This weekend will kick off one of the most competitive editions of the NBA playoffs in recent years in the league. With no clear favorite and many teams ready to challenge last year’s finalist (who are also the team with the best current record), the Phoenix Suns, we will be dealing with a Western Conference at the top of its level, despite the fact that several teams have more than valid absences.
Within this list we bring the four series that will take place in the Western Conference: firstly, the best record in the entire NBA, the Phoenix Suns (first place) will face the Play-In survivors, the New Orleans Pelicans (eighth place). Secondly, the Memphis Grizzlies will have an excellent matchup with the Minnesota Timberwolves (seventh place), two of the youngest teams in the conference.
The Golden State Warriors (third place) will go against Nikola Jokic’s Denver Nuggets (sixth place), while the Dallas Mavericks (fourth place) will start the series without Luka Doncic against the Utah Jazz (fifth place) and their two stars, Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell. We give you both the odds of each team and the preview of the series in general so that you will be prepared in the best way at the time of the tip-off that starts the saga between both teams.
#1 Phoenix Suns (64-18) vs #8 New Orleans Pelicans (36-46)
- Where: Footprint Center – Phoenix, Arizona (the Suns will have home-field advantage, playing the first two games, with a possible fifth and seventh also taking place in their home stadium).
- When: Sunday, April 17, 11:00 PM ET (this will be the date of the first game, with the series potentially extending until the end of April if all seven games are played).
- Betting Line (Series): Phoenix Suns (-2500) vs New Orleans Pelicans (+1000)
- Betting Line (Game 1): Suns (-10) vs Pelicans (+10)
- Over/Under (Game 1): Suns (Under 225.5) vs (Over 225.5)
- Moneyline (Game 1): Suns (-575) vs Pelicans (+410)
The Pelicans deserve credit for being here since they are the only team in these playoffs with a negative record. Unfortunately for them, their dream will surely end in the first round, unless they come up with the biggest upset in recent NBA memory.
Despite the fact that New Orleans is having a fantastic season under coach Willie Green, the Suns are a machine on a mission to return to the finals and avenge themselves. The Pelicans didn’t exactly surprise anyone by beating the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers (without Paul George), and they’re in for a big surprise when they see how well-armed Phoenix is in every area.
Is it fair to assume that the Pelicans don’t have a chance? No, it isn’t. Every team has a chance to win the series. Are we confident in the possibility that this happens? No, not at all, yet some argue that with just 0.1 percent of hope, everything is possible. Chris Paul will have the chance to beat the team that helped him become one of the best point guards in NBA history, and he’ll be vital in keeping both CJ McCollum and one of the Pelicans’ biggest surprises, José Alvarado, on the sidelines.
Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum are carrying the franchise in a big way and so is Jonas Valanciunas. To picture this team with a healthy Zion Williamson would make for one of the best playoff teams in the history of the NBA, but like they say out there, dreaming is free. The Suns have plenty of options to cause problems for the Pelicans, and they have answers for all of their players in both offense and defense.
DeAndre Ayton and Mikal Bridges will be crucial in the defense, as they have been all season. If we get the version of Devin Booker we’ve seen all season, then it’s game over for the Pelicans. It would be spectacular if New Orleans could extend the series to more than five games, but there is a reason why they have the poorest odds according to the bookmakers.
#2 Memphis Grizzlies (56-26) vs #7 Minnesota Timberwolves (46-36)
- Where: FedExForum – Memphis, Tennessee (the Grizzlies will have home-field advantage, playing the first two games, with a possible fifth and seventh also taking place in their home stadium).
- When: Saturday, April 16, 5:30 PM ET (this will be the date of the first game, with the series potentially extending through the end of April if all seven games are played).
- Betting Line (Series): Memphis Grizzlies (-330) vs Minnesota Timberwolves (+260)
- Betting Line (Game 1): Grizzlies (-6.5) vs Timberwolves (+6.5)
- Over/Under (Game 1): Grizzlies (Under 236) vs Timberwolves (Over 236)
- Moneyline (Game 1): Grizzlies (-265) vs Timberwolves (+215)
The Grizzlies and Timberwolves definitely have, on paper, one of the most entertaining playoffs: two young, high-level teams in what has been each team’s most successful season in several years that will face each other to determine who will advance to the conference semifinals.
Fortunately for both, injuries in the team are reduced to a minimum, with only Taurean Prince (knee) as a possible absence for Minnesota. Memphis may not look like it, but it has one of the deepest and most complete teams in the NBA. With Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr raising their level in the company of Ja Morant, everyone has had to suffer to attempt to overcome this bunch of youngsters. However, few have been able to do so, which is why they finished second in the Western Conference with a large margin of victory.
For Minnesota, the second half of the regular season has seen them transform into a relentless team, with a good defense and offense, a lot of grit that we didn’t see from them before, and most of all, a team not dependent on Karl Anthony-Towns. During the Play-In tournament, it became clear to us that Anthony Edwards, D’Angelo Russell, Patrick Beverley and the rest of the roster are capable of pulling out a game without their star center.
