The NBA’s Western Conference is full of strong teams that can overtake the Warriors’ Chances at a three-peat. Here’s how each one could do it…
The Los Angeles Clippers:
In the first series of the playoffs, the Lob City and The Town will play each other. The “Lob” in Lob City represents how often players on the Clippers will throw a ball while a teammate will catch it midair and dunk it. Their team is full of height. Some of the most nasty blocks come from them, so bad that they have to call in the S.W.A.T. team!
The Clippers can match the Warrior’s height, which helps them a lot. But they have to play better than they did on April 7th against them. If Landry Shamet shoots well from 3 it should propel the games in their favor. While doing this, the Clippers must also limit the Warriors’ fast break points, their 3’s, and their blocks. If they can do all of that, victory is as good as theirs.
The Houston Rockets:
I think that the team that has the closest chance to beating the Warriors in the playoffs is the Houston Rockets. If they win out and end up having to play the Warriors this post-season, they will have to be consistent from from 3 and stay healthy in order to win. Houston could be considered the best 3 point team in the NBA right now. Between James Harden’s step-back that works like a charm, Chris Paul’s unselfishness (that results in a lot of assists for the team), and their sixth man Eric Gordon’s shot, there is little to no weakness for them.
But the question stands: Can they stay healthy?
If you can remember, last year’s Western Conference Finals hosted both the Rockets and Warriors. For the first four games it was close. Very close. The record was 2-2 for both teams. The fifth game, the Rockets played outstanding defense and finally got the victory, but not without a cost. Sadly, Chris Paul pulled his hamstring, which hurt the team greatly. Even though the Rockets were up 3-2, the Warriors ended up beating them in both of the next two games. This left many fans questioning, “If the Rockets had Chris Paul healthy, would’ve they won?” I think that the answer is yes. The home court advantage was obvious for both teams. In Game 5, Houston beat the Warriors at Oracle, so then they had the advantage. I believe that if Paul wasn’t hurt, there would have been a Game 7 in the series.
If the Warriors have to face the Rockets in the Western Conference Finals again this year, I think it will definitely be a humbling experience for The Bay. The Rockets are hungry after last year and have nothing to lose.
The Utah Jazz:
The Jazz tend to be counted out and dismissed as a non-major threat. That is a bad decision. Just looking at their roster that includes names like Ricky Rubio, Kyle Korver, Rudy Robert, and Donovan Mitchell makes teams rethink their offensive and defensive strategies.
The man-bun may be deceiving, but behind it is the great brain of the slasher Ricky Rubio. He can read almost any offense and is currently one of the front-runners for the 2019 NBA Defensive Player of the Year award. Kyle Korver was a major asset for the 2018 Clevland Cavaliers. They could depend on him to make the game winner anytime. And guess what, just because he is on a new team doesn’t mean that he has changed. In fact, I think that he might be even better and more improved than last year.
To add to this awesome roster, Rudy Gobert is a straight-up beast in the paint. In other words, if there is not a couple alley oops to him for a dunk every game, something is not normal.
Lastly, Donovan Mitchell contributes to the team by being a consistent scorer. He was in the top two finalists to win the 2018 NBA Rookie of the Year award and is currently averaging 23.8 points per game. That is an impressive achievement for an NBA sophomore.
So, don’t count out the Jazz this year in the playoffs. If they are all in sync, they are going to be pretty hard to beat. They just need to hold the Warriors to only a few threes.
The Portland Trail Blazers:
Even if their secret pre-game potion is a very specific kind of coffee (See Food and Wine article link at the end to read more), the Portland Trail Blazers are a very talented team. Arguably their leader, Damian Lillard, is so clutch that each of his shots could put a 90’s Dodge truck to shame. He is the Steph Curry of Oregon, when he shoots, there is no such thing as “too far.” He leads this team to dubs. What’s ironic about this team is that Steph Curry’s brother, Seth, is currently on the Blazers and is doing well. Pretty much the whole team is made up of consistent shooters.
