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NBA's Western Conference becoming a 'dogfight'

By Eddie Leonard
On February 12, 2014

The six best teams in the Western Conference are going to have a dogfight on their hands in April. Each team has a chance of advancing to the finals, regardless of their current seed. Records can be deceiving because matchups are everything in basketball. Take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the top teams in the Western Conference.
   Thunder- Keys to Success- Kevin Durant not deferring the basketball to other players on his team when he is hot. The Thunder also need their perimeter players - Derrick Fisher and Jeremy Lamb - to knock down shots when Westbrook or Durant drives in order to spread the floor. Vulnerable- The Thunder is human when the leadership role between Westbrook and Durant is uncertain. They need Durant to continue being the alpha dog he has been recently.
  Spurs- Keys to Success- Distributing the basketball and spreading the floor. The Spurs are second in the league in assists because they have so many weapons that can score. Tim Duncan will have to shut down Aldridge and Griffin if they want to advance. Vulnerable- Rebounding and injuries are the two things that work against the Spurs every night. They are 22nd in the league in rebounding and they almost never have a completely healthy lineup during the regular season. 

Trailblazers- Keys to Success- Portland is the best rebounding and scoring team in the league. They have a dynamic forward in Aldridge that provides excellent post presence. They also have lethal three-point shooters that keep the defense honest. Vulnerable- Portland gives up 103.4 points per game. That is 26th in the NBA. If you want to beat Portland, you have to beat them in a shoot out.
  Clippers- Keys to Success- The transition game is a huge part of the Clipper offense due to the great court awareness of Chris Paul and his high-flying big men, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. The Clips also love to score the ball. They are second in the league in scoring at 106.7 points per game. Vulnerable- When the game slows down in the post season the Clippers are a below average half court offense. There are not many alley-oops in the half court game. That is where Doc Rivers comes into the picture with his great play-calling skills.
  Houston- Keys to Success- Rebounding the basketball and shooting perimeter shots are huge parts of the Rocket offense. The Rockets score the ball efficiently when Harden and Howard can dish the ball out to Chandler Parsons, who shoots almost .40 percent from downtown. Vulnerable- Unlike the Spurs, the Rockets struggle with distributing the ball. They rely way too much on the pick and roll game between Howard and Harden. Houston only averages 20 assists a game, which puts them at 24th in the league. 

Warriors- Keys to Success- The Warriors are a great rebounding team this year with the Lee and Bogut combination in the post. They both average about 10 rebounds a game which helps create second chance opportunities for Curry and Thompson. Vulnerable- The Warriors are vulnerable if they cannot shoot you out of the building. If an opponent can prevent the second chance points and not allow Curry and Thompson to get free around screens, then they stand a good chance against Golden State. 

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