The series between the two during the season was tied, with two victories for each team. Chris Finch’s team should be prepared to face one of the most effective offenses in the league, being able to do damage from distance as well as in the paint, both with a lot of intensity. Jackson Jr. was a force on the perimeter, leading the NBA in blocks, and Towns will be tasked with slowing him down.
The Wolves aren’t the strongest team in the league, and they rely on their stars to win, so they’re at a significant disadvantage against the Grizzlies, who have won games that appeared impossible while their top players were on the bench.
Memphis is the clear favorite: Taylor Jenkins’ team has been the biggest surprise all season, performing flawlessly even when their biggest star is absent. Getting Towns out of the comfort zone and keeping constant pressure on Russell and Edwards are the main objectives to get the win. However, Minnesota has the potential to pull off an upset, so it is not unreasonable to think that this series could go all the way to Game 7.
#3 Golden State Warriors (53-29) vs #6 Denver Nuggets (48-34)
- Where: Chase Center – San Francisco, California (the Warriors will have home-field advantage, playing the first two games, with a possible fifth and seventh also taking place in their home stadium).
- When: Saturday, April 16, 8:30 PM ET (this will be the date of the first game, with the series potentially extending until the end of April if all seven games are played).
- Betting Line (Series): Golden State Warriors (-225) vs Denver Nuggets (+190)
- Betting Line (Game 1): Warriors (-4.5) vs Nuggets (+4.5)
- Over/Under (1st Game): Warriors (Under 224) vs Nuggets (Over 224)
- Moneyline (Game 1): Warriors (-250) vs Nuggets (+155)
While the Nuggets have had to deal most of the season without Michael Porter Jr. (back injury) and Jamal Murray (knee injury), the Warriors get their top star back in a timely manner: Stephen Curry. Denver will continue to play without its star duo at least in the first round. For Golden State the only loss (besides James Wiseman) could be Andrew Wiggins, but he is expected to play in the game.
However, Denver has the edge in the straight series against Golden State, having won three of their four meetings in the regular season. This series will be defined by two things: The first, how well can the Warriors handle Nikola Jokic? He has been perhaps the best player in the NBA all season, and has led the Nuggets to a sixth-place finish as the team’s natural leader.
The second question is the following one: how much can Jokic’s remaining teammates contribute? Aaron Gordon, Wil Barton, Monte Morris, Jeff Green, JaMychal Green and Bones Hyland are the rest of the roster that head coach Michael Malone will use in his playoffs rotation. Nuggets are not left stranded relying only on the Serbian’s ability.
Golden State must also avoid becoming stagnant offensively: we all know Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Jordan Poole are offensive talents to be envied, but who will come to the rescue if Denver concentrates on them as defensive targets? It’s time for Andrew Wiggins to show the value of his contract. Draymond Green’s defensive contributions against The Joker will be crucial throughout the playoffs.
It will be a close and very competitive series, but with the return of Curry to the Dubs’ lineup, the Warriors are the favored team to advance to the semifinals.
#4 Dallas Mavericks (52-30) vs #5 Utah Jazz (49-33)
- Where: American Airlines Arena – Dallas, Texas (the Mavericks will have home-field advantage, playing the first two games, with a possible fifth and seventh also taking place in their home arena).
- When: Saturday, April 16, 1:00 PM ET (this will be the date of the first game, with the series potentially extending through the end of April if all seven games are played).
- Betting Line (Series): Dallas Mavericks (+230) vs Utah Jazz (-300).
- Betting Line (1st Game): Mavericks (+5) vs Jazz (-5)
- Over/Under (Game 1):Mavericks (Under 209.5) vs Jazz (Over 209.5)
- Moneyline (Game 1):Mavericks (+165) vs Jazz (-195).
This series is completely flawed by Luka Doncic‘s injury. With the Slovenian out of the first and most likely the second game, the advantage is for the team coached by Quin Snyder, who must take advantage of the absence of the Mavericks‘ top star, who is still not giving details about the severity of his sprain.
The 23-year-old forward is the main piece in the team led by Jason Kidd. If he has a minor sprain, he might be out for up to ten days, ruling him out for at least the first three games of the series. That is why Utah comes out as a favorite in the first instances, with its probability of victory dropping the longer the series goes on. During the regular season, the record between the two teams was even: two wins for each one.
For the Jazz, it’s time to put the past behind them and get down to business: without Doncic, there’s no reason for them to fall behind the Mavericks, who must obligatorily win one of their two away games and all of their home games. Rudy Gobert will be a key player as he has been all season, but the Utah squad needs Donovan Mitchell to be able to replicate his accomplishments in the early rounds of the playoffs with a different outcome.
Dallas will have to rely on the rest of its team. Jalen Brunson, Spencer Dinwiddie and Tim Hardaway Jr. are the main names to run the team’s perimeter offense, with Dwight Powell as a reliable source of points in the paint. Even with Doncic’s possible comeback, they open the series with a clear disadvantage, which Utah might exploit to take an early lead and close out the series.
Thanks to Jazz‘s dark past, we think this series is not for the faint of heart, or for those who like to gamble. Anything could happen. Doncic’s return would put the Mavs in full advantage.