After calling for your predictions for the four first round series in the Eastern Conference earlier in the day, we’re pivoting to the West this afternoon.
Here are the four first round series in the Western Conference:
Denver Nuggets (1) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (8)
Unlike in the East, where there are a handful of overwhelming favorites at the top of the conference, the Western Conference field appears more wide open as the playoffs begin. The Nuggets are heavily favored in this series, but their betting line (-550, per BetOnline.ag) isn’t anywhere close to the -1200 and -1300 lines we were seeing in the East.
As good as the Nuggets were this season, they weren’t playing their best basketball down the stretch, having lost five of their last seven games and 10 of their last 17 entering the postseason. The Timberwolves, meanwhile, had a disappointing year, but have a lot of high-end talent on their roster, including three-time All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns, three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert, and ascendant All-Star Anthony Edwards.
A Timberwolves team playing to its full potential could give Denver trouble, but we haven’t seen that often this season. It would be a major upset if Tim Connelly‘s new team can get past his old one.
Memphis Grizzlies (2) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (7)
After incorporating their trade-deadline acquisitions on February 11, the Lakers went 18-8 to close the regular season, which would translate to a 57-win pace over 82 games.
Throw in the fact that LeBron James and Anthony Davis are relatively healthy and two key members of the Grizzlies‘ frontcourt (Steven Adams and Brandon Clarke) aren’t, and it’s easy to understand why Memphis is only a slight favorite (-142) over Los Angeles (+122) in this series.
Still, the Grizzlies had the best net rating (+4.0) in the West this season and history is working in their favor — as John Hollinger of The Athletic writes, the NBA’s No. 7 and No. 8 playoff seeds have lost 95 of 100 first round series in the last 25 years. Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., and company won’t be intimidated by the Lakers’ star power.
Sacramento Kings (3) vs. Golden State Warriors (6)
The Kings‘ reward for snapping a 16-season playoff drought is a first-round matchup against the defending champions, who have won titles in four of the last eight years.
The Warriors‘ impressive track record in the postseason has made them betting favorites (-265) in this series over Sacramento (+225). Golden State has had an up-and-down year, but has a huge experience edge in this matchup and seemed to be hitting its stride at the right time in the season’s final weeks. With Andrew Wiggins set to be available for Game 1, the roster is at full strength and will present a tough challenge for the higher-seeded Kings.
Still, the Kings have been exceeding expectations all season long, and their home crowd should be whipped into a frenzy for the first NBA playoff basketball in Sacramento since 2006. This has a chance to be a very fun series.
Phoenix Suns (4) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (5)
The key for both of these star-studded rosters is staying healthy. Suns forward Kevin Durant and guard Chris Paul have battled multiple injuries over the years, including this season, as have Clippers forwards Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. The Suns have the health advantage entering this series, with George considered unlikely to play vs. Phoenix as he recovers from a sprained knee.
Even if PG13 can return to action before the series ends, the Clippers will be in tough against a Phoenix team that has looked incredibly dangerous with Durant on the court. The former MVP has only played in eight games for the Suns since being acquired at the trade deadline, but they’ve won all eight, outscoring opponents by a total of 88 points in those contests.
The Suns are considered strong betting favorites, with a -465 line at BetOnline.ag.