Monday, May 6, 2013

NBA Western Conference Semifinalz 2013

By Spencer Pyke

#1 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. #5 Memphis Grizzlies

When Kevin Durant approaches the charity stripe in Chesapeake Energy Arena, M-V-P chants rain down from the rafters.  In order to propel his team past the Memphis Grizzlies, the three time NBA scoring champion will have to perform beyond an MVP caliber level.

After losing side kick Russell Westbrook in the first round, Durantula and the Thunder knocked off James Harden and the Houston Rockets in six games.  The series, which was originally about Harden taking on his former associates, was overshadowed by Westbrook’s season ending knee injury as the Thunders NBA Finals hope took a serious blow.

Now that Batman is missing Robin, the Grizzlies have a huge opportunity in front of them.  Memphis, who traded all-star Rudy Gay mid-season to add more defensive prowess, avenged last season’s first round playoff exit by eliminating the same squad that sent them packing in 2012, the Los Angeles Clippers.

Although the Grizz finished in the top five of the Western Conference, they are my dark horse in the race.  While everyone focused on San Antonio, Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles squads, Memphis quietly waltzed into the playoffs with one of the top defenses in the league.  Throw in twin towers Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, and one could make a strong case for the Grizz not only to reach, but win the NBA Finals.

Tony Allen is the best on ball defender in the NBA and, along with Tayshaun Prince, will be one of the players tasked with slowing down the four time NBA All-Star, Durant.  This series is going to be a battle, and OKC is fortunate to have home court advantage.  The Grizz Kids play top notch basketball in the state of Tennessee, so the Thunder have to be perfect at home.  

A lot of people wanted to see Lob City advance, and even more want KD back in the NBA Finals, but I love everything about Memphis.  Their defense is unreal and they are doing work without a full fledge “superstar”. Believe it or not, my decision has nothing to do with Westbrook’s health.  Memphis took two of three this year against the Thunder and I expect that trend to continue.

Memphis takes one early in OKC, and closes out at home in six.

#2 San Antonio Spurs vs. #6 Golden State Warriors

All season long the Warriors won on the road and the Nuggets won at home.  Something had to give in their first round series, and what gave was Steph Curry.  Move over Paul Pierce, Steph is the new truth.

Unfortunately for Steph and the road Warriors, they advanced to take on the San Antonio Spurs.  Loaded with future Hall of Famers, the Spurs are now the favorite to reach the NBA Finals after Westbrook went down in OKC.  When healthy, San Antonio is a force to be reckoned with and you know every player on the squad would love nothing more than to send out Tim Duncan and Greg Popovich with one last ring.

The Warriors are a blast to watch and are the feel good story of the playoffs, but San Antonio is a squad on a mission.  I would have never picked the Warriors over Denver in the first round, and I am sure as hell not picking them to beat San Antonio.  Pop, Timmy D, Manu and TP9 are all future Hall of Famers in my opinion and Steph Curry plays the game beyond beautiful, but Kawhi Leonard is my player to watch in this series.  The former San Diego State Aztec has done nothing but ball since he arrived in the league last year and is an instant spark plug for the Spurs.

This by no means will be a walk in the park for the Spurs, but they are just too veteran laded and talented to fall against the jovial Warriors.

San Antonio in six.