Two problems will need to be fixed in order for this team to go all the way.They are a little all-over the place when it comes to defense and they recently lost their big man Just Nurkic to a tragic and really painful injury. When Nurkic went up for the ball, he landed hard on his leg and it snapped in half. Yah, I would definitely not recommend looking up that play. This will hurt the team greatly in the paint, both offensively and defensively.
Portland needs to start playing more zone against teams like the Warriors because they let way too many threes fly. Then they could beat the Warriors.
The Oklahoma City Thunder:
The Oklahoma City Thunder have always looked the best on the books. Their first big era was when James Harden, Kevin Durant, and Russell Westbrook were all on the same team. They made it to the finals in 2012, but sadly they lost. Then later on, (after KD and Harden left) they picked up both Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to join Russell Westbrook. Once again, it looked really great on paper, but they ended up not doing that great.
This year however is different.
Russell Westbrook has averaged a triple-double for the third year in a row this season. The combination of his athleticism with his relentless scoring is close to unstoppable. Throw Paul George and Steven Adams in that equation, and you might think that you have a dynasty. Up until lately, they haven’t been playing like a championship team. That changed last Tuesday. The Thunder had to play the Rockets and were battled it out for the whole forty eight minutes. In the last three seconds, down by two, Westbrook passed to George for a contested corner three. It went in, and OKC won 112-111! The Chesapeake Arena went wild. They had just witnessed a championship-team, on paper, play like a championship-team.
If the Thunder can keep this up, they might have a Larry O’Brien Trophy next year!
The Denver Nuggets:
Denver just finished their season ranked #2 in the Western Conference, second to the Warriors. You better believe that they have their sights set on the Dubs! The power forward Nikola Jokic is playing phenomenal basketball and is one of the NBA MVP candidates this season (the award will probably go to Giannis Antetokounmpo or James Harden, but he’s still a candidate). All I have to say is good luck to the players that have to guard him in the paint. His build may be deceiving, but he can shoot as well. They don’t call him “The Joker” for nothing! Paul Milsap, another power forward, got off his broken-toe injury a little while ago and is playing quite well. He will help the Nuggets in the playoffs because he is pretty much the only player who has experience in the NBA postseason. He played well with the Hawks and is fitting well with the Nuggets now.
The great young shooting guard, Jamal Murray, is also a great player and is striving for nothing less than perfection. He’s the type of guy that will dismiss a record night for one miss. He might not make the most agreeable decisions (See the article, about Kyrie Irving throwing the basketball because of his frustration with Murray, at the bottom of the page), but he can shoot consistently from almost anywhere: mid-air, the paint, and beyond the arc. If the Nuggets do not choke in the playoffs (like they have in the past), they could beat the Warriors. Their coach Mike Malone is one of the best in the NBA and will figure out what it takes to win this year.
On March 18th this year, the San Antonio Spurs beat the Warriors 111-105. This is one of many and they could do it again. The source of their winning has to start with their coach: Greg Popovich. He has won 5 NBA finals with the team and is one of the most respected coaches in the game. Even players from other teams treat him like he’s their coach! Regardless of the fact that he is a great coach, he definitely has some talent to work with this season.
To start, the Spurs have been mixing the playing style of their new player this season, DeMar DeRozan, with their veteran players’ styles. He is an outstanding baller and can shoot a fadeaway jumper from pretty much anywhere, while being contested, and still get the bucket to fall. The “glue” for the team is Larmarcus Aldridge. He’s 6’11” and can shoot. That makes him really hard to guard as well because it forces defenders to guard him all of the time.
If both of these leaders play well, the rest should follow. They are no stranger to NBA Titles, including winning one of them in 2014.
All of these teams have what it takes to beat the Warriors, they question remains: “Even if they can beat the Warriors, will they actually do it?” We will just have to wait and see.
Food and Wine Article: https://www.foodandwine.com/news/portland-trail-blazers-coffee-pregame
Kyrie Gets MAD! https://www.cbssports.com/nba/news/celtics-kyrie-irving-fined-25000-by-nba-for-throwing-ball-into-stands/