playoffs! In this article I will be going through some of my thoughts so far on each Western Conference series, as well as my predictions for round one. Without further ado, let's crank up the energy as the playoffs always do for us basketball fans.
First, let's start off with the No.3 seed Golden State Warriors, who have been absolutely dismantling the No.6 seed Denver Nuggets led by a player who has had a revelation as a player in Jordan Poole going off for 30 in Game 1 and being efficient and effective all series. He basically helped the Warriors expand their championship window. He hasn’t been without help though, as Draymond Green has shown why he’s one of the greatest defenders ever by making everything tough for Nuggets star center, Nikola Jokic, who can very well win back-to-back MVPs.
Green has gotten into Joker's head, and even got him ejected out of the game in Game 2 because of how tough he’s been making things for him offensively, despite Jokic averaging 29.3 points, 15 rebounds, and five assists per game. The Nuggets are without their other top scoring options in guard Jamal Murray (ACL), and forward Michael Porter Jr (back), who have been out all season, with Porter out for all but five games.
The Nuggets looked overwhelmed with the well oiled machine that is the Warriors, who have really started to click at just the right time when the games matter most. The “Splash Brothers” have been exceptional as well, as Klay Thompson has seemed to finally get his legs under him, scoring 26 in Game 3 in Denver while shooting 55% from the field, and 46% from three, looking like the Klay of old.
Meanwhile, the greatest shooter to ever live, Stephen Curry, came back from a foot injury in time for the playoffs, and has been coming off the bench. He's been the best sixth man to ever play in his time off the bench, as they slowly reel him back in around a 30 minutes maximum restriction. He's been unstoppable, scoring a mind boggling 77 points through the first three games in 77 minutes of action, that’s a point for every minute!
He is averaging 25.7 points on 55% from the field, and 44% from three to go along with 4.7 assists per game. On the other side, Jokic is going to deal with a lot of pressure next season assuming he wins the MVP again. As the old saying goes “too much is given, much is required” and the multiple time MVP (if he wins) will be feeling those expectations with Murray and Porter Jr back in the fold next season. The Nuggets will look to avoid getting swept on Sunday for the second straight season.
Now to the team with the best record in the NBA this season, the Phoenix Suns, and the No.8 seed New Orleans Pelicans. This series has been a joy, with the Suns taking Game 1 110-99 behind Chris Paul’s outstanding double-double of 30 points and 10 rebounds to go along with seven assists, looking like a youthful CP3, scoring 19 in the pivotal fourth quarter as well to seal the victory. The Pelicans took Game 2 125-114 behind their star forward, Brandon Ingram’s masterful performance of 37 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists, flirting with a triple-double in the process.
Meanwhile, the Suns superstar shooting guard, Devin Booker, was a flamethrower before he went out with a hamstring injury in the second quarter, scoring 31 points in the first half! He was on pace for a 50+ point game until he got hurt, and the Suns couldn’t make up for his offensive production once he went out. The Pelicans were as sharp as a razor shooting the ball, shooting 55% from the field, and an astounding 57% from behind the arc!
The series was tied 1-1 heading into Game 3, and the Suns now on the road in New Orleans without their best player in Booker who will be out 2-3 weeks with the hamstring injury. It was a tight game from the jump, both teams battling back and forth, shooting over 45% from the field. Ingram and C.J. McCollum combined for 64 points in the 114-111 loss, and the main culprit of that could be the 14 turnovers by the Pelicans compared to the Suns' five. Another reason why the Suns won is none other than Paul’s leadership heroics once again, he showed just how valuable he is by going for 28 points and 14 assists, with 19 of those coming in the fourth quarter, especially without their best player.
What made the “Point God's” performance even more impressive is that for the second consecutive game he had 14 assists and no turnovers, which is a big reason why the Pelicans were able to pull off such a tightly contested game due to Paul’s security of each possession. The Suns now take a 2-1 series lead and will look to take a commanding 3-1 lead Sunday.
Let's quickly go through the other two series now in the West. The No.4 seed Dallas Mavericks and No.5 seed Utah Jazz are in a tight series, now tied 2-2 heading into Game 5 in Dallas.The Mavericks were without their superstar guard Luka Doncic (calf strain) the first three games of the series. The Jazz took the first game 99-93 behind their star Donovan Mitchell’s 32 points.
However, the Mavericks would quickly adjust and take Game 2. 110-104, behind the offensive explosion of guard Jalen Brunson, who had 41 points, and forward Maxi Kleiber’s eight three pointers to help him score 25 in the victory. The Mavericks did a tremendous job in Game 2 taking care of the ball, having just three turnovers in the game. They would also take Game 3, 126-118, behind Brunson’s 31 points, Spencer Dinwiddie’s 20, Kleiber’s 17, and Davis Bertans 15.
