You don’t have to go very far to find an intriguing matchup in the 2013 NBA playoffs, and nothing is more appealing than an NBA Finals matchup with compelling storylines as well as the best players in the NBA pitted against each other.
The first round of action presented some interesting series and a few surprising upsets, but we’re sure to see plenty more in the coming rounds.
By the time the final pairing has been decided, the playoffs will have undoubtedly yielded the type of incredible basketball we’ve come to expect from the postseason.
It’s too early to predict which teams will represent their respective conference in the NBA Finals, but there are certainly some pairings that would produce compelling postseason basketball. Let’s take a look at four such matchups and break down why each would provide can’t-miss basketball.
Full playoff bracket can be found at ESPN.com.
4. Indiana Pacers vs. Memphis Grizzlies
Call me crazy, but there’s still something appealing about sound defensive basketball. Big point totals sell tickets, but they don’t always contribute to compelling contests.
Indiana and Memphis don’t score 100-plus points per night, but they do lead the league in fewest points allowed per game. The Pacers surrendered just 90.7 points per contest in the regular season (No. 2), while the Grizzlies locked it down at the defensive end all year in allowing just 89.3 points per game.
Neither roster is loaded with elite players or explosive scorers, but each squad has the defensive prowess and tenacity to hang with any team in the league. They’ve made it this far for a reason, and a finals matchup between the two teams would make for some enthralling basketball.
I may be in the minority on this one, but there’s certainly some appeal in the prospect of watching these teams square off.
3. San Antonio Spurs vs. Miami Heat
The old guard up against the new. The class of the West and the new face of the East. There may not be a more intriguing finals matchup this season.
Despite the effects of age taking its toll toward the end of the regular season, the Spurs overcame the adversity and crushed the Kobe Bryant-less Lakers in four games to open the playoffs. They have done exactly what we always expect them to do in the playoffs and they may not be faced with a true test until the NBA Finals.
Miami will be the team to present that test. As well as New York and Indiana have played thus far, the Heat are the only team with enough pure talent to take down the vaunted Spurs in a seven-game series.
If parity is the key to compelling playoff basketball, this is the matchup that would define a tremendous postseason.
2. New York Knicks vs. Golden State Warriors
The Knicks are extremely inconsistent at the offensive end, but when Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith are hot, there isn’t a team in the league that can shut them down.
No one has been hotter than Steph Curry this postseason, however. Arguably the best shooter in the NBA, Curry has guided the Warriors through the playoffs with a three-point shot that can’t be defended and a scoring average that can’t be explained.
Curry’s 27.1 points per game in the playoffs have announced his true arrival to superstardom. As long as the 25-year-old keeps filling the bucket, Golden State will be the team to watch in the second round.
In a series that would feature two of the league’s best scorers and the potential for a ton of offense, the Warriors and Knicks would offer some of the most exciting playoff basketball we’ve seen this year.
1. Miami Heat vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
There was a time when people questioned whether Kevin Durant could overtake LeBron James as the preeminent superstar of the NBA. While Durant has done his part to claim the throne, James has made it impossible for anyone else to assume the role of best player on the planet.
James’ near-unanimous MVP award encapsulates what he means to the NBA, and a matchup like this would highlight what it means to see the best players face off head-to-head.
Fans were left unsatisfied after last year’s finals matchup that saw Miami triumph in five games, and while Russell Westbrook’s absence may make even reaching the finals an uphill battle for the Thunder, there’s no denying the amount of intrigue that would surround a rematch.