Apr 21, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) is met by his teammates during an interview with tv after defeating the New Orleans Pelicans in game one of the first round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Paycom Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Western Conference Remains a Tight Race

When the NBA regular season ended, five teams finished with a win percentage over .600 in the Western Conference. The East had two. Ten teams finished 10 or more games over .500. The East had eight. Combined, the 10 teams to make the postseason/play-in in the West had 81 more wins than the 10 in the east. The conference has been a constant battle of Goliaths all season long, and the playoffs have been no different.

In the seven first-round games that have been played in the Western Conference, three have ended in one-score games. Two have come from the 1st and 2nd seeds matchups. Despite your seed, your star power or what court you are on, each Western Conference game is up for grabs.

In With The New

So far, fans have witnessed some insane moments that will likely be talked about for years to come as the next generation of NBA stars battle against the old generation.

In the first game of the Suns vs Timberwolves series, Minnesota star Anthony Edwards gave basketball fans everywhere a show. Not only did Edwards lead the Wolves to a win with his 33 point-night, but he did it while consistently going at a 14-time NBA all-star, Kevin Durant. Yet, Edwards’ performance alone was not what set the NBA world ablaze. Rather, after hitting a three late into the 3rd quarter to build the Wolves lead, it was his celebration that will be placed into the NBA archives.

Another battle of old versus new has come from the matchup between the 4-seed Clippers and 5-seed Mavericks. It has been clear to most for a while now that Luka Doncic was already on his way to becoming one of the faces of the NBA. However, in the first game of the series, James Harden showed that “The Beard” is still a problem for defenses everywhere. In the Clippers game one win, Harden scored 28 points, shooting 6-11 from three. Along the way, he showed some Harden-magic fans have been seeing for years.

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In game two, Doncic would respond in a big way. Aided by some late Luka-magic, Dallas was able to even the series behind 32 points from their star guard, winning a tight 96-93 contest on the road.

Series Breakdown

As round one of the playoffs continue, the fight to stay alive will be a fun one to watch. Between the four Western Conference matchups, there is sure to be some competitive basketball.

Thunder Vs Pelicans

After a two-point win in game one, the one-seed Thunder look to jump out to an early two game lead against eight-seed New Orleans. Despite an injury to one of their better players, Zion Williamson, the Pelicans were near minutes away from getting a series lead in game one. With just one minute and fifty-seven seconds left in the game, ESPN analytics gave them an 84.6% chance to win. Yet, now down 0-1, New Orleans will need to find a way to stop OKC’s budding star, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and the rest of the youth filled Thunder roster if they want to advance for the first time since 2018.

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Nuggets vs Lakers

The two seed vs seven seed matchup is actually a conference finals rematch from last year, as Lebron James and the Lakers look for a better result against the reining champion Nuggets this time around. Despite strong performances from Anthony Davis and James through two games, Denver has a commanding 2-0 lead, led by two-time MVP Nikola Jokic. LA will need to find a way to slow down Jokic if they want to find a different result from last year.

Timberwolves vs Suns

Looking to move past the first round for the first time since 2004, the 3-seed Minnesota Timberwolves have jumped out to a quick two-game lead on what was once thought to be a stacked Phoenix Suns team. The Wolves have looked dominant so far, winning both games by over 20-points. For the Suns, a big-three of Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal has not been enough to make the series competitive. Phoenix will look to find something at home and hopefully avoid an embarrassing round one exit.

Clippers vs Mavericks

The only series to see both teams win a game so far in the conference has been the battle between the four-seeded LA Clippers and the 5-seeded Dallas Mavericks. Tied at 1-1, both teams have seen great performances from their stars. The Clippers added a huge piece to their lineup with Kawhi Leonard returning from injury for game two but couldn’t extend their lead after Mavs star Luka Doncic caught fire.  Now headed to Dallas, the Mavs look to take advantage of playing on their home court and find their first lead of the series.

With so many powerful teams battling it out in the West, it is safe to say the rest of the playoffs will be must-watch basketball. From the battle of old vs new, to super-teams looking lost and conference-final rematches, any night could be a night to remember in the Western Conference playoffs.

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