Aydin Ebrahimi’s NBA West. Conf. Round 1 Playoff Recap

Posted on May 3, 2023

  By Aidin Ebrahimi, SuperWest Sports

aWith a fantastic regular season, the first round of the Western Conference NBA Playoffs did not disappoint.

And with the Nuggets, Suns, Warriors and Lakers advancing, the Second Round promises to be just as exciting, if not more so.

Here’s my take on the action from Round One, along with my picks for the best team and MVP.

Road to Ring no. 5:00

no 2 Grizzlies vs. no 7 Lakers (Lakers won 4-2)

Q:Several of the West’s first-round playoff teams were from California, and that will continue into the second round, as the Lakers and Warriors managed to advance.

We’ll talk about Golden State later, but first, let’s move on to the Lakers.

In my opinion, they are the favorites to win it all. Yes, I and other NBA fans and writers mocked them a lot during the season, mostly leading up to the trade deadline.

But they made us fools.

I called the Grizzlies the best team in the West, but LeBron and Anthony Davis put them to shame. They’re out by a wide margin.

Los Angeles averaged 50 boards a night, with most coming from AD and LBJ, while Memphis averaged four fewer rebounds and allowed guys like Austin Reaves, Rui Hachimura and D’ Angelo Russell, get into the rhythm.

Davis rejected 26 shots in the series, the second most by a Lakers player in a playoff series.

LeBron James in Game 4 | Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Shaq had 26 blocks in six games against the 2004 Spurs en route to a KG-led Timberwolves loss to the Pistons in the Finals.

Meanwhile, Andrew Bynum had 28 blocks in seven games against the 2012 Nuggets, which included an NBA record 10 blocks in the first game.

After that streak, Bynum would play 31 more games in the NBA, showing the devastating effect injuries can have on a player.

Davis is no stranger to injuries, but thankfully AD looks healthy so far, which is a lot more than we can say for the rest of the Los Angeles team.

The Griz will now go home again, and although they put up a good fight, this season has to be considered a disappointment.

Without Steven Adams’ tenacious rebounding and low presence, the team looked hopeless at times. The same goes for Brandon Clark, who tore his Achilles on March 3, 2023.

The Grizzlies are still young and they will be back, but you just can’t help but think this year was a huge missed opportunity.

Welcome to Injury Hell!

no 4 Suns Vs. no 5 Clippers (Suns won 4-1)

V:Welcome to injury hell, everyone! The LA Clippers will be your host.

I’ve said many times that a healthy Kawhi Leonard is the best player in basketball, and everything I’ve said about Kawhi hasn’t been disproven in the playoffs.

It was strengthened. Kawhi stumbled into Game 1 (without Paul George) and dropped 38 points on 54/60/90 splits to steal Game 1 in Phoenix.

After Phoenix won Game 2 behind a stellar effort from Devin Booker, it looked like we were going to witness an instant classic, especially with PG returning to the lineup at some point in the series.

Kawhi/PG/Russ vs. KD/Book/CP3. But then, shockingly, it was announced that Kawhi would be out for the third game. And game four. And five games.

Russell Westbrook and Norman Powell tried to salvage what was left of their season, and although they fought valiantly, it wasn’t enough.

Then it was announced that Kawhi had torn his meniscus, ending his and the Clippers’ season.

Kawhi Leonard in Game 1 vs Suns | Christian Petersen / Getty Images

As for the Suns, it’s pretty disappointing to see this “super team” lose one game and then barely beat a Russell Westbrook-led team in 2023.

When Kawhi went down, their wins were by five, twelve and six points respectively, which is not a good look for them. Their terrible bench unit was on full display in this series.

The Suns bench averaged 14 PPG, the worst margin in the entire playoffs. They also shot 37% from the field, 22% from three, and 70% from the line.

The Nuggets don’t have the best secondary in the league, but Bruce Brown is like Michael Jordan compared to Josh Okogie. This has to be painful for Clippers fans because they could have easily won this series.

But for now, it’s time for a new way of thinking. No more load management.

“We need to get back to honoring and respecting the regular season.” Clippers president Lawrence Frank said about this.

I’ve said it before, load management makes players more likely to get injured, and if the Clippers can “honor” the regular season, maybe they can finally stay healthy and win something for once.

The Shattered Dreams of the Beam Team

no 3 Kings Vs. no 6 Warriors (Warriors won 4-3)

V:hat in a row! Steve Kerr has yet to lose a Western Conference playoff series as a coach, which is crazy when you think about it.

The Kings have always been a threat to the Warriors since 2018-19, when the two teams faced off in four incredible regular season meetings.

Golden State won all four games, but it was close as they won by a combined 12 points.

Many predicted a first-round matchup between the two would be interesting, but the Kings snuffed out their chance to clinch the No. 8 seed, and instead the Clippers faced the Warriors in the first round.

