Amico Hoops Playoff Preview: Rockets, Warriors favorites in wild, wild West

Most expect James Harden and the Rockets or Andre Iguodala and the Warriors to reach the Finals.

(1) Houston Rockets vs. (8) Minnesota Timberwolves

Season series — Rockets, 4-0

Series schedule

Game 1: Sunday, at Houston, 9 p.m., TNT

Game 2: Wednesday, at Houston, 9:30 p.m., TNT

Game 3: April 21, at Minnesota, 7:30 p.m., ESPN

Game 4: April 23, at Minnesota, 8:30 p.m., TNT

Game 5 (if necessary): April 25, at Houston, TBD

Game 6 (if necessary): April 27, at Minnesota, TBD

Game 7 (if necessary): April 29, at Houston, TBD

The skinny

Sam Amico — James Harden and the Rockets have become everything coach Mike D’Antoni’s old Steve Nash-led Phoenix Suns could never be — the favorites. And if not the favorites, at least the Rockets are giving people reason to believe maybe this is their year. But the Timberwolves could prove to be a tall task. They play a playoff brand of grind-it-out, defensive-oriented basketball all season under Tom Thibodeau. It’s impressive and will count for something someday. Just not against this opponent’s offense. Rockets in four.

Ashish Mathur — The Wolves are in the playoffs for the first time since the 2003-04 season, but their stay is going to be short-lived. The Rockets have the MVP in Harden and an offense that is nearly impossible to guard with all the shooting they have at their disposal. Rockets in five.

Colton Jones — The Timberwolves are talented enough and coached well enough to give a lot of teams in the West problems. Unfortunately for Minnesota, the Rockets are not one of them. The numbers will speak volumes in this one — Minnesota doesn’t shoot many 3-pointers, while the Houston guys roll out of the rack every morning launching them. Rockets in four.

(2) Golden State Warriors vs. (7) San Antonio Spurs

Season series — Warriors, 3-1

Game 1: Saturday, at Golden State, 3 p.m., ABC

Game 2: Monday, at Golden State, 10:30 p.m., TNT

Game 3: April 19, at San Antonio, 9:30 p.m., TNT

Game 4: April 22, at San Antonio, 3:30 p.m., ABC

Game 5 (if necessary): April 24 at Golden State, TBD

Game 6 (if necessary): April 26 at San Antonio, TBD

Game 7 (if necessary): April 28 Golden State, TBD

The skinny

Amico — In most years, this would be the series everyone would be waiting for. But the Spurs aren’t the same old Spurs — and lately, the Warriors haven’t been themselves, either. Part of that has to do with the absence of Steph Curry, expected to miss the first round. That might mean something to the Spurs if Kawhi Leonard were playing. He’s not. Warriors in five.

Mathur — It’s a repeat of last year’s Western Conference Finals, except this time around, both teams will be without star players. The Spurs, as they have been all year sans 9 games, will play without Leonard (as they did in last year’s series after the do-it-all swingman was lost after Game 1). The Warriors, meanwhile, will be without Curry (MCL sprain). A Gregg Popovich-led team can never be counted out, and Spurs big man LaMarcus Aldridge has flourished all season as the No. 1 option. Golden State, however, has too much firepower, led by Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Warriors in five.

Jones — Curry will be watching from the bench. The Warriors mailed it in in for almost the final quarter of the season, going just 7-10 in their final 17 games. Still, a Leonard-less Spurs squad fits perfectly for Golden State, sans Curry. The Spurs walk it up, grind it out and slow the pace, which is what the Warriors do more without Curry, enabling Durant to increase his volume of shot attempts. Warriors in five.

(3) Portland Trail Blazers at (6) New Orleans Pelicans

Season series — 2-2

Series schedule

Game 1: Saturday, at Portland, 10:30 p.m., ESPN

Game 2: Tuesday, at Portland, 10:30 p.m., TNT

Game 3: April 19, at New Orleans, 9 p.m., NBA TV

Game 4: April 21, at New Orleans, 5 p.m., TNT

Game 5 (if necessary): April 24, at Portland, TBD

Game 6 (if necessary): April 26, at New Orleans, TBD

Game 7 (if necessary): April 28, at Portland, TBD

The skinny

Amico — It’s the backcourt vs. the big men. Or as the case may be for the Pelicans, the big MAN, as Anthony Davis will have to try to do it alone, minus the help of injured frontcourt-mate DeMarcus Cousins. Will Davis be enough to overcome Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum and a much-improved overall Blazers bunch? Maybe not, but maybe, too. Either way, this series has the potential to be extremely close and go the distance. Pelicans in seven.

