NBA Playoffs 2013: Western Conference Favorites Post-Westbrook Injury
The Oklahoma City Thunder were the favorites to come out of the Western Conference in the NBA playoffs, but a devastating injury to point guard Russell Westbrook will make things more difficult.
According to CNN's Rachel Nichols, Westbrook underwent surgery and will be out indefinitely.
Wow. OKC Thunder's Russell Westbrook undergoing surgery to repair meniscus tear in right knee. No timetable for return— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) April 26, 2013
It's a big blow for the reigning Western Conference champions, but they still have Kevin Durant.
The Miami Heat look unstoppable in the Eastern Conference, and they are the overwhelming favorites to repeat as champions.
With the big news coming out about Westbrook, who are the favorites in the Western Conference?
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs could benefit the most from this injury. They are already playing a Kobe-less Lakers team, and now they may not have to face the Thunder—with or without Westbrook.
Nobody knows how long the Thunder point guard will be out, but this could be the Spurs' best chance for one last title run.
Tony Parker is playing at a high level right now. He has averaged 23 points and over seven assists per game in the first round. He is the key to the team's success, and the Spurs are tough to beat when he is playing so well.
Tim Duncan hasn't lost a step, and he will continue to be a force in the playoffs. He is averaging 16.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and two steals per game.
San Antonio is extremely talented. With Manu Ginobili coming off the bench, the Spurs have a weapon to use at their disposal. Danny Green shot 43 percent from three-point range this season, and he often gets overlooked.
Both Denver and Golden State lost key players recently, which bodes well for the Spurs. The Nuggets lost Danilo Gallinari to an ACL injury, and the Warriors lost David Lee to a hip injury. The winner of that series will likely face San Antonio, so they continue to luck out.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers jumped out to 2-0 lead in the series against the Memphis Grizzlies, but they dropped the third game on Friday (game recap via ESPN.com).
Superstar Chris Paul averaged 23.5 points per game in the two wins, but he struggled while going 4-of-11 from the floor for eight points on Friday. Los Angeles will go as far as Paul takes it.
The point guard has averaged six assists per game, but he needs to put up points in order for the Clippers to advance. He's one of the best players in the league, and he needs to take over on the court.
Oklahoma City, should they advance, could get the Clippers in the next round. A matchup of Westbrook against Paul would have been entertaining, but Paul will be able to dominate at the point in that series.
Getting past Memphis will still be a challenge. The Grizzlies are a good defensive team, and they will give Clippers trouble down low.
If they can survive and advance, the Clippers will have a chance to knock off the Thunder.
Oklahoma City Thunder
A guy named Kevin Durant still plays for the Thunder, right?
It will be a lot tougher without Westbrook, but don't doubt the three-time scoring champ.
How far will the Thunder go in the NBA playoffs?
Houston was winning when Westbrook was injured, but the Thunder found a way to take control and hold on. The point guard played most of the game, but it showed the Thunder are a complete team.
Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins are good players down low, which will help Durant. Those two players have the skills to take on Blake Griffin or Marc Gasol.
The Rockets have played the Thunder close so far, and they could make a comeback in this series. Oklahoma City was the clear favorite before the injury, so they should still get some recognition because they still have an elite scorer.
If the Thunder make it to the Western Conference finals and play San Antonio without Westbrook, the Spurs will be favored. Durant has a chance to show the world that he can carry a team in the playoffs.
*All stats are from ESPN.com
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