Mitchell had 32, with Mike Conley (21), and Bojan Bogdanovic (24), combining for 43 points. The Mavericks won this game like Game 2 because they get their ball handlers such as Brunson and Dinwiddie on the switch in the pick-and-roll game to get Jazz center Rudy Gobert on them, and make him have to move his feet defensively on the perimeter. He has been exposed of in the past on the perimeter despite him being a three-time Defensive Player of the Year winner, primarily for his elite rim protection.
Doncic would make his return in Game 4 for the Mavs in a 100-99 loss with the series now tied 2-2. Game 4 came down to the winding seconds despite his 30 points and 10 rebounds. Outside of Brunson’s 23, nobody else even scored 15 points, with multiple guys struggling to put the ball in the hoop. The Mavs were close to winning the game, utilizing a Hack-a-Gobert strategy to make him have to earn it at the foul line, where he is a career 64%.
Mitchell only had 23 points on 33% from the field and a putrid 20% from three. Despite that, he came up big in the moments when his team desperately needed this game to keep this series alive for them, making a big three point play with less than two minutes to go, and a tremendous alley-oop connection with Gobert who flushed it down to help seal the Jazz’s victory at home with a tied series heading back to Dallas for Game 5. Will Luka finally get out of the first round for the first time in his young, historic career? Or will Mitchell and Gobert finish off the Mavs and look to make a deep playoff run this postseason, with a lot of chatter going on about moving one of them and the team's future? The next few games will be really interesting.
For the last matchup in the West we have the No.2 seed Memphis Grizzlies against the No.7 seed Minnesota Timberwolves, with the series now tied 2-2 heading back to Memphis for Game 5. The Timberwolves took Game 1, 130-117, due to the magnificent performances of their dynamic duo in second year guard, Anthony Edwards, 36 points, and star center, Karl Anthony-Towns, 29 points and 13 rebounds.
Grizzlies superstar point guard, Ja Morant, had 32 in Game 1, but it wasn’t enough to pull the win. Could the Wolves potentially win the series? The next two games showed how inexperienced they were in the playoffs, blowing two straight games with a 20+ point lead, highlighted by Game 3 when they were up by 26 points and allowed Memphis to go on a 21-0 run with Wolves coach Chris Finch not even calling a timeout to stop the bleeding! I mean, c'mon, that’s very poor coaching.
Towns was abysmal in those two games, and basically disappeared, combining for just 23 points in Game 2 and 3, while also making boneheaded fouls that hurt his teams chances of winning. He had as many fouls (5) as he did rebounds (5) in Game 3, and shot the ball just four times, and seven times in Game 2. That’s not going to get it done when your franchise player is lacking aggression when his team needs him the most.
Morant had a triple-double in Game 3 of 16-10-10, but shot the ball poorly. It was second-year sharpshooter Desmond Bane, and rugged forward, Brandon Clarke, who combined for 46 points in the Grizzlies' marvelous comeback from down as much as 26.
The Wolves had the pressure at home in Game 4 down 2-1 and responded, winning 119-118 with Towns responding emphatically with a 33 point, 14 rebound effort, looking more assertive and engaged. He did have six turnovers, which he’ll have to clean up if the Wolves want to win this series, with the team turning it over 15 times. Edwards dropped 24, and pesky guard Patrick Beverly and guard Jordan McLaughlin combined for 33 points to help the Wolves tie the series at two apiece.
Morant was nowhere to be found in Game 4, being in foul trouble most of the game, and scoring just 11 points on 4-of-13 from the field (30%). He didn't look assertive at all on the offensive end, although he did have 15 assists as well. He also was targeted defensively by the Wolves, as whoever he was guarding, the Wolves' strategy was to attack him because he lags on defense and his frame isn’t the strongest, which allows him to get bullied in the paint.
He’s shooting just 40% from the field, which isn’t going to get it done against the Wolves. Morant must start getting in attack mode and be more aggressive for his shot if the Grizzlies are going to win this series. Bane had 34 in the game, and Dillon Brooks had 24 as well, but it wasn’t enough to pull a victory.
The rivalry between Town's and Morant’s fathers has been a joy to watch in this series as well, with whoever wins the series the other’s father has to wear that son's jersey. Anyways, this is a series many thought the Grizzlies could take in five, including myself, but the Wolves showed this is going to be at minimum a six game series. Will Morant wake up and help his team advance? Or will the upstarting, hungry Timberwolves upset the Grizzlies to play the Warriors in the second round?
It has been an exciting playoffs thus far, and it's only just getting started.