2013 NBA Playoffs: Matchups Everyone Wants to See in Later Rounds
If you've been watching the 2013 NBA playoffs then you've probably already witnessed some incredible games. Those are just mediocre appetizers compared to some of the stellar main courses we'll get to enjoy as the number of remaining teams dwindles.
Want a rematch of last year's NBA Finals?
How about a few intracity rivalries?
Those will work too!
There's quite a bit of potential for exciting matchups as the elite teams continue to knock out their not-quite-as-elite counterparts. And if all goes according to plan, a few of these top projected series will turn from hypotheticals into realities.
Second Round: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Los Angeles Clippers
Nov. 21: Oklahoma City Thunder 117, Los Angeles Clippers 111 (OT)
Jan. 22: Oklahoma City Thunder 109, Los Angeles Clippers 97
Mar. 3: Oklahoma City Thunder 108, Los Angeles Clippers 104
Russell Westbrook's lateral meniscus tear has knocked him out of the postseason indefinitely, which as Kobe Bryant proved during the 2012-13 season means absolutely nothing. He could be out the rest of the year, or he could return within a two-week period.
We just don't know.
Even without the dynamic point guard suiting up though, this is still about as entertaining a second-round series as you could hope for.
The Oklahoma City Thunder may have swept the regular-season series but the games were still massively entertaining and the playing field would be a bit more level without Westbrook in the lineup.
Expect plenty of highlights with Durant going into takeover mode to counter Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford's offensive dominance.
Second Round: Miami Heat vs. Chicago Bulls
Jan. 4: Chicago Bulls 96, Miami Heat 89
Feb. 21: Miami Heat 86, Chicago Bulls 67
Mar. 27: Chicago Bulls 101, Miami Heat 97
Apr. 14: Miami Heat 105, Chicago Bulls 93
The Chicago Bulls managed to break the Miami Heat's 27-game stretch of undefeated basketball, but by doing so they really upset a certain LeBron James.
If you think that the mid-April contest was enough revenge for the Eastern Conference's top team then you're sorely mistaken. That was a regular-season game that had meaning solely because of the emotional involvement.
It did nearly nothing to heal the wound Tom Thibodeau's squad opened by ending the streak.
The Heat haven't exactly been tested in the postseason thus far, and the Bulls would certainly change that. Their hard-nosed defense is enough to give any offense fits.
Second Round: New York Knicks vs. Indiana Pacers
Nov. 18: New York Knicks 88, Indiana Pacers 76
Jan. 10: Indiana Pacers 81, New York Knicks 76
Feb. 20: Indiana Pacers 125, New York Knicks 91
Apr. 14: New York Knicks 90, Indiana Pacers 80
Can you imagine the intensity of this potential series?
The New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers aren't strangers to postseason matchups, even if it's been a while since they last squared off in a meaningful set of playoff games. Reggie Miller, Spike Lee and the rest of the individuals involved in the history between these two teams have ensured that this would be a physical, hard-fought series.
Additionally, the Knicks would be able to play after lifting the weight of advancing past the first round off their shoulders. That's something that hasn't happened in what feels like a century.
Could Paul George, Roy Hibbert, David West and George Hill corral a dynamic Knicks offense led by a bevy of three-point shooters and the unstoppable force known as Carmelo Anthony?
There are plenty of fans out there who would love to find out.
Conference Finals: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. San Antonio Spurs
Nov. 1: San Antonio Spurs 86, Oklahoma City Thunder 84
Dec. 17: Oklahoma City Thunder 107, San Antonio Spurs 93
Mar. 11: San Antonio Spurs 105, Oklahoma City Thunder 93
Apr. 4: Oklahoma City Thunder 100, San Antonio Spurs 88
The Oklahoma City Thunder may lose their claim to the top spot in the Western Conference without a certain player who loves aggressively dunking, but they'll never relinquish the grip over the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
Upsets are fun, but so is seeing the top two teams in the conference battle it out for the right to advance to the NBA Finals.
I thought the San Antonio Spurs might be a bit vulnerable due to their health issues going into the postseason, but those fears have been wiped away. Of course, the Los Angeles Lakers minus Kobe Bryant tend to do that for teams, but still...
Kevin Durant is tired of finishing second, and I'm sure Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili would love nothing more than to make sure that he and the Thunder finish even lower than that.
Something tells me that's not what Durant meant, though.
Conference Finals: Los Angeles Clippers vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Nov. 2: Los Angeles Clippers 105, Los Angeles Lakers 95
Jan. 4: Los Angeles Clippers 107, Los Angeles Lakers 102
Feb. 14: Los Angeles Clippers 125, Los Angeles Lakers 101
Apr. 7: Los Angeles Clippers 109, Los Angeles Lakers 95
For this series to happen the Los Angeles Lakers would have to do the impossible and fight back from a 3-0 deficit against the San Antonio Spurs. Without Kobe Bryant or Steve Nash let's give that about a 0.0001 percent chance of happening.
Add in the odds of the Lakers winning a second-round series and the Los Angeles Clippers beating both the Memphis Grizzlies and—most likely—the Oklahoma City Thunder. At this point you probably realize this matchup ain't happening.
But if it did!
The battle for supremacy in Tinseltown would be epic, with the home crowd holding less of an advantage than normal in each game.
