The NBA's Western Conference reigned supreme during the regular season, as the Eastern Conference couldn't even hold a candle to the depth of the opposing conference. Will its top team be able to overtake the top team of the West in the finals?
We'll just have to wait and see, won't we?
The 2014 NBA playoffs figure to be compelling, regardless of the disparity between conferences. Several big-name players are getting their first cracks at the playoffs, and other veterans are seeking redemption for early exits last season.
Here are the teams involved, as well as which teams will match up in Round 1:
There's really a lot to monitor. Below, you'll find a full first-round schedule, odds for each team involved and even some analysis to help you stay informed this playoff season.
|4/20||(8) Mavericks vs. (1) Spurs||12 p.m.||TNT|
|4/23||(8) Mavericks vs. (1) Spurs||7 p.m.||NBATV|
|4/26||(1) Spurs vs. (8) Mavericks||3:30 p.m.||TNT|
|4/28||(1) Spurs vs. (8) Mavericks||8:30 p.m.||TNT|
|4/30||(8) Mavericks vs. (1) Spurs||TBD||TBD|
|5/2||(1) Spurs vs. (8) Mavericks||TBD||TBD|
|5/4||(8) Mavericks vs. (1) Spurs||TBD||TBD|
|4/19||(7) Grizzlies vs. (2) Thunder||9:30 p.m,||ESPN|
|4/21||(7) Grizzlies vs. (2) Thunder||8 p.m.||TNT|
|4/24||(2) Thunder vs. Grizzlies||8 p.m.||TNT|
|4/26||(2) Thunder vs. Grizzlies||9:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|4/29||(7) Grizzlies vs. (2) Thunder||TBD||TBD|
|5/1||(2) Thunder vs. Grizzlies||TBD||TBD|
|5/3||(7) Grizzlies vs. (2) Thunder||TBD||TNT|
|4/19||(6) Warriors vs. (3) Clippers||3:30 p.m.||ABC|
|4/21||(6) Warriors vs. (3) Clippers||10:30 p.m.||TNT|
|4/24||(3) Clippers vs. (6) Warriors||10:30 p.m.||TNT|
|4/27||(3) Clippers vs. (6) Warriors||3:30 p.m.||ABC|
|4/29||(6) Warriors vs. (3) Clippers||TBD||TBD|
|5/1||(3) Clippers vs. (6) Warriors||TBD||TBD|
|5/3||(6) Warriors vs. (3) Clippers||TBD||TNT|
|4/20||(5) Trail Blazers vs. (4) Rockets||9:30 p.m.||TNT|
|4/23||(5) Trail Blazers vs. (4) Rockets||9:30 p.m.||TNT|
|4/25||(4) Rockets vs. (5) Trail Blazers||10:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|4/27||(4) Rockets vs. (5) Trail Blazers||9:30 p.m.||TNT|
|4/30||(5) Trail Blazers vs. (4) Rockets||TBD||TBD|
|5/2||(4) Rockets vs. (5) Trail Blazers||TBD||TBD|
|5/4||(5) Trail Blazers vs. (4) Rockets||TBD||TBD|
|4/19||(8) Hawks vs. (1) Pacers||7 p.m.||ESPN|
|4/22||(8) Hawks vs. (1) Pacers||7 p.m.||TNT|
|4/24||(1) Pacers vs. (8) Hawks||7 p.m.||NBATV|
|4/26||(1) Pacers vs. (8) Hawks||2 p.m.||TNT|
|4/28||(8) Hawks vs. (1) Pacers||8 p.m.||NBATV|
|5/1||(1) Pacers vs. (8) Hawks||TBD||TBD|
|5/3||(8) Hawks vs. (1) Pacers||TBD||TNT|
|4/20||(7) Bobcats vs. (2) Heat||3:30 p.m.||ABC|
|4/23||(7) Bobcats vs. (2) Heat||7 p.m.||TNT|
|4/26||(2) Heat vs. (7) Bobcats||7 p.m.||ESPN|
|4/28||(2) Heat vs. (7) Bobcats||7 p.m.||TNT|
|4/30||(7) Bobcats vs. (2) Heat||TBD||TBD|
|5/2||(2) Heat vs. (7) Bobcats||TBD||TBD|
|5/4||(7) Bobcats vs. (2) Heat||TBD||ABC|
|4/19||(6) Nets vs. (3) Raptors||12:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|4/22||(6) Nets vs. (3) Raptors||8 p.m.||NBATV|
|4/25||(3) Raptors vs. (6) Nets||7 p.m.||ESPN 2|
|4/27||(3) Raptors vs. (6) Nets||7 p.m.||TNT|
|4/30||(6) Nets vs. (3) Raptors||TBD||TBD|
|5/2||(3) Raptors vs. (6) Nets||TBD||TBD|
|5/4||(6) Nets vs. (3) Raptors||TBD||TBD|
