2012 Western Conference Playoff Preview

No team was supposed to be effected more by the frantic regular season schedule than San Antonio.

Not only would the Spurs survive without Manu Ginobili, as he missed 32 of 66 games because of broken hand, they tied Chicago for the best record in the NBA and are the hottest team entring the post season. 

San Antonio has won its last 10 games, while averaging 114.7 points per game in that span.

The Spurs averaged 103.7 points per game, second highest in the NBA, had the leagues most efficient offense and put together three separate 10-game win streaks.

Twelve teams were scheduled back-to-back-to-back games on two occasions this year, only San Antonio won all six contests.

Even during the shortened regular season, the team had to complete its annual Rodeo Trip, a season-long streak away from the AT&T Center involved nine consecutive road games and over  7,941 miles miles logged.

The Spurs won eight of those nine games, falling only to Portland as coach Gregg Popovich rested his star players.

This season marked the transition of San Antonio allowing point guard Tony Parker to completely dictate its offense.

Tony Parker ranked fifth among starting point guards in assist-to-turnover ratio this season.

The 29-year-old responded by averaging a career-high 7.7 assists, along with 18.3 points on 48 percent shooting from the field, 2.9 rebounds and 1.0 steal per game.

As dazzling as his individual statistics were, Parker’s best ability was to keep everyone involved.

Thirteen players scored 150 or more points for San Antonio this season.

Tim Duncan increased his scoring and rebound numbers from a year ago while posting 22 double-doubles this season.

Outside of Parker, Stephen Jackson, Duncan and Ginobili, the Spurs are largely inexperienced, with an average roster age of 26.9.

Once again as the top seed in the west, the Spurs are looking to avenge their first round knockout, after becoming just the fourth No. 1 seed in NBA history to lose in the opening round, at full strength.

With Ginobili revising his role off the bench, Duncan adjusting to becoming a secondary offensive option and Parker playing at an MVP level, San Antonio is as dangerous as ever.

Utah Jazz at San Antonio Spurs

Season Series: 3-1 San Antonio

Game 1: Sunday 1 p.m. ET on

Key for Utah

The Jazz surrendered 99 points per game this season, the highest total of any playoff team. In its three losses to the Spurs, Utah allowed 108 points per game and in its lone win, the Jazz held San Antonio to just 84 points. The Jazz need to slow down the pace and try and dominate the post with its huge front court.

Key for San Antonio

Defending in the post. Utah has Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter all playing significant minutes in the front court. Outside of Tim Duncan, San Antonio doesn’t have a dominant post defender. The Spurs need to push the tempo and try and force all of the Jazz big men into foul trouble.

Pivotal Match-up

Al Jefferson vs. Tim Duncan

In four meetings with San Antonio this season, Jefferson is averaging 18 points and 10.5 rebounds and has posted a double-double in each contest. Duncan has been one of the most dominant post defenders in league history and needs just 17 blocks to move past Robert Parish for fifth all-time in the post season.

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Dallas Mavericks at Oklahoma City Thunder

Season Series: 3-1 Oklahoma City

Game 1: Saturday 9:30 p.m. ET on

Key for Dallas

The Mavericks knocked off Oklahoma City last season en route to their first championship as Jason Kidd quietly put together a dominant Western Conference finals performance. Kidd averaged 9.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, 5.2 rebounds and 3.4 steals per game. The Thunder averaged a league-high 16.3 turnovers per game and Kidd needs to force the action for Dallas to continue its title defense.

Key for Oklahoma City

When Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are playing well, the Thunder are nearly unbeatable. If the duo struggles shooting the ball, like last Sunday against the Lakers, someone else needs to step up. James Harden has recovered from the vicious elbow he took in the loss to the Lakers and has to fill in if Durant and Westbrook are off.

Pivotal Match-up

Dirk Nowizki vs. Serge Ibaka

This match is simple Ibaka is a leading candidate for the Defensive Player of the Year, after swatting 241 shots, nearly double JaVale McGee’s, the second leading shot blocker in the league. Nowitzki needs to draw Ibaka out near the three-point line and away from the rim.

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Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Lakers

Season Series:

Game 1: Sunday 3:30 p.m. ET on

Key for Denver

No team is more complete offensively than Denver. The Nuggets led the league in scoring, averaging 104.1 points as seven different players averaged 10 or more points per game. Denver’s depth, especially with rookie Kenneth Faried off the bench, can challenge Los Angeles in the opening round.

Key for Los Angeles

Outside of Kobe Bryant last season, no player on Los Angeles averaged 15 points per game in the post season. Andrew Bynum was the only player to shoot over 50 percent from the field and the Lakers averaged just 93 points per game, over an eight point decrease from the regular season. The Lakers need to establish an offensive identity outside of Bryant.

Pivotal Match-up

Ty Lawson vs. Ramon Sessions

Los Angeles is still trying to figure out what role Sessions will fill on the team. He sat during the fourth quarter and overtimes during the Lakers epic comeback against the Thunder and has only totaled three double-digit assist performances since joining the team. Lawson should be able to slash to the rim, creating his own shots set up his teammates for easy chances.

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Los Angeles Clippers at Memphis Grizzlies

Season Series: 2-1 Los Angeles

Game 1: Sunday 9:30 p.m. ET on

Key for Los Angeles

No player has been able to thrive more in late game situations than Chris Paul. If his statistics in the final five minutes of games were stretched out to an entire contest, he would average 30.8 points, 6.7 assists and shoot 92 percent from the foul line. When the game is tight, Los Angeles is going to keep relying on its point guard.

Key for Memphis

The Grizzlies led the league by averaging 9.6 steals per game. Memphis thrives on creating pressure on the perimeter and forcing turnovers ( its defense averaged a league-high 17.1 per game) but the Clippers committed just 13.3 turnovers per game, second fewest in the league. If the Grizzlies can force Los Angeles into mistakes, they should advance.

Pivotal Match-up

Blake Griffin vs. Zach Randolph

Griffin has regressed during his sophomore season. Both his scoring and rebounding averages are down while his free throw shooting has slipped to an abysmal 52.1 percent, a steep decrease from his rookie year. A strong showing in the post season can quickly shift perception. Randolph became a franchise player with a strong showing in the Grizzlies playoff run a year ago.

 

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About Brendan Galella

Brendan Galella founded Shatter the Glass to make the NBA even more accessible to basketball fans. Composing player rankings, team evaluations and intriguing observations, he hopes to turn every reader into a dedicated and educated basketball follower.
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