Apr 19 2013 3:48PM

2013 NBA Playoffs: Western Conference First Round Preview

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER vs. HOUSTON ROCKETS

The pace wil be fast and furious when Thunder meets Rockets in Round 1. How fast?, you ask. Try 107 possessions per game. At least, that was the standard the two up-tempo squads set in their three games this season. You would think that style of play favors Houston, who led the league with a 99 possessions-per-game average (OKC was ninth at 96), although the Thunder won two of the three games at that pace. Frankly, it'll be tough for Houston to win two or more games off the Thunder, no matter how fast they play. One thing they can do: outsmart OKC. Nobody shoots from efficient zones better than Houston, who owns a 73-to-56 percent advantage over OKC in that department.

PREDICTION: THUNDER IN 5. Links for closer look Thunder & Rockets.

#1 THUNDER

C Kendrick Perkins -1.29 (+403)

F Serge Ibaka +3.50 (+489)

F Kevin Durant +7.63 (+715)

G Thabo Sefolosha +0.72 (+503)

G Russell Westbrook +3.77 (+629)

G Kevin Martin -0.26 (+439), F Nick Collison -0.48 (+367), G Reggie Jackson -3.13* (+105), G Derek Fisher -3.94* (+65), C Hasheem Thabeet +0.59* (+139)

#8 ROCKETS

C Omer Asik +1.96 (+288)

C Greg Smith +0.58 (+117)

F Chandler Parsons +0.49 (+149)

G James Harden +5.55 (+195)

G Jeremy Lin +0.79 (+131)

G Carlos Delfino -0.49 (+246), F Donatas Motiejunas -4.10* (+40), G Patrick Beverley +1.86* (+123), F Francisco Garcia -1.16 (-53), F Terrence Jones +2.07* (-4)

Layne Murdoch/NBAE/Getty Images
SAN ANTONIO SPURS vs. LOS ANGELES LAKERS

It is one thing for the Lakers to get their offense in gear following the loss of Kobe Bryant to Achilles surgery Saturday. After all, they still field a team that features six men who started for various teams last year, and three who averaged 17-plus points per game. But in order to beat San Antonio, L.A. is going to have to put together a series where they contain the Spurs' vaunted pick-and-roll, pick-and-roll, pick-and-roll-again offense a.k.a. The System. This isn't a challenge for the weak-minded, so the Lakers better start communicating on the reg because if not, Tony and Manu will make the late help-side defender look silly.

PREDICTION: SPURS IN 5. Click links for closer look at Spurs & Lakers.

#2 SPURS

C Tim Duncan +6.65 (+457)

C Tiago Splitter +2.78 (+378)

F Kawhi Leonard +2.24 (+357)

G Danny Green +0.64 (+311)

G Tony Parker +2.23 (+448)

G Manu Ginobili +2.80 (+231), G Gary Neal -3.80 (+101), F Matt Bonner -2.03* (+78), F DeJuan Blair -1.37* (-21), F Tracy McGrady*

#7 LAKERS

C Dwight Howard +5.57 (+137)

C Pau Gasol +1.74 (+101)

F Metta World Peace +0.21 (+194)

G Jodie Meeks -1.95 (+55)

G Steve Nash +0.31 (+36)

G Steve Blake -0.81 (+29), F Antawn Jamison -0.58 (+16), F Earl Clark -0.23 (-82), G Darius Morris -4.91* (-15), G Andrew Goudelock -12.32*

Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images Sport
DENVER NUGGETS vs. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

Injured Kenneth Faried, bad foot and all, is the X factor here. If he is not able to run up and down the floor at normal speed, the Warriors will win this series. It was bad enough for Denver when it lost Danilo Gallinari to an ACL injury. Losing energizer Faried takes away their other power forward, leaving them either too small or playing ex-Warrior youngster Randolph when matched up with forwards Lee and Landry. The three-guard matchup is especially intriguing on both sides, with Denver having the craftier G's while Golden State has the drop-dead shooters.

PREDICTION: WARRIORS IN 7. More links for Nuggets & Warriors.

#3 NUGGETS

C Kosta Koufos +1.77 (+299)

F Wilson Chandler +0.12 (+177)

G Andre Iguodala +1.86 (+380)

G Andre Miller +0.21 (+209)

G Ty Lawson +1.44 (+285)

F Corey Brewer -0.83 (+149), F Kenneth Faried +2.84 (+219), C JaVale McGee +3.36 (+65), G Evan Fournier -3.05* (+59), F Anthony Randolph +0.38* (+4)

#6 WARRIORS

C Andrew Bogut +3.35* (+36)

F David Lee +1.61 (+178)

G Klay Thompson -1.16 (+110)

G Jarrett Jack -0.02 (+83)

G Stephen Curry +2.87 (+133)

F Harrison Barnes -2.37 (+50), F Carl Landry +0.31 (-12), C Festus Ezeli -0.93 (-52), F Draymond Green -2.75 (-79), F Richard Jefferson -2.92* (+13)

Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS vs. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES

I don't even treat this series as basketball. I just watch Blake and Z-Bo bang in the low post and pretend I'm watching WWE. The Grizz are known for their second-ranked defense, but also love to grind the ball to a snail's crawl. Lob City has more than obliged, playing at a 90-possession-pace in four head-to-head matchups this year, but unfortunately this takes away the Clippers' greatest strengths--athleticism and depth. The longer Memphis can play its five starters, the better odds the Grizz have of winning this hotly-contested series. Coach Vinny Del Negro needs to recognize and run, or he is in trouble.

PREDICTION: CLIPPERS IN 6. More links for Clippers & Grizzlies.

#4 CLIPPERS

C DeAndre Jordan +2.00 (+274)

F Blake Griffin +2.97 (+387)

F Matt Barnes +0.65 (+289)

G Jamal Crawford -0.96 (+364)

G Chris Paul +7.18 (+431)

F Caron Butler -2.61 (+251), G Chauncey Billups -0.59* (+46), F Lamar Odom +0.12 (+295), G Eric Bledsoe +1.35 (+125), C Ryan Hollins -2.08* (+58)

#5 GRIZZLIES

C Marc Gasol +3.76 (+432)

F Zach Randolph +0.57 (+294)

F Tayshaun Prince -2.11 (+215)

G Tony Allen -0.47 (+217)

G Mike Conley +2.49 (+505)

G Jerryd Bayless -2.00 (+6), F Quincy Pondexter -2.50 (+53), C Ed Davis +1.66 (+71), F Darrell Arthur -3.89* (-106), G Keyon Dooling -4.78* (-20)

Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images Sport

SOURCE: The Regularized Statistical Plus Minus numbers listed come from David Williams' You Have No Game website; numbers in parentheses are actual plus-minus totals on the season and come from Basketball-Reference; * denotes players that played 1000 minutes in 2012-13 season.