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Analysis: Western Conference Playoff Matchups

By Zach Harper | NBA writer

Which first round series will give us an epic showing in the West?  (USATSI)
Which first-round series will give us an epic showing in the West? (USATSI)

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Here's a rundown of the Western Conference Playoff Matchups updating with the results Wednesday.

Locked:

San Antonio Spurs (1) vs. Dallas Mavericks (8)

Analysis: Just for old time's sake, we're getting a good old-fashioned Tim Duncan-Dirk Nowitzki duel in the playoffs. The Spurs are 4-2 in playoff series against the Mavericks in the Dirk-Duncan era with the Spurs winning the most recent series in 2010. We're getting two of the best perimeter attack teams in the NBA, who execute with incredible precision.

The biggest key to this series will end up being how the Mavericks' big men play. Dallas has trouble on the boards and they're a pretty bad defensive unit in most creations they have with their lineups. Can anybody step up to right the interior ship for Dallas or will Duncan and Tiago Splitter have their way inside and in the series?

Oklahoma City Thunder (2) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (7)

Analysis: After the Grizzlies announced their presence with authority on the playoff scene in 2011, they were outlasted by the Thunder in the second round of the playoffs in a pretty epic series. Last season, we got a rematch but this one was sans Russell Westbrook, which allowed the Grizzlies to take advantage of focusing on Kevin Durant defensively and making the rest of the team beat them.

This time, the Thunder are healthy and this is a different Durant than we've seen in the past. Who on the Grizzlies is capable of keeping him in check? Who will be able to score at a relatively similar clip to keep pace with this Thunder team? Which role players will step up and provide some outside shooting? Grizzlies need to answer these questions to advance past OKC again.

Los Angeles Clippers (3) vs. Golden State Warriors (6)

Analysis: A few days ago, this looked like a much better matchup than what we're seeing now, thanks to the Andrew Bogut rib injury. This Warriors team is going to rely heavily on Jermaine O'Neal and probably David Lee at the five. This means they're going to have to go heavy defense on the perimeter with a lineup consisting of Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala, which could actually help open things up offensively.

If the Warriors go small, we'll get a similar attack to what they showed against the Denver Nuggets last season. However, this Clippers team has a lot more firepower than what the Nuggets could provide. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are enough to handle with Bogut protecting your back on defense. Without that anchor, can they stop enough penetration on the perimeter to neutralize the paint advantage for the Clippers?

Houston Rockets (4) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (5)

Analysis: If you like 3-point shooting, this is the series for you. The Rockets and Blazers are one and three, respectively, in 3-point attempts per game and both try to bombard you with outside attempts. The Rockets shooting the most threes in the NBA but they make 35.6 percent of them, which is good for 17th in the NBA. The Blazers' attempts are much more efficient, making the league's ninth best percentage at 37.2 percent.

The key for both teams will be who can get the stops when they're needed the most. The Rockets have the fourth best defense in clutch situations, but they'll probably need a healthy or relatively healthy Patrick Beverley to keep that going while bothering Damian Lillard and his incredible clutch scoring. The Blazers are 19th in clutch defense and will need to find a way to get big stops.

Eastern Conference matchups here.

 
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