Playoff Predictions That May Not Happen At All

I’m bored. I won my fantasy league (thanks to drafting LeBron, Melo, D.Rose and Kevin Love with my first four picks) and the playoffs do not start until April 17. So I’m gonna make some predictions to fill the time.

With the Rockets defeat last night, the Western Conference playoff picture suddenly became clearer. The final seeding however is far from solidified (and yet I am making playoff predictions? Just bear with me). Teams at the top of the western conference are coasting to the finish line (gotta love the NBA), while the teams at the bottom are hitting their strides at the perfect moment.

Let’s take a look at the last five games for the top 4 seeds:

Spurs – 2-3
Lakers – 3-2
Mavericks – 2-3
Thunder – 3-2
Total: 10-10
Final 4 seeds:
Nuggets: 4-1
Trail Blazers: 3-2
Hornets: 3-2
Grizzlies: 4-1
Total: 14-6
The top 4 seeds knew since January they were in the playoffs, chalk this up to early April indifference, right? I don’t buy it. I see at least two upsets in the first round of the western conference.

Upset Alert One (and it’s a biggy): Grizzlies (8) over Spurs (1).

Do you really think the Spurs want to play the Grizzlies in the first round? The Spurs are banged up, relying more and more on their bench and are coming off an ugly six-game losing streak before coming back and winning two straight. I understand the six-game losing streak coincided with Tim Duncan’s sprained ankle, but the Spurs were exposed defensively. They rank 14th in total defense giving up 97.1 points a game. Respectable, but un-Spurs-like. Over their last 10 however, they’re giving up 103.1 points a game.

The Grizzlies are firing on all cylinders right now, even without their leader Rudy Gay, who is out for the year with shoulder surgery. Tony Allen has filled in admirably for Gay, posting 16.1 pts. a game, while giving the Grizz sound defense, collecting 2.6 steals and just over one block a contest in the last five.

The Spurs have enjoyed an offensive renaissance this year rising all the way to third in offensive efficiency (109 points per 100 possessions). But will that hold up in the playoffs where the half court game reigns? The Grizz allow 97.7 points game, but employ athletic defensive stoppers, Tony Allen, newly acquired Shane Battier and Sam Young at the wing positions. Although allowing 97.7 points a game is middle of the pack, Memphis is first is defensive play rate. Zach Randolph’s true rebounding rate of 20.3 doubles the league average and Marc Gasol is a more than capable true center on both ends of the floor.

Look, the Spurs are a one seed for a reason. While I never discount momentum, I also cannot ignore championship experience. The Grizzlies, well, have none. Grizzlies players have played in a combined 197 total playoff games. To put that in perspective, Tim Duncan has played in 170 playoff games in his career.

The Spurs have 654 combined playoff games under their belts. Only Tony Allen and newly signed Leon Powe have limited Finals experience for the Grizzlies. Allen will have to play a bigger role with the Grizzlies than he did as a member of the Celtics when he was asked to simply annoy his defensive assignment. Inexperience, coupled with increased roles in pressure situations could doom the Grizz. But I am sticking with my pick. Grizzlies in 7.

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