The Clippers may have swept the regular-season series rather handily, and the same would probably be true in the playoffs. It's the sheer novelty of an intracity clash that earns a spot here.
Conference Finals: Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics
Oct. 30: Miami Heat 120, Boston Celtics 107
Jan. 27: Boston Celtics 100, Miami Heat 98 (OT)
Mar. 18: Miami Heat 105, Boston Celtics 103
Apr. 12: Miami Heat 109, Boston Celtics 101
The Miami Heat and Boston Celtics do not like each other. At all.
They didn't in the 2012 postseason and they certainly don't now after a number of intense regular-season games and the whole Ray Allen changing teams thing. Their first matchup of the season wasn't particularly close but the rest were intense.
On January 27 the Boston Celtics upset the Eastern Conference's top team without Rajon Rondo, who had gone down in the previous contest with a knee injury. After his stellar overtime performance, Paul Pierce learned that his star point guard was out for the year in this memorable interview.
Game 3 of the regular-season series was even more memorable, as the Heat kept their winning streak alive by overcoming a ridiculous 43-point performance from Jeff Green. In the final matchup, LeBron James sparked a 41-point second quarter and the rest was history.
There's bad blood between these two squads, which means the next chapter of their 2013 series would be filled with must-watch games.
Conference Finals: Miami Heat vs. Indiana Pacers
Jan. 8: Indiana Pacers 87, Miami Heat 77
Feb. 1: Indiana Pacers 102, Miami Heat 89
Mar. 10: Miami Heat 105, Indiana Pacers 91
Only two teams won their season series against the Miami Heat, and the Indiana Pacers are a member of that ultra-exclusive club.
Miami completely dominated Indiana on both ends of the court in the third matchup to establish themselves as the superior team down the stretch (if that needed validating) but Indiana did manage to win each of the first two meetings.
Paul George has the length to contain LeBron James, and Frank Vogel's stingy defense will always cool off the Heat a bit. Plus, Roy Hibbert has the size and skill to give Miami some frontcourt fits, unless Chris Andersen continues to play at such a remarkably high level.
See those point totals Miami produced throughout the year? On average, they're significantly lower than the 102.9 points per game the team scored during the regular season.
Miami might be able to sleepwalk through the first part of the playoffs, but the Heat will need to wake up for this battle.
Conference Finals: Miami Heat vs. New York Knicks
Nov. 2: New York Knicks 104, Miami Heat 84
Dec. 6: New York Knicks 112, Miami Heat 92
Mar. 3: Miami Heat 99, New York Knicks 93
Apr. 2: New York Knicks 102, Miami Heat 90
The Indiana Pacers may also have earned a winning record against the Miami Heat but the New York Knicks have the best resume when playing the defending champions. They were over .500 despite playing four games instead of just three.
Led by Tyson Chandler's brutal interior defense, the Knicks have been surprisingly effective at limiting the amount of damage Miami can do in the paint. As a result, they, like the Pacers, have held the Heat to much lower point totals than normal.
Carmelo Anthony has also seemed intent on catching fire against the Heat. He's only played in three of the four contests, but the league's newest scoring champion exploded for 30, 32 and 50 points in those games.
If there's an Eastern Conference team capable of ending Miami's reign atop the NBA it's the Knicks.
Conference Finals: Brooklyn Nets vs. New York Knicks
Nov. 26: Brooklyn Nets 96, New York Knicks 89 (OT)
Dec. 11: New York Knicks 100, Brooklyn Nets 97
Dec. 19: New York Knicks 100, Brooklyn Nets 86
Jan. 21: Brooklyn Nets 88, New York Knicks 85
It didn't take this rivalry long to make the transition from "burgeoning" to "legitimate."
The Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks are enemies by proximity and they sure seem motivated to beat each other handily whenever they take the court. In the first game of the series it took until overtime to decide a winner, and it wasn't until a Jason Kidd three-pointer with 24 seconds left in the second game that the Knicks could claim their own victory.
When these two teams met in the Big Apple during the regular season the atmosphere was eerily reminiscent of a playoff one.
Can you imagine what it would be like in the postseason? Madison Square Garden and the Barclays Center would need to fix the roofs after the crowds blow them off with all of the inevitable noise.
NBA Finals: Miami Heat vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Dec. 25: Miami Heat 103, Oklahoma City Thunder 97
Feb. 14: Miami Heat 110, Oklahoma City Thunder 100
The NBA Finals offer a number of intriguing possibilities.
I'd be entertained by any series including the Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers or New York Knicks. A battle between the suffocating defenses of the Memphis Grizzlies and Indiana Pacers would be legendary.
Any series including the San Antonio Spurs offers the chance to watch a coaching masterpiece.
However, while the options are plentiful, they all pale in comparison to a rematch of the 2012 NBA Finals. Watching the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat duke it out once more just trumps everything else, which is why we only need one slide for this stage of the postseason.
The Heat may have the Thunder's number, but nothing tops a clash between Kevin Durant and LeBron James. When the two best players in basketball have a chance to go head-to-head, especially since they'd likely spend a lot of time matching up against each other, there's plenty of potential for a historical event.
It feels like we've been working toward this series ever since the Heat and Boston Celtics first tipped off a day before Halloween.
David Stern would certainly love it if that work paid off, and NBA fans around the world wouldn't mind too much either.