Jun 6, 2012; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; A general view of Spalding basketballs inside Chesapeake Arena prior to action between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs in game six of the Western Conference finals of the 2012 NBA playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
The playoffs are right around the corner. There have been many team sites along the Fansided Network that have talked about if the playoffs were to start today, which of their respective teams would be playing.
We are no different.
From games through Wednesday, the Spurs are now tied for the top seed with the Oklahoma City Thunder (Oklahoma City holds the tie breaker) in the Western Conference.
We can all come to a conclusion that it will either be one or two for San Antonio.
Myself along with Air Alamo Staff Writer John Diaz breakdown whom we would rather face in the first round of the playoffs. As the carousal of teams continue, we look at the Utah Jazz, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Ready? Here we go.
Utah Jazz (Season series vs SA: 1-2)
Apr 7, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Utah Jazz guard Mo Williams (5) drives past Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) in the fourth quarter at ORACLE arena. The Jazz defeated the Warriors 97-90. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Rehome: Last year we had our way with the Utah Jazz. I would prefer to face them in the first round because, frankly, they do not match up well at all against San Antonio.
The Spurs have had much success this season against the Jazz. In the three games this season, San Antonio has averaged 103.3 points per game, while giving up to 98.
What scares me about Utah is not Mo Williams. Yes he can score, and when he is on – he is on, but he is not their leading scorer. The two big men on their team, Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are their leading scorers at 17.4 and 14.8 respectively. These two would give us problems down low as they are physical players. Problems on the end of rebounding and second chance points. If we can body them up and keep them off of the boards, push them out off the block, I would give them that shot all day.
When it comes down to it, the Utah Jazz probably won’t make the playoffs after their loss to Oklahoma City.
John Diaz: It doesn’t take a genius to look at last year’s matchup versus the Jazz, to see why I would prefer the Spurs to face them in the first round. Aside from Mo Williams going full flamethrower against the Spurs every chance he gets, they don’t match up well against San Antonio.
The theory that Utah’s size gives them a rebounding advantage over the Spurs, just isn’t true. In 3 games versus the Jazz, Tim Duncan averages 16 rebounds (!!!). The key to stopping Utah begins with guarding Mo Williams the moment he crosses halfcourt. When he’s on fire, he’s hard to stop. I’ll take my chances of getting beaten by Marvin Williams or Gordon Hayward.
But in reality, Utah has probably already squandered their chance at the playoffs, after losing to Oklahoma City.
Golden State Warriors (Season series vs SA: 1-2, game 4 Monday night)
April 09, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry (30) during the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves during the third quarter at Oracle Arena. The Golden State Warriors defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves 105-89 to clinch a playoff berth. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Rehome: I am with John on this one when talking about the Golden State Warriors. When I was looking at the chances of us playing the Warriors, I too thought about Baron Davis, J-Rich and Stephen Jackson.
The fire power is still there and it comes from the hands of second year sharp shooter Stephen Curry. Curry is on a Golden State roster that has for rookies. This team is young and surely has a bright future. Curry is averaging 22.5 points per game in 74 games. Earlier in the season he had a career game back on February 27th where he lit the New York Knicks on fire. Curry hit 11 three pointers on his way to 54 points.
The Warriors like to run and I would see them playing a lot of small ball to try and get the older Spurs down and out. With a healthy team, San Antonio could give the Warriors a run for their money.
John Diaz: When you think of Golden State in the playoffs, everyone automatically reverts to 2007. Baron Davis, Jason Richardson, Stephen Jackson. That team was loaded and unified like no other. It seems cliché to use the Spurs experience as a reason they would be favored over Golden State, but what else is there?
We’re talking about a team that employs Richard Jefferson. Okay, that was a low blow. Golden State could play small-ball with a Jack/Curry/Thompson lineup, that is deadly from any spot on the floor. But a healthy Parker can check Jarrett Jack, and the Spurs would have to play aggressively on defense, as the Warriors average nearly 15 turnovers a game. Creating havoc and getting to loose balls; Kawhi Leonard is Golden State’s biggest nightmare.
Houston Rockets (Season series vs SA: 1-3)
Apr 9, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden (13) brings the ball up the court during the fourth quarter against the Phoenix Suns at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Rehome: This team has surprised me. James Harden. Is it better to see him on the Houston Rockets or meet them in the Western Conference Finals against the Thunder? Hmmmm…………..
Sorry, back to it. San Antonio should of swept the season series if it was not for Harden’s leaner at the buzzer. Harden has turned this team around and have made them an offensive power…..did I just actually put that about Houston? They are leading the league in points per game averaging 106. They are also second in three pointers made, 824, as well as third in free throws.
With that said, this team does a really good job getting to the rim and drawing fouls. Jeremy Lin is that type of player that is up and down. He is not having the type of year he did when he was in New York but he can still score, don’t let his average this season (13.2) fool you. He is a streaky shooter.
As much of talk as there is about offense with this team, they are not great at handling the ball. They are 30th in the league when it comes to turnovers. Defensive pressure will be key for San Antonio to disrupt anything and everything the Rockets would try to bring towards them.
Kawhi Leonard and James Harden is going to be one match-up to watch for years to come.
John Diaz: Am I the only one that still has nightmares of James Harden? No? Okay, just checking. The rationale that Houston would be a difficult matchup for the Spurs doesn’t resonate with me.
The Rockets are worst in the NBA at handling the ball, averaging nearly 16 turnovers a contest, and are 28th in points allowed (102.6). We’re talking about a season series, that was one bad defensive rotation away (Duncan not stepping up on Harden, leaving Leonard to contest the shot from behind) from the Spurs sweeping. And even then it’s hard to win games when the Spurs, as a team, shoot 21 free throws, while The Beard himself shoots 17.
The only scary stat Houston has, is the trio of Lin/Harden/Parsons has 392 three pointers made on the season. San Antonio as a team: 636. Defend the perimeter at all costs, and you greatly limit the chances at a potential upset.
Los Angeles Lakers (Season series vs SA: 0-2, game 3 Sunday night)
Apr 9, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers power shooting guard Kobe Bryant (24) in the second half against the New Orleans Hornets at the Staples Center. Lakers won 104-96. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Rehome: Kobe Bryant. That is all that I have to say. The Black Mamba is on a tear and he surely will put his team on his shoulders and carry them through the playoffs. Love him or hate him, he is the key to the success of the Lakers.
Everyone that follows the Lakers know that Kobe is not going to just settle for getting into the playoffs and leave it at that. He will find some way for Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to jump on his train and ride it with him.
John Diaz: Don’t focus on the Lakers record or the fact that they’re the 8th seed. Don’t focus on the fact that the Lakers are 16-27, this season, versus teams over .500. Okay, that’s kinda hard to do.
I could throw all these statistics of how and why the Spurs are a superior team to the Lakers, but I would lose sight of what’s really at hand. They still have Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard. Whether Steve Nash will be healthy come playoff time, remains to be seen. But if Tony Parker’s on the floor, the Spurs obviously have a distinct advantage at the 1.
Sure, the Los Angeles Lakers struggle in games against marginal teams. They’re also one of the 10 worst defensive teams in the NBA and 28th in free throw shooting percentage. But there’s something about rivalry games that makes statistics and logic go out the window.
In Kobe Bryant’s last 5 games, he’s averaging 29.8 points, 7.4 rebounds, 8.2 assists and 2.6 steals. The Black Mamba isn’t afraid and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down before the playoffs. Do you really want to face that?