As the regular season draws to a close, the 2013 NBA playoffs are shaping up to be another clash of the titans.
You'll be hard-pressed to find anyone who thinks anybody will topple the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference. On the other side, the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs will be the favorites. Seeing either team play the Heat in the NBA Finals would be great basketball.
First, though, they'll need to get past the first round. While there are some definite stinkers, there are some very intriguing potential early round matchups.
Although nothing can be set in stone quite yet, here are the dates for when each round of the NBA playoffs will tip off, courtesy of NBA.com. Following that are three of the most entertaining first-round series fans could see.
|April 20||First Round|
|May 6 or 7||Conference Semfinals|
|May 21 or 22||Conference Finals|
|June 4-6||NBA Finals|
Top Potential First-Round Matchups
No. 3 Denver Nuggets vs. No. 6 Houston Rockets
Here's to hoping you like plenty of offense. The Denver Nuggets and Houston Rockets are both averaging 105-plus points a game while surrendering 100-plus points. Should they meet in the playoffs, scoring will be in abundance.
With Danilo Gallinari out with injury, Denver won't have its second-leading scorer. The impact of the loss has been blunted by the play of Corey Brewer and Evan Fournier. The Nuggets should have no problems putting plenty of points on the board.
Then there are the Rockets. James Harden has ascended to a different level this season. There's no doubt now that he's got star-level talent and can lead a basketball team. With Harden at the forefront, Houston will be able to get up and down the court.
Should these two teams meet, this could very well be the series of the playoffs.
No. 4 Los Angeles Clippers vs. No. 5 Memphis Grizzlies
The Clippers and Grizzlies put on a dramatic seven-game series in the first round of the playoffs last year. Now Memphis and Los Angeles are on a crash course to meet again in the postseason.
The term rivalry is thrown around lightly at times, but these two teams seem to have a genuine dislike of each other—or at least whatever the modern approximation of dislike is. More playoff games would only serve to increase the animosity between the two teams and make the rivalry grow.
Unlike a potential Nuggets-Rockets series, you can count on defense being the prevailing factor should this matchup happen.
The Grizzlies are only giving up 89.4 points a game. They'll slow the game down and try to grind it out.
Most of the fun will come from watching Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan battle it out in the paint with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, while Chris Paul and Mike Conley go at it at the point.
No. 2 New York Knicks vs. No. 7 Boston Celtics
Do the Boston Celtics have one more playoff run left? Seemingly each year, since about 2009, people have been wondering if the Celtics were too old to make any noise in the postseason. Then they turn around and make the conference finals.
This year is a bit different. Boston has really showed its age this year. In addition, Rajon Rondo is out, and Jason Terry has never fully replaced Ray Allen.
With the trade rumors that swirled around Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, this could turn out to be the last best chance for the Celtics before they have to tear it up and start anew.