The 2014 NBA regular season was a wild journey, but the road to a championship is only getting started for the 16 teams that made the playoffs this year.
With powerhouses like the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs dominating their competition, as well as unheralded teams like the Charlotte Bobcats and Memphis Grizzlies getting their chance to shine, the postseason promises to be a thrilling ride to the NBA title.
Here are the likely first-round matchups in each conference along with the odds of winning a championship for each team. This article also features a preview of the best potential first-round matchup.
For a printable 2014 NBA playoffs bracket, check out NBAPlayoffsBracket.com.
|Home Team||Record||Away Team||Record|
|No. 1 Indiana Pacers||55-26||vs.||No. 8 Atlanta Hawks||37-44|
|No. 2 Miami Heat||54-27||vs.||No. 7 Charlotte Bobcats||42-39|
|No. 3 Toronto Raptors||48-33||vs.||No. 6 Washington Wizards||43-38|
|No. 4 Chicago Bulls||48-33||vs.||No. 5 Brooklyn Nets||44-37|
|Home Team||Record||Away Team||Record|
|No. 1 San Antonio Spurs||62-19||vs.||No. 8 Memphis Grizzlies||49-32|
|No. 2 Oklahoma City Thunder||58-23||vs.||No. 7 Dallas Mavericks||49-32|
|No. 3 Los Angeles Clippers||57-24||vs.||No. 6 Golden State Warriors||50-31|
|No. 4 Houston Rockets||54-27||vs.||No. 5 Portland Trail Blazers||53-28)|
|Teams||Odds to Win NBA Title|
|San Antonio Spurs||+300|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||+400|
|Los Angeles Clippers||+900|
|Golden State Warriors||+2800|
|Portland Trail Blazers||+4000|
Best First-Round Matchup: Chicago Bulls vs. Brooklyn Nets
If the No. 4 seed Chicago Bulls (48-33) square off against the No. 5 seed Brooklyn Nets (44-37) in the first round of the playoffs, this will undoubtedly be the best battle of the opening round.
Unfortunately for fans, this series may not come to fruition if Brooklyn sits its players during Wednesday’s final regular season game in order to avoid Chicago.
According to Brian Windhorst of ESPN, this may have been the Nets’ plan all along:
Heat shut down to get No. 2 seed & now Nets putting No. 6 in play by maybe sitting 6 rotation players. Talk about respect for the Raptors— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) April 15, 2014
Brooklyn has plenty of veteran players who have been down this road before. Since the franchise is already locked into the postseason, trying to avoid a perennial powerhouse like the Bulls shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone.
Despite the intensity that would envelop this potential first-round series, Bulls forward Taj Gibson told Nick Friedell of ESPN Chicago about the Bulls’ mindset regarding the last game of the season and its unwavering focus:
We really can't look forward to the future. You've got to look at who's in front of you. Because any kind of little thing teams can feed off of, they'll use it against you. We don't want to give anybody any kind of extra confidence, any kind of extra juices. We're just focused on ourselves, just getting ready to play some tough-nosed, (rugged) basketball. We understand the stakes. We understand what it's about.
The Bulls struggled mightily in the offensive zone throughout the season (currently ranked 30th with an average of 93.8 points per game), but they were absolutely dominant in their own end, allowing the fewest points per game in the NBA (91.8).
With an unmatched tenacity and will to win, the lack of Derrick Rose in the lineup has forced Chicago to come together as a unit and play for a common cause. The result has been one of the strongest defensive teams in years.
If this series comes to fruition, who ya got?
No wonder Brooklyn wants to avoid the Bulls.
The Nets have a very strong team that can do serious damage in the postseason. With a defense ranked ninth in the league (allowing 99.3 points per game), there is no doubt that the potential matchup against Chicago would be a physical battle.
Brooklyn can score in bunches when the team finds a rhythm, but the ferocity in the defensive zone from both teams will result in a low-scoring series with plenty of animosity. If these two teams square off, there will be bad blood.
With the potential to go seven games, this series will be must-watch TV.
Series Prediction: Chicago wins 4-3
All stats courtesy of NBA.com.