2012 NBA Western Conference Playoff Preview

By Dennis Berry

We continue our look at the NBA Playoffs with a look at the Western Conference. While the match ups are not set yet, we know all the playoff teams.

Unlike the Eastern Conference the West is much more wide open. You could make a case for five or six teams to be able to make it to the NBA Finals. That is how deep the West looks.

Let's take a look at who has a shot at winning the Western Conference and who will go home early.


The San Antonio Spurs are the top team in the West for the second straight year. This time around they hope to avoid another upset to the number eight seed.

This year will be different for the Spurs. They should have all of their “Big 3” – Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili – healthy for the playoffs. Last year the Spurs lost Ginobili to injury right before the start of the playoffs.

Another difference is that the Spurs are now Parker’s team. While Duncan is still a big part of the success – and will need to be to make a run in the playoffs – Parker is the leader on the team.

With Parker controlling them the Spurs are the second highest scoring team in the league. They can play any style of game you want. They can play a fast break game and get up and down the court or they can slow it down and score in a half court game.

Parker is at his best when he can break down a defense and create shots for his teammates. The Spurs are the best shooting team in the NBA. They shoot 50% from the field and lead the league in three point shooting.

The preseason favorite to come out of the West was the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder are led by the best young duo in the NBA Kevin Durant and Michael Westbrook.

The good news for the Thunder is their third leading scorer and sixth man James Harden will be back for the playoffs. Harden missed the end of the regular season after an elbow to the head by Metta World Peace, but has been cleared for the playoffs.

The Thunder are one of the best scoring teams in the NBA. They average 103 points as a team, with Durant being one of the top scorers in the league. Westbrook has no trouble scoring the ball either, although sometimes he seems to control the ball too much and force the issue.

On defense the Thunder lead the NBA in block shots. With Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka controlling the paint, they make it tough for opponents to get off clean shots.

Dallas Mavericks center Ian Mahinmi shoots the ball against Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant
Dallas Mavericks center Ian Mahinmi (28) shoots the ball against Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) during the fourth quarter in game one of the Western Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. Photo courtesy by: Richard Rowe-US PRESSWIRE.


If there is one team you do not want to play, it is the Memphis Grizzlies. They are one of the hottest teams in the NBA right now. They are ready to prove that their playoff run last year was no fluke.

One reason to be afraid of Memphis is that this playoffs they will have Rudy Gay. He missed the playoffs last year because of injury and watched the Grizzlies playoff run. Gay averaged 18 points a game and is the best scorer out on the wings. He has a good jump shot and can get to the basket for layups.

You cannot look at the Grizzlies stats from this season and take anything from it because they were missing Zach Randolph for over half of the year. In his absence Marc Gasol became the main threat in the post and Marreese Speights step up and got valuable minutes during that time. While they perfomed well in his place, they are not Randolph.

As was the case last year in the playoffs, the Grizzlies love to have Randolph in the post to be their main post threat. It took some time, but he has worked his way back into the offense and the Grizzlies are playing their best basketball going into the playoffs.

The Los Angeles Lakers season has had its up and downs. A slow start could be seen with the group getting use to new Head Coach Mike Brown. They were also constantly dealing with trade rumors involving mainly Pau Gasol. Still the veteran group was able to win the Pacific division.

With the Lakers you know what you will get out of Kobe Bryant and Gasol. Bryant is one of the best scorers in the league and can take over a game whenever you need him to. Since the trade deadline pass Gasol has been playing his best basketball averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds a game in April.

The key for the Lakers will be the play of Andrew Bynum. His strong play this year is a reason for the Lakers success. When he is focused and plays with purpose, the Lakers usually win. Bynum and Gasol give the Lakers a strong presence in the post offensively and defensively.

The Lakers will have to play most of their first round series without Metta World Peace. He was suspended for seven games for his elbow to the head of James Harden. He will miss the first six playoffs games because of that. It is a big loss for the Lakers because after struggling most of the year, he was playing his best basketball the past month.

Done in the first Round

This year showed that the Los Angeles Clippers are ready to put their past behind them. With Blake Griffin and Chris Paul the Clippers have a dangerous duo. While they are playing their best basketball at the right time, they have a tough draw with Memphis in the first round. Expect this year to be a learning experience for this group.

The Denver Nuggets are the Western Conference version of the Indiana Pacers. They are a great team that plays together. They have no true superstar, but have five players averaging double figure points. They are the highest scoring team in the NBA, but do not play defense. Another first round exit is in their future.

It is hard to believe that the defending NBA Champions are in this group. The Dallas Mavericks spent most of the NBA Lockout celebrating their NBA title and it shows. They got off to a slow start, hovered around .500 and had to fight their way into the playoffs. They are just an average team that does not dominate any aspect of the game.

The Utah Jazz are playing their best basketball of the season. It’s just that they did not play so well the rest of the year. While some may try to say they could make a run like Memphis last year; that will not happen. They will give the Spurs a tough series, probably make it a six game series, but in the end their youth and inexperience will catch up with them.

Western Conference Finals Prediction

The Memphis Grizzlies will face the Oklahoma City Thunder. It will go seven games and the Thunder will advance to the NBA Finals.

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