The Western Conference Play-In slate is basically as good as it could ever be. While the San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies feels like a pretty expected play-in matchup, nobody could have foreseen having both the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors in a (sort of) winner take all game. So although this is only the first year with this format, it may be the most exciting simply due to all of the star power that would not normally be around for games like these.
Western Conference Play-In Predictions
San Antonio Spurs vs Memphis Grizzlies
Like most play-in and playoff matchups this season, it is pretty difficult to use the season series as a predictor for this game. With all of the health and safety protocols, injuries, and lineup changes, it is hard to know what games have meaning and which ones do not. The Grizzlies and Spurs played each other three times with Memphis winning the latter two of those matchups. However, Jaren Jackson Jr was not in any of those games, Jonas Valanciunas was in only one of them and the Spurs were still starting the now-retired LaMarcus Aldridge. So the lineups are completely different now meaning all of those games should be thrown out of the window.
In a single game scenario, anything can happen which is why it tends to be more likely that the team with the best player wins the game unless the talent deficiency is significant. Here, while I do believe the Grizzlies have the better overall team, the Spurs do have a championship head coach and definitely have the best player with former all-star Demar DeRozan. Despite these advantages, the Grizzlies have been the better overall team all season with their stingy defense and high pace play so I believe they will eke out a close one.
Prediction: Grizzlies 108 – Spurs 102
Los Angeles Lakers vs Golden State Warriors
Clearly, the most hyped matchup of the whole play-in and could possibly end up as the most anticipated western conference play-in game possibly ever. Who doesn’t want to see LeBron James against Stephen Curry head to head in a high-stakes game? Anybody who is even a moderate fan of basketball should be tuning into this one.
The Lakers are arguably the best team in the entire league and are in this predicament due to injuries more than anything so they should be heavily favored. But in one game? With Chef Curry? Who knows what could happen. Last game he took 22 triples. Maybe this time he takes 25 and makes 15! These are not likely scenarios but the fact that they are plausible makes this game that much more exciting.
But for now, let’s try to find the most likely outcome. So the Warriors and Lakers played three times this season and they were all pretty lopsided towards the Lakers. Yes, even the game the Warriors won when the Lakers went on cruise control was lopsided towards Los Angeles. The Lakers knew they had the game won by halftime so they stopped trying. A common theme for their first month of the season. However, the Warriors have been playing a lot better lately. James Wiseman is done for the year which means more Draymond Green at center minutes and Curry has been firing with no regard from distance.
The Lakers have the league’s best defense and so they will likely be able to slow Curry down to an extent which means the rest of the Warriors are gonna have to not only stop James and Anthony Davis but also keep up with scoring.
Prediction: Lakers 111 – Warriors 99
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