NBA Playoffs Report: Western Conference Semifinals Preview
While the NBA's Eastern Conference semifinals got underway this weekend, the NBA's Western Conference semifinals had to wait for two series to each get through a seventh game before the next round of the NBA playoffs were set. Here's a preview of the Western Conference semifinals:
(1) San Antonio Spurs vs. (5) Los Angeles Clippers
The top-seeded San Antonio Spurs wrapped up their first-round sweep of the Utah Jazz on May 7. Led by point guard Tony Parker, the Spurs have not lost since April 11 against the Lakers, a string of 14 straight games. San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich uses his veteran players smartly, with the result being a balanced scoring attack. Spurs' veterans Tim Duncan and Boris Diaw will be challenged by Clippers' superstar forward Blake Griffin, while Parker will have to contend with Los Angeles point guard Chris Paul.
Both Griffin (left knee strain) and Paul (right hip flexor) have nagging injuries, which was part of the reason that the Clippers needed all seven games to eliminate the Memphis Grizzlies in their first-sound series. The 4-3 victory was only the third post-season series win in 41 years for the Clippers' franchise. Reserves Nick Young and Kenyon Martin can produce big numbers for Los Angeles' coach Vinnie Del Negro, while Manu Ginobili is a threat off the Spurs' bench. San Antonio won the season series between these teams by a count of 2-1. Their first match-up is Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. EDT in San Antonio.
(2) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (3) Los Angeles Lakers
By sweeping the defending champion Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the NBA playoffs, Oklahoma City stated its candidacy for the 2012 NBA title. Now, the Thunder must beat the Lakers, an NBA franchise that has won 16 titles. Forward Kevin Durant and guard Russell Westbrook give Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks two of the league's most dynamic players. Los Angeles must find someone other than Kobe Bryant to score and defend against the Thunder's talented duo. Coach Mike Brown's Lakers were pushed to seven games against the Denver Nuggets, in part because Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol didn't help Bryant enough on offense or defense.
Metta World Peace, who was suspended as a result of a flagrant, intentional elbow delivered to the head of Oklahoma City's James Harden on April 22, gives Los Angeles additional defense and swagger. Role players like the Thunder's Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins or the Lakers' Ramon Sessions and Steve Blake could be the difference in advancing to the conference finals. Oklahoma City won the season series between the teams 2-1. Game one is Monday at 9:30 p.m. EDT in Oklahoma City. See the full series schedule.