The 2016-17 NBA regular season ended Wednesday night,and we have playoff predictions for each Western Conference series.
Golden State once again enters the playoffs as the favoriteto reachthe Finals, but there are a host of teams ready to unseat the Western kings.
Let's take a look at our predictions for each first-round matchup inthe Western Conference NBA playoffs:
NBAplayoff bracket: Western Conference
Warriors (1-seed) vs. Trail Blazers (8)
The Warriors enter the playoffs having won 15 of their last 16. That sort of dominance is exactly what teams should strive for heading into the playoffs, and Golden State has Kevin Durant back after a knee injury cost him all of March.
Stephen Curry is still the leader of this team, averaging 25.3 points per game, but he has more offensive help this season. Defensively, Golden State can still be a bit soft at times. Durant's length mixed with physicality off the bench have helped fix that problem; however, Curry and company could get knocked around a bit by Portland's stronger guards.
Damian Lillard, for some reason, predicted the Trail Blazers would win this series in six games. While he might be good enough to help Portland win a game or two, it's highly unlikely Lillard is playing in a second series this postseason.
Regular season series: Warriors, 4-0
Prediction: Warriors in four
Spurs (2) vs. Grizzlies (7)
Sputtering a bit down the stretch, San Antonio lost four out of its last five, including three straight. It seems like age is finally going to take its toll on this team every year, yet every year the Spursare contenders.
Kawhi Leonard took another step towardstardom this season by averaging 25.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. LaMarcus Aldridge (17.3 ppg) struggled at times, but he is rounding back into form at the right time.
The Grizzlies have not fared any better as of late. They enter the playoffs having lost five ofsix. The three-headed attack of Mike Conley, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol lost its bite a bit this season. Memphis, however, is very deep.
Regular season series: Tied, 2-2
Prediction: Spurs in six
Rockets (3) vs. Thunder (6)
Now we're talking. This is what an intriguing first-round matchup looks like. Two explosive teams with championship aspirations will clash earlier than they probably would have hoped, but the winner of this series can make a big run.
Russell Westbrook entered the record book withhis legendary season. Not only did he pass Oscar Robertson for most triple-doubles in a season, but he also averaged a triple-double (31.6 ppg., 10.7 rpg., 10.4 apg.). He needs help from Victor Oladipo and Enes Kanter to win this series, though.
James Harden is ready to lead Houston past his former team after averaging 29.1 points, 11.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds per game. The Rockets were just 4-5 in their last nine games, but they have an explosive backcourt and a number of versatile bodies in the paint.
Regular season series: Rockets, 3-1
Prediction: Thunder in seven
Clippers (4) vs. Jazz (5)
The Clippers enter the playoffs riding a seven-game winning streak thanks to a balanced scoring attack that features six players averaging at least 12 points per game. Chris Paul is still the heart and soul of the team, but both he and Blake Griffin missed time with injuries this season.
DeAndre Jordan isa load in the paint (12.7 ppg, 13.8 rpg), and it seemed like teams stopped hacking him as soon as he passed halfcourt.
Speaking of balanced scoring, Utah features 11 players averaging at least 6.2 points per game.Gordon Hayward (21.9 ppg) is the star, but a number of players can rise up and win games for the underrated Jazz.
Regular season series: Clippers, 3-1
Prediction: Clippers in six