The NBA Playoffs begin on Saturday with very evenly-matched series in the tough Western Conference. Here's an initial preview of the first round.
No. 1 Golden State Warriors vs. No. 8 Los Angeles Clippers
Despite trading their best player Tobias Harris, the Clippers were able to make the playoffs but they got too complacent near the end of the season and fell to eighth place in the West and a first-round date with the Warriors. The Clippers are well-coached by Doc Rivers and they will play hard but the Warriors show up when they have to.
No. 4 Houston Rockets vs. No. 5 Utah Jazz
No one wanted to face the Rockets in the first round because they were on a roll in the second half of the season, led by James Harden. The Rockets are healthy and even though the Jazz have an incredible defense led by Rudy Gobert and a talented scorer like Donovan Mitchell, who can make a difference on any given game, it won't be enough to advance to the second round. It will be a close series but the Rockets just have too many weapons.
No. 2 Denver Nuggets vs. No. 7 San Antonio Spurs
LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay carried a young Spurs team with legendary head coach Gregg Popovich once again helping them reach the playoffs in the tough Western Conference.
The Nuggets are extremely fun to watch, with Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray leading a roster with solid players on both ends of the floor and even though they didn't finish the season strong, they should come together when it matters and they're clearly the better team in this series.
No. 3 Portland Trail Blazers vs. No. 6 Oklahoma City Thunder
The play of Paul George, Steven Adams and Jerami Grant helped the Thunder finish fifth in defensive efficiency (104.7 points allowed per 100 possessions).
Russell Westbrook averaged a triple-double for the third straight season, despite making just 42.8 percent of his shots but he can take over a game when he wants to and he was dominant against the Trail Blazers in the regular season. Paul George has been the third best player in the league this season and he's always dangerous in close games.
The Trail Blazers have home court advantage and even though Jusuf Nurkic is out, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum along with a deep bench can force this series to seven games.
NBA Playoffs First Round Series Prices
Odds Courtesy of Jazz Sports
Trail Blazers +140
Check odds here: http://bit.ly/jazzonaff