Four glorious rounds of do-or-die basketball sit before NBA fans, as the best players in the world lace it up for the playoffs with one goal in mind—the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
The NBA let everyone know what the entire first-round playoff picture looked like after the seeding was officially set Wednesday:
Here is a glance at some of the key dates to keep in mind throughout the postseason:
- April 19: 2014 NBA playoffs begin.
- May 5: Conference semifinals begin (possible move up to May 3 or 4).
- May 20: Conference finals begin (possible move up to May 18 or 19).
- June 5: The NBA Finals begin.
The nation becomes obsessed with brackets every March during the NCAA tournament, but one look at the first-round showdowns and potential matchups in the NBA playoffs brings a number of enticing possibilities to mind.
We could have a Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets clash in the second round, Chris Paul and Kevin Durant going head-to-head for the right to play the San Antonio Spurs and an intradivision battle of wills between the Chicago Bulls and the Indiana Pacers.
With that in mind, let’s take a walk down the hypothetical road and look at some ideal matchups in each round of the NBA playoffs.
First Round’s Most Intriguing Matchups
Memphis Grizzlies vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Memphis Grizzlies have played with a playoff mindset for the past two months and barely made it to the postseason by winning their final five games.
They have the third-best defense in the league if we go by the points-allowed-per-game metric, and their physical brand of basketball will challenge Durant and Russell Westbrook. Don’t be surprised if this is a longer series than expected.
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Golden State Warriors
The offensive firepower in this series is what makes it so intriguing.
Paul and Blake Griffin will get out in transition throughout the duration for the Clippers, but the Warriors will look to answer with a barrage of three-pointers from Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala.
Houston Rockets vs. Portland Trail Blazers
Dwight Howard against LaMarcus Aldridge down low and James Harden against Damian Lillard on the outside will be enough to pique the curiosity of even the most casual NBA fans. This one could very well go seven.
Toronto Raptors vs. Brooklyn Nets
The Toronto Raptors may be the least discussed No. 3 seed in the history of the playoffs, and they will get a chance to prove their mettle against Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and the battle-tested Brooklyn Nets.
Will experience triumph over Toronto’s talent?
Potential Second-Round Thrillers
Chicago Bulls vs. Indiana Pacers
If defense truly does win championships, this series could be a stalemate.
The Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers feature arguably the top two defenses in the Association, and scoring will come at a premium. Throw in the fact that they both come from the same division and want a shot at the hated Heat in the next round, and there will be plenty of intrigue in this showdown.
Miami Heat vs. Brooklyn Nets
The Nets swept the Heat in the regular season. Was it a fluke or a sign of a matchup problem for the defending champs?
Pierce and Garnett get another shot at The King, only this time they won’t be wearing green and Rajon Rondo won’t be on their side.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Los Angeles Clippers
Just thinking about the final few minutes of the fourth quarters in this potential series whets the appetite.
Westbrook and Paul going head-to-head from the point guard position will be a real treat, but Westbrook is the one who ultimately has the privilege of passing the ball to the probable MVP Durant.
Potential Conference Finals
Miami Heat vs. Indiana Pacers
The Pacers made it a point to earn home-court advantage all season long, and they finally get to see if it pays off in the Eastern Conference Finals.
We saw this movie last year, although the final scene took place in South Beach. This time around it will be in the nation’s heartland. Will it make a difference?
San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
The boring ol’ (and underappreciated) San Antonio Spurs do nothing but win. They fought through injuries and a potential NBA Finals hangover to earn top billing in the West, but mighty Durant will be waiting in the conference finals.
The Thunder won all four matchups during the regular season and will prove that it wasn’t a fluke on the game’s biggest stage.
Potential NBA Finals
Miami Heat vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
We may just have this generation’s version of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.
James got the best of Durant the last time the two superstars met in the NBA Finals, but Durant has been in a different stratosphere this season. Chances are, both James and Durant would gladly give the other the MVP award for the championship trophy.
James seemed to concede the MVP already in comments that come via Michael Wallace of ESPN.com:
I think KD has had one heck of a season. And, you know, if he’s rewarded with the MVP, it would be great. It would be awesome for him, for his family. He’s played MVP-type basketball. I don’t really get caught up into what people say. At the end of the day, they have their own votes and they go from there.
Despite all the talk of the two main attractions, don’t be surprised if this series comes down to the Robins in the form of Westbrook and Dwyane Wade.
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