After many years, we finally got the series we’ve been waiting for, and boy, was it fun.

The series was very close through the first six games. De’Aaron Fox thankfully didn’t miss out with his injury and continued to fly high to help his team, averaging 29 points, six rebounds and eight assists.

Malik Monk also came off the bench for a night of 20 points.

Kings De’Aaron Fox vs Warriors |: Kerry Edmondson/USA TODAY Sports

Steph Curry was good through the first five games, even picking up a rare road win, meaning the Dubs have won 28 straight road playoff games, an unprecedented streak in NBA history.

But in Game 6, Curry just didn’t show up. Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins looked rusty, and Jordan Poole was abysmal, as was Kevin Huerter.

And Harrison Barnes played like he was a double agent for the team that drafted him.

The stage was set for a legacy-defining Game Seven, and all of Sacramento’s hopes and dreams were dashed by the reigning NBA Finals MVP.

Steph scored an NBA-record 50 points in Game 7 while Fox, Sabonis and the rest of the Kings didn’t show up.

A team that won just 27% of its road games went 2/4 against one of the best offenses in NBA history (not a fan of the stats, but the 2023 Kings had the highest offensive rating of all time).

The Kings should be proud of their season, though, and will light the beam on a consistent basis as long as they have Fox and Sabonis.

And don’t forget Kevon Looney, who averaged 18 rebounds over the last five games of the streak.

Not worth the price

No 1 Nuggets vs No 8 Timberwolves (Nuggets won 4-1)

T:he must be Jazz loving this right now. The Wolves traded away their future, and what did they get in return?

They got the worst year of Rudy Gobert’s career since 2016, a year that included his infamous fight with Kyle Anderson, four fewer wins than the previous season and an embarrassing exit from a streak in which Gobert fouled out twice in five games.

I like Karl-Anthony Towns, but you just can’t deny that he’s soft and can’t show up when it matters most. There’s a lot of talk about a potential KAT trade swirling around, and maybe that’s the best thing for all parties involved.

Anthony Edwards is a legitimate star, but there will be serious doubts as to whether he will win anything significant at Mini. Maybe he will be like Kevin Garnett, because their situations have many parallels.

Rudy Gobert vs. Nuggets in Game 2 |: Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

KG was a top-five pick, just like Edwards (although Edwards was picked number one overall), they were both 19 years old in their first year, and they both made the All-Star team by their third season.

KG was elite in the Minis, but the organization just kept letting him down until he finally won a ring after leaving for Boston.

Mike Conley can still play and if he stayed with the Jazz they could make the playoffs and probably do better than this Timberwolves team.

The Nuggets look dominant as they trail the Suns 2-0 (at the time of writing).

Best team of the first round
Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. In the 2nd game | Davit Zalubovski / A.P

“Denver Nuggets” (4-1)

S:With Denver’s dominance at its peak, their team is finally ready to make the leap to the next level and out West. I predicted that Jokic wouldn’t care about the MVP a few weeks ago, and I was proven right.

Jokic just wants to win a ring. “I don’t really think about it [the NBA MVP announcement]Jokic said. “Like zero percent. Hopefully it will be a sunny day so I can be in the pool.”

Jokic barely played in the first game because it was such a blowout, but in games two through five, Jokic averaged a triple-double of 29 points.

And his partner in crime Jamal Murray had 27 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists on the night, shooting 47% from the floor, 43% from deep and 20-22 from the charity stripe.

He had a huge 40-point performance in Game 2 that broke Minnesota’s back. He finished the series in style with 35 points in a surprising performance.

It was Murray’s first playoff series since September 2020, and it was like he never left. We all remember Bubble Murray’s crazy speeches, right?

He averaged 47 points a night from Game 4 to Game 6 against the Jazz and dropped 40 on the Clippers to eliminate them. And now, it looks like that version of Murray is making a comeback. The rest of the league should be scared.

First round MVP
Warriors guard Steph Curry in game 4 | ABC7 News

Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)

C:will it be someone else? Only player ever to score 50 points in game seven.

Curry became the 31st player in NBA history to score 50 or more in a postseason game, but no one has ever scored 50 in a Game 7. Aside from a slightly disappointing six-game stretch, Steph had a nearly perfect streak.

Chef averaged 34 points on 49% shooting from the field.

Detractors are quick to point out his three-point shooting percentage (38% is good, but nowhere near Steph’s lofty standards) and his high turnover rates.

But when your teammates are poor, you have to put the team on your back and want them to win, and obviously your efficiency takes a hit, just like James Harden’s first game in Houston.

Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole combined to shoot 5-21 from deep in Game Seven and 3-14 in Game Six. Now Steph has to face his biggest rival, LeBron James.

If Steph wants to have another chance against LeBron, his teammates will need to shake off their poor performances in the first round.

—More from Aydin Ebrahimi—

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