Mathur — It’s a shame Cousins won’t be apart of this year’s playoffs, as many think the Pelicans could have gone on a deep run with him and Davis feasting in the paint. Rajon Rondo always turns it to another level in the postseason, but the Blazers, led by Lillard and McCollum, are never an easy out and can score in bunches. This should be a fun series. Blazers in seven.

Jones — One of the most intriguing matchups in the first round, as my esteemed colleagues have noted, if Cousins had not suffered a torn Achilles’ tendon, this could have been must-see TV. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, though this series should still be quite interesting. Still, Davis, Rondo and Jrue Holiday are fun to watch. As are the Blazers, with Lillard and McCollum. There’s a lot to like about New Orleans, even without Cousins, led by Davis, one of the brightest stars in the league. However, A.D. has never won a playoff series. Blazers in seven.

(4) Oklahoma City vs. (5) Utah Jazz

Season series — Thunder, 3-1

Series schedule

Game 1: Sunday, at Oklahoma City, 6:30 p.m., TNT

Game 2: Wednesday, at Oklahoma City, 8 p.m., NBA TV

Game 3: April 21, at Utah, 10 p.m., ESPN

Game 4: April 23, at Utah, 10:30 p.m., TNT

Game 5 (if necessary): April 25, at Oklahoma City, TBD

Game 6 (if necessary): April 27, at Utah, TBD

Game 7 (if necessary): April 29, at Oklahoma City, TBD

The skinny

Amico — Somehow, a Thunder team featuring Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony flew below the radar for most of the season. A lot of that had to do with the fact the Thunder could never put together any real consistency. But here they are, with homecourt advantage in the first round, suddenly seeming like a potential threat to emerge out of the West. Of course, rookie Donovan Mitchell and the Jazz are one of the league’s best stories for a reason. They have overachieved all year. This should be another close one. Thunder in seven.

Mathur — What a series this is going to be. You have the Thunder’s Big 3 of Anthony, Westbrook and George up against a feisty Jazz team led by a young stud in Mitchell and a defensive juggernaut in Rudy Gobert. It’s offense vs. defense in this series, and as they always say, good offense always beat good defense. Thunder in six.

Jones — This is the best first-round matchup, in my humble opinion. While the Thunder never seemed to reach the potential many had forecasted after they acquired George and Anthony, while the Jazz, as they always seem to do, overachieved, their sum being greater than their parts. Plenty of star power will be on display in the form of OKC’s Big 3 of Westbrook, George and Anthony, along with perhaps the most under rated guy in the league in big man Steven Adams. Meanwhile, the Jazz sport rookie dynamo Mitchell, point guard Ricky Rubio and center Gobert, not to mention Joe Ingles and a rejuvenated Jae Crowder, yes, Jae Crowder. Jazz in six.

4 Comments on "Amico Hoops Playoff Preview: Rockets, Warriors favorites in wild, wild West"

  1. It figures that the Warriors get the worthless, lowly Spurs in Round One. The only time the Warriors are vulnerable, with Steph out, and they get Easy Pass in the first round. Unbelievable. Any other team could have posed a threat. But the Spurs without Kawhi are straight trash. And Kawhi should be ashamed for not stepping up in this scenario.

    • Fine takes, Wolv.. Kawhi was cleared months ago by one of the most conservative organizations in professional sports in regards to dealing with injuries, yet he remains a spectator. He wasn’t even on the bench for Game 1 today at Oracle.

  2. I would also like to add that the superiority of the Western Conference teams is vastly overstated. The Warriors breezed through it last year and will repeat this year. And the Rockets will get their asses handed to them, not even close. Only a LeBron-led team has a chance, and with this year’s incarnation, who the heck knows what is going to manifest?

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