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Despite being in the early stages of the playoffs, many Spurs fans are looking towards the later rounds and the match ups they may bring. Even though they still have the Dallas Mavericks to face, it would be comforting to have a favourable opponent up next… but this is the Western Conference Playoffs of 2014, and there are no easy teams.
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As the 1 seed, following this series, the Spurs (assuming they win this round) would take on the winner of the fourth and fifth seed matchup. The Houston Rockets are taking on the Portland Trailblazers, and the lower seed currently has the 1-0 advantage. As a Spurs fan I would love to see the Blazers win that series.
As Nick Elizondo and I covered earlier, Portland is a very tough opponent, but still not as dangerous as the Rockets. San Antonio and Portland are very similar. They both have star PGs and PFs, surrounded by excellent role players including shooters, rim protecters and creative backup point guards. When two similar styles clash, generally the better coached team will win, and the Spurs have a huge advantage in that department. Terry Stotts is no slouch, but he is no challenge to the recently crowned Coach of the Year.
The best case scenario for the Spurs is a seven game slugfest that Portland wins. A win in Houston for Portland has all but guaranteed that this series is going to at least six games now and, either way, the victor will emerge much more tired and beat up than I imagine the Spurs will be. Houston is already hurting with Patrick Beverley being a constant health worry, and Portland has only just got back some if it’s reserve big men.
Western Conference Finals
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Both of the other series in the west are tied at 1-1. The Los Angeles Clippers came back to win game two against the Golden State Warriors after a demoralising loss at home in game one, while the Memphis Grizzlies evened the series with a tough overtime win against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Thunder have had the Spurs’ number all season, having swept the season series 4-0. They present the toughest matchup of all for San Antonio as their youth belies their experience (3 straight seasons with at least 1 playoff series win), and their athleticism is the perfect counter to the guile and tact that the Spurs bring to the table. All of this to say, the Spurs should be hoping that someone can take out OKC before the conference finals.
While Memphis provide a grit and determination that is admirable, I don’t think they have any chance of winning that series, but they can absolutely wear out the Thunder with their size and effort. The team with the best chance of beating OKC is the Clippers.
In their second game against the Warriors, they showed why they are so dangerous. With the starters building a huge lead with their trapping defence and transition buckets, the Clippers won in a blowout. Spurs fans should be cheering for the Chris Paul lead team to have an easy first round, so that they are at their best before taking on the Kevin Durants.