Although one of the Western Conference games of the 2011 NBA Playoffs entered the books as the last game played on Saturday, the bulk of the first games in the West were scheduled for today. As can be seen on ESPN.com, the Sunday schedule begins with the San Antonio Spurs playing at home against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Unlike the Eastern Conference, there were no teams with losing or .500 records in the group. In fact, the Houston Rockets posted a winning regular season as well, but didn’t make the playoffs, finishing in ninth place (only the top eight ranked teams in each conference enter postseason play). The Western Conference not only boasted eight teams with winning records, they also could boast the tightest match-ups (in win-loss comparison). Only 15 games separated the Spurs from the Grizzlies at season’s end (while over in the East, the Bulls and the Pacers finished separated by 25 games).
San Antonio won home court advantage throughout the Western side of the NBA playoffs with their second-best record in the league. They held first place until the next-to-last game of the season, when the hard-charging Chicago Bulls won eighth game in a row to tie them, then tacked on a ninth to pass. The Spurs, who were completely in control of first place in the league with two weeks to go in regular season, dropped six of their last ten games, including their last two.
Regardless, the Spurs will be in the hunt for their fifth championship banner this season.
The Los Angeles Lakers, in the hunt for not only their 17th NBA championship but a third consecutive win in the NBA Finals, placed second in the West. They were one of only two teams in the Western Conference to enter the playoffs on a winning not, having won the last two games of regular season. The Lakers will take on the New Orleans Hornets, a team which enters postseason play on a three-game losing streak.
The third-seeded team in the West is the Dallas Mavericks, a team that had the same overall record as the Lakers, but were ranked lower due to their .500 in-division record (Los Angeles posted a 12-4 division record). The Mavericks posted four straight wins to tie the Lakers at season’s end, finishing two games up on the Oklahoma City Thunder. Dallas pulled a scheduled contest with the Portland Trailblazers.
The tightest match-up in the 2011 NBA Playoffs is series scheduled between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Denver Nuggets. Both teams won seven of their last ten games and are only separated by five wins (the Thunder have 55). However, three of the Thunder’s regular season wins came at the expense of the Nuggets.
2011 NBA Playoffs Round One First Game Schedule
Memphis Grizzlies vs. San Antonio Spurs, 1 p.m., TNT
New Orleans Hornets vs. Los Angeles Lakers, 3:30 p.m., ABC
New York Knicks vs. Boston Celtics, 7 p.m., TNT
Denver Nuggets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder, 9:30 p.m., TNT
“NBA Standings – 2010-11,” ESPN.go.com
“NBA Schedule – Apr 16, 2011 – Apr 22, 2011,” ESPN.go.com