2014 NBA Playoff Matchups We Want to See the Most
For the players, the NBA playoffs are all about winning big. But as fans, we love the storylines slightly more than the end result.
To see the winner of the NBA Finals succeed on a game-winning jumper in the waning seconds of a Game 7 is far more exciting than, say, a four-game sweep. The postseason is sure to be filled with bitter rivalries and the intriguing narrative that is the NBA playoffs.
But for that to happen, certain teams need to go head-to-head to create those opportunities. As such, here are the 2014 NBA playoff matchups we're looking forward to seeing the most.
Not all of them will come to fruition, but here's to hoping they do.
Brooklyn Nets vs. Chicago Bulls
The Chicago Bulls went 2-1 over the Brooklyn Nets this season, but the importance of this matchup extends to last season.
It took seven games for the Bulls to knock off the Nets in the first round last season, the latter's first postseason appearance since relocating. Since then, both sides look like completely different teams with significantly new personnel and new identities.
Chicago, still without Derrick Rose, had the likes of Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli as key contributors. The emergence of Joakim Noah this season, both as arguably the best all-around center in the league and the Defensive Player of the Year, has given the Bulls a new player to build their identity around.
Taj Gibson, who is favored to win the Sixth Man of the Year award, has also developed into a physical force off the bench.
The Bulls have a different, but lesser, offensive identity, but can still win games through use of their terrific defense.
The Nets, who will be without center Brook Lopez (foot), have taken a small-ball approach under new head coach Jason Kidd. New additions Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett will look to fill in, but it could very well swing in Chicago's favor.
The Bulls limited Brooklyn to 83.3 points per game on 40.3 percent during the season. The Nets, who have shot 36.9 percent from long range thus far, managed to knock down only 28.8 percent of their three-point attempts in the three games.
Chicago isn't going to dominate offensively, but the group of hard-working, hustling and all-out effort Bulls will be smothering defensively. The rivalry that exists between these two teams is minor, but it's still a matchup that will be interesting to see.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. San Antonio Spurs
The Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs are very much what the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics were a few seasons ago.
A true mirror of old versus new, with budding superstars ready to take control of their respective teams' conference, but the experienced veterans won't give up so easily.
OKC's trio matches up well with that of the Spurs and won all four games against San Antonio this season. Two were single-digit wins, but the Thunder took care of business regardless.
The Spurs will be looking to make a second straight appearance to the NBA Finals, and it's likely these two teams will meet in the Western Conference Finals. It could truly go either way, but OKC has a slight edge given how the team's athleticism and speed seemingly disrupts the calculated approach to the game San Antonio has.
In any case, seeing the powerhouses of the Western Conference face off will be an exciting playoff series to watch. It doesn't make it any higher on the list though, given the lack of rivalry between the Thunder and the Spurs, and that also makes for a better matchup to anticipate.
Miami Heat vs. Chicago Bulls
The Miami Heat versus the Chicago Bulls. Need I say more?
I probably should, because a blank slide is useless considering the format of this article.
The Bulls were able to go 2-2 against the Heat in the regular season, becoming an absolute menace for Miami. It's hard to say whether Chicago or the Indiana Pacers are bigger rivals for the Heat, but both teams play a similar style that hampers Miami's success.
The Bulls roster is short of superstars, but they make up for it with giving 100 percent effort every game and having an intelligent head coach in Tom Thibodeau. Noah, Gibson and Jimmy Butler are all terrific defenders and hustle for every possession.
The Heat have the unquestionable upper hand given their trio of star players, but Chicago's defensive identity keeps the result from being certain. Few teams will knock Miami off in the playoffs, but the Bulls will be one team that comes close.
LeBron James shot just 39.2 percent during the season against Chicago, averaging 18.3 points. No other team in the NBA held him to a lesser scoring average, although the Spurs came close at 18.5 points.
The Heat averaged 93.8 points on only 43.7 percent as a team, with the Bulls going for 94.0 points on 42.4 percent shooting.
Chicago's roster pales in comparison to Miami's, but remains competitive to a fault. Of all the teams in the East, the Bulls are one of the few you can be sure are hoping to face the Heat.
Miami, given the season series, probably won't want to see Chicago, but they might, given the postseason seeding and how it plays out. It won't be as exciting as a Los Angeles Clippers-Golden State Warriors matchup, but it's sure to be highly anticipated given the rivalry and ramifications surrounding it.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Houston Rockets
This slide probably could have just been listed as "Russell Westbrook vs. Patrick Beverley", but luckily there's a little more substance to this matchup.
