The 2019 NBA playoffs tip-off on Saturday with the Golden State Warriors and the Denver Nuggets securing the top two seeds in the Western Conference.
The Warriors are on course to win their third-straight NBA title. Oddsmakers and pundits all say the Warriors are the team to beat this year. Are the Warriors really the only team that can beat the Warriors this year? Or is there someone out West that can pick off the defending champs before they reach the NBA Finals?
The Denver Nuggets were the surprise team out West with 54 wins, which was only three fewer than the Warriors. The Nuggets locked up the #2 seed even though they stumbled in the last final stretch of the season going only 5-5.
WESTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFF SEEDS:
#1 Golden State Warriors (57-25) vs. #8 LA Clippers (48-34)
#2 Denver Nuggets (54-26) vs. #7 San Antonio Spurs (48-34)
#3 Portland Trail Blazers (53-29) vs. #6 Oklahoma City Thunder (49-33)
#4 Houston Rockets (53-29) vs. #5 Utah Jazz (50-32)
The LA Clippers did not have a huge sweat to secure the #8 seed once the Sacramento Kings ran out of gas. The big race down the stretch were the middle teams jockeying for position. Only two games separated the 5 from 8 seeds.
According to the South Point Casino and Sports Book in Las Vegas, the Golden State Warriors are 1/2 odds to win the NBA championship. The Houston Rockets are 8/1 odds, while the OKC Thunder are 30/1. The Nuggets, with the #2 seed, are only 40/1 to win the title. The Blazers have no respect either at 70/1 odds for a #3 seed. Meanwhile, the Utah Jazz are 40/1, followed by the Spurs at 75/1 and the Clippers at 200/1.
Chalk City, California
If you want bet chalk all the way out West, then you expect the Golden State Warriors to defeat the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals.
To get to the finals, the Nuggets would have to beat Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers. Portland is a sleepy city, but it’s difficult to beat the Nuggets in Denver.
The Warriors/Rockets series will be must-see TV with red-hot James Harden and Chris Paul vs. Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson. The Rockets can’t seem to get by the Warriors and it won’t happen this year.
The Warriors are playing their final season at Oracle Arena in Oakland. The team is moving into a new home next season across the bay in San Francisco. This might be the last season with Kevin Durant, but it’s definitely the end of an era in Oakland. The team would love to give the locals in the East Bay one final title before another team skips town.
Mile High Dabs
The Rocky Mountains might be the only real obstacle in the way of a three-peat for the Warriors. Denver is called the Mile High City for a reason and it’s not because of the legal cannabis. The Nuggets took advantage of the high-elevation of Denver and let the altitude be their invisible sixth man.
The Nuggets had the best home record in the NBA with a 34-7 clip. On the flip side, they were below average on the road with a 20-21 record. If the Nuggets can steal a game or more in Oakland, then they can potentially pick off the Warriors.
Center Nikola Jokic is the best player in the NBA that you do not know about. Jokic leads the Nugs with 20.0 points,10.8 rebounds, and 7.2 assists. Jamal Murray is the second-leading scorer at 18.2 points per game. Murray is steaky, but when he gets hot, he shoots lights out.
Upset Watch: Pops or Triple-Dubs RWB?
Never count out Gregg Popovich in the postseason. He always has a trick or two up his sleeve. In a rebuilding year, the Spurs managed to win 48 games without Kawhi Leonard. LaMarcus Aldridge is essentially a one-man wrecking crew averaging 21.3 points per game.
The Spurs, with a #7 seed, are dangerous because they actually play defense. They could catch the Nuggets off guard in the opening round. Plus, Pops is one of the best coaches tweaking game-to-game adjustments during the zig-zag madness of the NBA playoffs.
DeMar DeRozen is the X-factor for the Spurs. They acquired him in the Leonard trade and DDR responded with a strong season with his new team. He’s the second-best scorer on the Spurs with 21.2 points per game.
Oklahoma City Thunder has a tough matchup as a #6 seed against the #3 Portland Blazers in the opening round. But if the Thunder can slip by Portland, they could also punish the vulnerable Nuggets in the Western semifinals.
The OKC Thunder do not have much outside of the dynamic duo of Paul George and Russell Westbrook. However, Westbrook has been at the top of his game and finished the season averaging a triple double. The Thunder could bounce in the opening round, or they could go all the way to the Western Finals. It’s all or none for the Thunder this year.