The playoffs are finally here, and the West seemingly has one, lone series that may have a lower seed advancing. The 73-9 Warriors will make short work of the Houston Rockets, San Antonio went 40-1 at home and should sweep the injured Memphis Grizzlies and the Oklahoma City Thunder will outlast the gritty Dallas Mavericks. The Los Angeles Clippers will be the favorites, and should hang on against Damian Lillard's Portland Trail Blazers, but that doesn't mean Portland won't put up a valiant effort and be the closest of the bottom four seeds to get close to pulling an upset.
For the Clippers, they were able to overcome a season where Blake Griffin missed time due to injury, and an additional four due to suspension, holding on to the fourth seed, failing to surpass Oklahoma City for the third. It helped that Memphis was decimated by injuries and Portland started out slow, while the other bottom half teams didn't muster up a good enough start to challenge for the fourth seed. However, since Griffin's injuries, Paul willed a team featuring the corpse of Paul Pierce and journeyman, Luc Richard MBah A Moute as starters and kept them playing as well as one can imagine. Since adding Griffin to close out the year, the Clippers went 6-1, and were winners of 10 of the final dozen, bringing in some momentum as they look to make a deep run for the first time in the Paul era.
For the Blazers, they simply shouldn't be here. Fifth seed isn't where a team that lost LaMarcus Aldridge, Robin Lopez, Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews should be the following season. Injuries and other sides struggling gave a boost, but the credit sits with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Lillard went on an absolute tear since being snubbed for an All-Star slot, while McCollum has to be the frontrunner for the Most Improved ballot. If Portland has any chance, those two need to be on fire, while the supporting cast chips in just enough to slow down Griffin and continue to grab the boards.
KEY BATTLE: Paul vs Lillard X-FACTORS: JJ Redick & Ed Davis PREDICTION: Clippers In Six