As all of the Western Conference 1st Round matchups enter their respective Game 5's today and tomorrow, the vast majority of the matchups have proven to be incredibly competitive. Three of the matchups are already locked in for a guaranteed Game 6 and there is a good chance that at least one of the three will be headed for a Game 7.
Utah Jazz (1 Seed) vs Memphis Grizzlies (8 Seed)
Despite a Game 1 victory for the Grizzlies, this series appears to be over and will likely be wrapped up by the Jazz when they meet June 2nd for Game 5.
Ja Morant has been a FORCE during the first four games, posting an average of 31 points and 7.5 assists but it hasn't been enough to overcome the Jazz who have outscored, out-rebounded, out-blocked and out-shot the Grizzlies from three.
Prediction: Jazz in 5.
Should be a competitive end to the series, but I expect the Jazz to wrap this up with the added motivation of a few extra days rest.
LA Clippers (4 Seed) vs Dallas Mavericks (5 Seed)
Going into Game 5, the Clippers vs Mavericks series has been a Roller-coaster thus far with both teams winning the Away games back to back. The Mavericks were not able to capitalize on their momentum after winning Games 1 & 2 and now look to regain their edge in Game 5 in LA.
To this point, the series has been dominated by Kawhi Leonard and Luka Doncic who've nearly been mirror images on one another with both of them posting over 33 points and 8 rebounds a game.
Prediction: Mavericks in 7.
Despite Kahwi having played outstanding through the first four games of the series, the rest of the Clippers have not shown up consistently, whereas Luka is getting more from the rest of his team with four other players posting 10+ points a game. I expect Paul George to go off in Game 5 or Game 6, but will vanish in Game 7, giving Luka the space to put this series away.
Denver Nuggets (3 Seed) vs Portland Trailblazers (6 Seed)
In a series with massive offensive firepower on both sides, the first four games of Nuggets vs Blazers have come down to team defense and momentum gained from that defense. With the exception of Game 3, none of the games thus far have been close in the end as each team has fully controlled one of the games on their opponents home court.
To the surprise of no one, Damian Lillard and Nikola Jokic have been the driving forces for their respective teams. Both superstars have put up over 30 points a game, with Dame leading the series in assist and The Joker leading in rebounds.
Prediction: Trailblazers in 6.
This First Round series would look VERY different if Jamal Murray did not get sidelined for the remainder of the year. Looking forward, the Blazers appear to have too many ways to win with Lillard, McCollum and Nurkic all contributing, whereas Denver needs peak Jokic to elevate all the supporting cast. Portland has been selling out to stop the playmaking of Jokic and I expect that to continue and the Blazers to surprise everyone by winning in 6.
Phoenix Suns (2 Seed) vs LA Lakers (7 Seed)
The final remaining matchup has pit the surprising Suns against the Final Favorite Lakers, who struggled with LeBron and AD out during the regular season falling to the 7 Seed. The entire series to this point has come down to the Laker's suffocating defense and if Chris Paul and Devin Booker can overcome it enough to outpace the limited Lakers.
However, with the injury to AD during Game 4, the series that once looked to be over in five games now has an entirely different look. Will AD return by Game 6 and even if he's there, will he be able to make an impact. Will LeBron turn back the clock and will the Lakers to victory? Or, will Paul and Booker show why they're the 2 Seed and surprise everyone?
Prediction: Suns in 7.
The injury to AD will loom over the rest of the series, regardless of if he makes it back onto the court. Look for the Suns to exploit his expected absence in Game 5 to go up 3-2 in the series and hold off LeBron by winning one of the final two games.
*All images in post from NBA.com and Clutchpoints, respectively.