The NBA: 2013 Playoffs: West Semis Previews

Can Stephen Curry remain hot vs the Spurs?
(Image from: USA Today)

(2) San Antonio Spurs vs (6) Golden State Warriors
Season Series: Tied 2-2

How they got here: The Spurs disposed of the Lakers who had Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock playing and starting in their back court. It was a relatively easy sweep for the Spurs who were not challenged by the Lakers. Tony Parker and Tim Duncan provided leading roles while Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobili gave ample support. The Warriors defeated the Nuggets in 6 games with Steph Curry raining bombs from downtown. The Dubs had good games from their rookies (Green & Barnes) while the veterans (Bogut and Jack) were solid.

How the Spurs will win: The Spurs can play different styles depending on their opponent. They can run in transition or they can slow down for half court sets. They can throw the ball in the post to Duncan or they can run Tony Parker on high screens to free him up for a jumper or a floater in the lane. When Ginobili checks in, Manu can change the tempo with his perimeter shooting and drives to the paint which can lead to open shots for Danny Green, Gary Neal and Matt Bonner.   

X-Factor for Spurs: Gary Neal (19 mpg in 1st round) could see an increase in his minutes if Coach Pop decides to match-up with the Warriors when Jarrett Jack (38 mpg) is in the game. Neal needs to be aggressive and on the attack to force Jack to play defense. Neal also has to make his three-point shots after only going 25% in the 1st round. 

How the Warriors will win: The Warriors can get hot from outside in a split second. They have outstanding shooters in Curry and Thompson plus they have capable secondary shooters in Jack, Barnes and Green. Steph Curry needs to at least match Tony Parker's production to keep the Warriors in the game. Golden State cannot rely on David Lee to play effectively due to his hip injury. That leaves Andrew Bogut and Carl Landry responsible to compensate for Lee's limited production.

X-Factor for Warriors: Andrew Bogut will be defending Tim Duncan for most of the series. If Bogut can summon more double-double games, the Warriors can win this series. Bogut needs to keep Duncan at bay defensively, while on offense, he has to attack the glass and maybe pick up some fouls from Timmy.  

What will probably happen: The Spurs only averaged 10 turnovers in the 1st round (#1) while the Warriors were at the bottom (#16) with about 19 a game. The Warriors cannot give the Spurs more chances to score because San Antonio will take care of business. The Warriors are a young team and vastly inexperienced compared to the playoff-tested Spurs. Tim Duncan has not lost to the Warriors in San Antonio for 28 straight games. It's hard to see the Spurs dropping a game at home after they finished 35-6 during the regular season. The Warriors have a chance to win a game or two if Stephen Curry lights it up every game. Overall, the Spurs have more weapons and they play with poise. The Warriors are too dependent on Curry. If their shots are not falling from the perimeter, this could be a quick series.

Prediction: Spurs in 6

Will Zach Randolph dominate inside vs the Thunder?
(Image from: USA Today)

(1) Oklahoma City Thunder vs (5) Memphis Grizzlies 
Season Series: Grizzlies 2-1

How they got here: The Thunder managed to get past the Rockets in 6 games even without Westbrook. It took a complete team effort to win Game 6 in Houston. Kevin Durant was doing everything for OKC including handling the ball more but he needed Reggie Jackson, Derek Fisher and Kevin Martin to finish the Rockets. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies pounded the LA Clippers into submission after 6 games. The Grizzlies won 4 straight by double digits after dropping the first 2 games. The Grizzlies played terrific defense as they prevented the Clippers from running and electrifying "Lob City".

How the Thunder will win: The Thunder will give the ball to Durant and allow him to make decisions and plays for everybody. They will surround him with shooters when Coach Brooks decides to play small ball. No one else can create shots on their own except Durant and Jackson. The Thunder needs to attack on transition often to prevent the Grizzlies from setting their half court defense, thus preventing the Grizz to also load up on Durant. Their lack of a post threat and an additional slasher (no Westbroook) forces the Thunder to rely on jumpers. Martin, Fisher and Sefolosha need to make plays to give Durant some breathing space.  

X-Factor for Thunder: Kevin Martin had a big game on their clinching win vs the Rockets. K-Mart needs to score more to keep the Grizzlies' defense honest. Martin will get open shots since the Grizzlies will most likely overload the strong side and/or double-team Durant often. 

How the Grizzlies will win: The Grizzlies play tough and physical basketball. They are an excellent defensive team and they have multiple players who can defend and harass Durant. Tayshaun Prince will probably get the bulk of minutes vs KD while Tony Allen and Quincy Poindexter will have their chances as well. The Grizzlies have the advantage in the low post with Gasol and Z-Bo, so expect them to dominate inside. Mike Conley will have the upper-hand against Reggie Jackson on both offense and defense. Conley played well going against Chris Paul which makes this current match-up a big advantage for the Grizzlies. 

X-Factor for Grizzlies: Tony Allen is an elite perimeter defender. He will certainly defend Durant at some point and maybe even guard Reggie Jackson. Allen is not expected to contribute much on offense but if he manages 10 points or more, the Thunder will be in deep trouble.

What will probably happen: Will the Thunder even use their small ball lineup (Durant and Collison as forwards) against the bruising tandem of Gasol and Randolph? The Grizzlies will pound the ball inside which could force Coach Scott Brooks to keep a duo of Ibaka/Perkins/Collison on the floor at all times. The Grizzlies have capable perimeter defenders that can also negate the Thunder's plan of going small. Russell Westbrook not playing in this series will definitely hurt the Thunder. The Grizzlies are well-equipped to counter any of the Thunder's scoring options while OKC does not match-up well vs Memphis.

Prediction: Grizzlies in 6
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