The 2012 regular season is coming to an exciting close, and the 2012 NBA Playoffs are right around the corner. The playoff matchups are anything but final, but we are beginning to get a clearer picture of who is in and who is out. Many of the championship contenders have a rooting interest in that process as well.
Whether it is the Oklahoma City Thunder, Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls or San Antonio Spurs, each of the top contenders has specific matchups that they want to avoid in the playoffs. They may be lesser teams, but these spoilers have significant matchup advantages over the best teams in the NBA.
While the Bulls have played well without him, Derrick Rose is still the key to this team’s championship hopes, especially against the best teams in the league. Now that the Bulls have guaranteed themselves the No. 1 seed in the East, we can narrow down the teams that they could face.
The New York Knicks are a team that comes to mind, especially with their new style of ball they play around Carmelo Anthony. They, like the Bulls, play more of a halfcourt offense, and a big series from Anthony could push the Knicks over the Bulls if New York's role players can outplay Chicago's.
The Indiana Pacers are another squad who could give the Bulls issues. They played the Bulls tough last season in the playoffs and are even better heading into this year’s playoffs. George Hill is one of the best defensive point guards in the league, and he ‘s good enough to slow down Rose. That gives the Pacers a real shot at spoiling Chicago’s playoff dreams.
San Antonio Spurs
The obvious choice here would be the Memphis Grizzlies, based on last year’s playoffs. It would also be the best choice. Memphis’ size down low creates havoc for the Spurs, who have become a team that relies on solid outside shooting and depth to win.
Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol murdered the Spurs down low last season, and now the Grizzlies have Rudy Gay back to also contend with. If the Spurs have to face this Memphis team, which has gotten even better, again in the postseason, the results could be the same.
It is tough to say which teams would really give the Heat a hard time when the Heat are on their A game. They are one of the most athletic teams in the league as they should be, with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the roster.
However, the Boston Celtics do come to mind. A hard-nosed defensive unit, the Boston is just the type of veteran team that could send Miami home early. Kevin Garnett may not be the player he once was, but he is still one of the best low-post defenders in the game. Paul Pierce has shown a knack for scoring on James, and Rajon Rondo can easily outplay anyone the Heat has at point guard.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder are a young, extremely talented squad, but it does have its own bad playoff matchups as well. The Grizzlies come to mind as a balanced team that can test the Thunder both on the perimeter and down low. Last year, it took seven games for the Thunder to dispatch Memphis. This year, OKC may not be that lucky.
The Houston Rockets are actually the next worst matchup. Right now Houston is out of the playoffs, but if they were to sneak their way back in, Oklahoma City would want to avoid them.
Houston always plays the Thunder tough and wins those games more often than you’d realize. The strong point guard play from Goran Dragic, the low-post game of Luis Scola and the role players on that team have given the Thunder fits this season.
Each of these contenders would like to avoid these teams in the first couple rounds. But if they can’t, look out. We may have a few huge upsets on our hands.