The true driving factor behind it is the aforesaid matchup at point guard, as Beverley prematurely ended Westbrook's season last year in the playoffs. They also got into it this season, with Beverley making the same play on the ball that resulted in the injury last year.
Dwight Howard, who was signed to make the Rockets a championship contender, was an absolute non-factor in the regular season against OKC.
Howard averaged 9.7 points (34.2 percent) and 9.0 rebounds in 29.3 minutes in addition to 1.6 blocks and 4.0 personal fouls per game. Seeing him go against Serge Ibaka and/or Kendrick Perkins will make for an intriguing matchup on the low block. It will be one that is pivotal, as Harden cannot carry the Rockets on his own.
Kevin Durant averaged 34.8 points per game as he led his team to a 3-1 record over Houston. The Thunder have a clear advantage on both sides of the ball, but the Westbrook-Beverley spat and the rivalry created by Harden's move to Houston will make this playoff series a hopeful one to transpire.
Indiana Pacers vs. Miami Heat
Even if the Eastern Conference was stronger, the matchup between Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers would still be highly anticipated.
These squads have dealt out a fair share of blows to each other and match up very well at every position. LeBron James and Paul George, Dwyane Wade and Lance Stephenson, Chris Bosh and Roy Hibbert. Pick one.
The Pacers have struggled as of late, but still remain a favorite to knock the Heat off in the playoffs. That comes largely from the lack of competition in the East, but also from what Indiana can do on the defensive end.
Much like the Bulls, the Pacers get under Miami's skin and are quite skilled at disrupting what the Heat like to do on offense. LeBron and Wade still averaged 28.8 points and 21.3 points, respectively, in the season series, but Indiana locked up on the perimeter.
Bosh shot just 42.9 percent from the floor, with Miami converting just 27.3 percent of its long-range attempts. The Heat thoroughly enjoy spacing the floor to create driving lanes, but find it difficult against the Pacers.
For Indiana, their entire team seems to have that edge to be instigators. Despite the 98-86 defeat on Apr. 11, the Pacers are still 2-2 against Miami during the season.
Whether it's George, Stephenson, Hibbert or David West, any player can pick up the slack and be a matchup problem for the Heat. Indiana has struggled lately, but that shouldn't discount what this matchup can mean in the postseason.
It'll be one of intense physicality and defense, and there's sure to be a bout of trash talk or two. It's likely both teams appear in the Eastern Conference Finals, just like last season, and the end result is still up in the air.
If you take last season's series as an example, this season's shouldn't be any different. Perfect.
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Philadelphia 76ers
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Pretty Much Anyone
Let's face it: The Los Angeles Clippers have become the Western Conference version of the Miami Heat. They're a team that everyone loves to hate, they're stacked at every position and they play a very, very attractive and exciting brand of basketball.
Having said that, they've managed to get under the skin of quite a few teams in the NBA.
Golden State Warriors
Matching up well at almost every position, these teams went 2-2 during the season. There's been a few notable incidents between players, such as:
- Andrew Bogut and Blake Griffin get into it
- DeAndre Jordan and Bogut get into it
- Warriors head coach Mark Jackson and Griffin get into it
- Chris Paul, Bogut and both teams get into it
- Griffin and Jermaine O'Neal share words in the hallway of Staples Center
Aside from all the player incidents, both the Clippers and the Warriors play at a fast pace, ranking sixth and seventh in the NBA, respectively. That leads to some terrific offensive highlights, with far too many players to name chipping in.
Both sides are solid defensively and match up well, making for a playoff series that is sure to inspire physical confrontations and superb highlights. There's definitely some rivalry thrown in there for good measure, which is just icing on the cake.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Much like the Warriors-Clippers matchup, seeing the offensive brilliance of the Thunder and the Clips go head-to-head would be spectacular. Both sides have their fair share of talent in addition to matching up well on both ends.
There also exists the framework for it to get physical, with guys like Durant and Matt Barnes, Paul and Westbrook, Perkins and Jordan and Griffin and Serge Ibaka.
OKC and LA can both play a physical brand of basketball, which only adds fuel to the fire. Throw in a few logs of offensive talent, like Durant, Westbrook, Paul, Griffin and Jamal Crawford, and now you're looking at a bonfire of factors that play into this matchup.
The Thunder and the Clippers went 2-2 during the season, with Durant and Westbrook averaging 32.5 points and 18.5 points, respectively. LA's Griffin, Crawford and Paul averaged 24.8 points, 24.7 points and 18.5 points, respectively, with Paul adding 12.0 assists as well.
- Memphis Grizzlies
- San Antonio Spurs
- Houston Rockets
- Miami Heat