2014 Western Conference Playoff Preview

For all of the success Chris Paul has been able to achieve throughout his nine-year career, playoff success has proven to be elusive.

While he has been able to lead his team into the post season, Paul has been able to win a series just twice and has a career record of 16-24 in the playoffs. 

When Paul has been on the floor, he has won 59.4 percent of his regular season games, but that percentage has dipped to just 40 percent once the playoffs begin.

Clippers point guard Chris Paul once again lead the league in assist (10.7) and steal (2.5) averages per game, marking the third time in his career he accomplished the feat.

His averages are nearly the same, the seven-time All-Star is averaging 19.1 points and 9.9 assists during his career. In 40 career playoff appearances, has posted 20.9 points and 9.5 assists per game.

The problem may be Paul showing a tendency to shift from distributor into a primary scoring role.

During the 2012-13 regular season, the 6-foot guard led the league in assist percentage, accounting for 46.5 percent of the assists for the Clippers.

Once the playoffs began, that figure dropped to 33 percent.

His shot attempts increased by 1.3 per game once the post season began.

Part of the need for the increased shot attempts can be explained by the rotations growing shorter in the post season, but in Paul’s case, it was also out of necessity.

The Clippers often hid Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, the starting big men, in late game situations to avoid the opponent intentionally fouling them.

This season, Griffin has increased his free throw shooting to a career-high 71.5 percent and has enough of a low post game to remain on the floor in crunch time.

By having his All-Star power forward playing beside him, Paul is hoping to lead the Clippers to a deep run in the playoffs.

Dallas Mavericks vs. San Antonio Spurs

Season Series: San Antonio won 4-0

Game 1: Sunday 1 p.m. ET on

Key for Dallas

In four meetings with the Spurs, Dallas couldn’t provide any answers on defense, surrendering 449 points. The Mavericks have allowed their opponents to score 100 or more points 48 times during the regular season, including 12 of their last 14 contests. San Antonio has launched 97 shots from 3-point range against the Mavericks, connecting on 43.3 of their attempts.

Key for San Antonio

A fractured right hand forced Kahwi Leonard to miss 16 games this season, giving the Spurs an opportunity to prove just how valuable he is to the team. When Leonard has played this season, the Spurs have posted a 54-12 record. Leonard provides reliable 3-point shooting (37.9 percent), he ranked 10th in steals (1.7 per game) and can guard four positions on the floor. Two years ago, coach Gregg Popovich said Leonard will be the face of the organization and with him on the floor, San Antonio has nearly been unbeatable.

Pivotal Match-up

Dirk Nowitzki vs. Tim Duncan

The two power forwards have clashed in the post season on five occasions, with the Spurs winning three times. Nowitzki has experienced some struggles shooting against San Antonio, connecting on 44.5 percent of his career attempts, the lowest against a Western Conference opponent. Duncan has dominated against the Mavericks, posting his highest defensive rating against the Mavericks and swatting 116 shots in 59 career games against them.

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Memphis Grizzlies vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

Season Series: Oklahoma City won 3-1

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

Key for Memphis

When Marc Gasol is initiating the offense, the Grizzlies have been one of the most difficult teams to beat. Memphis has won each of the nine games he has dished out six or more assists. Both the Grizzlies and Thunder have averaged 21.9 assists per game this season, but the ball movement has been much more critical for Memphis as it averaged 10.1 fewer points per game.

Key for Oklahoma City

It doesn’t matter where Kevin Durant is launching a shot from, the ball seemingly always finds its way to the bottom of the net. There is no spot on the floor that ranks him as a below average shooter and with the ability to drive to the rim or pull up from anywhere beyond the half court line, Durant is going to find a way to score the ball. The only question is if his teammates can get some clean looks against the stingy Grizzlies defense.

Pivotal Match-up

Zach Randolph vs. Serge Ibaka

The Grizzlies are hoping Randolph can continue his success on the offensive glass. Randolph ranked sixth in the league with 265 offensive rebounds, helping him convert 46.7 percent of his attempts from the field. Only easy layups are going to be difficult to come by against Ibaka, as he is allowing his opponents to shoot just 43.9 percent at the rim while leading the NBA in total blocks for the fourth consecutive season.

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Golden State Warriors vs. Los Angeles Clippers

Season Series: Tied 2-2

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

Key for Golden State

The Warriors mortgaged their future to acquire Andre Iguodala specifically for an opponent like Los Angeles. While the 6-foot-6 forward may have posted a disappointing fantasy basketball season, averaging 9.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game, he helped mold Golden State into one of the top defensive teams in the league. In one season, the Warriors jumped from 14th to fourth in defensive efficiency and the team needs him to disrupt the most potent offensive attack in the league.

Key for Los Angeles

Fractured ribs will keep Golden State center Andrew Bogut out indefinitely, giving the Clippers a clear advantage up front. A hamstring injury forced David Lee to miss seven consecutive games late in the regular season, but the Warriors expect him to be ready for the series against Los Angeles. For the second consecutive season, Clippers center DeAndre Jordan led the league in field goal percentage, converting 67.6 percent of his attempts, but he also emerged as a rebounding force, collecting 13.6 per game, more than anyone else in the NBA.

Pivotal Match-up

Stephen Curry vs. Chris Paul

The Clippers serve as the team Curry has the most experience against during his career, playing 19 times and he has been able to fire from 3-point range at will. Curry is shooting 50 percent from 3-point range against Los Angeles and is connecting an average of three times a contest. While he has been able to connect from beyond the arc, Curry also has struggled keeping possession of the ball, tying Russell Westbrook for the league-lead with 3.8 assists per game. If Paul, the league leader in steals, is able to keep him in check, the Clippers should advance.

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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Houston Rockets

Season Series: Houston won 3-1

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

Key for Portland

A back injury forced LaMarcus Aldridge to miss seven games late in the season. When he returned, the Trail Blazers won nine of 10 games when he returned. Aldridge has the ability to draw Houston’s rim protectors away from the basket, opening up driving lanes for Damian Lillard. Aldridge posted 26.8 points per game in four meetings with the Rockets, and Portland is hoping he can continue to draw defenders around him, opening up the perimeter for its 3-point shooters.

Key for Houston 

Portland couldn’t figure out a solution to James Harden during the regular season. During the four meetings between the teams, Harden averaged 30.3 points on 48.8 percent shooting from the field and 45.5 percent shooting from 3-point range, along with 7.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists. Harden has scored 30 or more points in five of his last seven games to close out the regular season and will once again be the offensive catalyst for the Rockets.

Pivotal Match-up

Nicolas Batum vs. Chandler Parsons

Batum can be productive at the small forward position, he has logged 19 games with 10 or more rebounds, 11 games with 20 or more points and five games with 10 or more assists. Parsons had perhaps his most complete game of the year against Portland, totaling 31 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and two blocks on Jan. 20th.

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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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