|4/20||(5) Wizards vs. (4) Bulls||7 p.m.||TNT|
|4/22||(5) Wizards vs. (4) Bulls||9:30 p.m.||TNT|
|4/25||(4) Bulls vs. (5) Wizards||8 p.m.||ESPN|
|4/27||(4) Bulls vs. (5) Wizards||1 p.m.||ABC|
|4/29||(5) Wizards vs. (4) Bulls||TBD||TBD|
|5/1||(4) Bulls vs. (5) Wizards||TBD||TBD|
|5/3||(5) Wizards vs. (4) Bulls||TBD||TBD|
And here are the odds:
|San Antonio Spurs||3-1|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||19-5|
|Los Angeles Clippers||10-1|
|Portland Trail Blazers||50-1|
|Golden State Warriors||60-1|
Golden State vs. Los Angeles is Postseason's Must-Watch Series
The Round 1 series between the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers is quite literally the matchup to watch this postseason:
Clippers, Warriors to meet in playoffs for the 1st time. "As far as a series, it's a 10." http://t.co/GnMkr2NC3z— Antonio Gonzalez (@agonzalezAP) April 18, 2014
Both teams can light up the scoreboard with ease. Expect a lot of shoddy defense in this series, though not because of an inability to stay on defenders. The players controlling the ball are dynamic enough to make even the best defenders look silly.
Chris Ballard of SI.com says that the Clippers have the advantage because they will have the best player on the court in Chris Paul:
Just having Paul gives the Clippers a significant advantage in any playoff series. No point guard controls the game better, or plays with more fire. He creates matchup problems for the Warriors. Because Curry is below-average defensively, Golden State will have to either deploy Andre Iguodala or Klay Thompson for stretches against Paul or load the defense to stop him. This in turn creates more space for lobs to [Blake] Griffin and [DeAndre] Jordan. And Paul is the rare NBA player who can kill teams in the mid-range area once he gets through the first line of defense.
Seeing CP3 face off against Steph Curry in a potential seven-game series is reason enough to watch, but there are several other matchups that are also worth watching in this one.
Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan should be able to exact their will on Golden State's defense, especially considering that Andrew Bogut is out indefinitely. In his stead, David Lee, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, Jermaine O'Neal and Marreese Speights will all have to step up.
Not exactly a dominant group (outside of Lee, of course).
The potential for high-scoring contests makes this series one that you don't want to miss.
Don't Sleep on Houston
The Portland Trail Blazers are a formidable Round 1 opponent for the Houston Rockets given their inside-outside capabilities with Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge. That said, Houston's two superstars dominated the Blazers during the regular season.
James Harden averaged 30.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game, while Dwight Howard averaged 25.5 points and 13.5 rebounds per game against Portland. It didn't matter who was defending either star—both were simply dominant.
ESPN NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy knows that the Western Conference is a deep conference, but that didn't stop him from picking the Rockets to win both the conference and the NBA Finals, via Richard Deitsch of SI.com:
I'm going to pick the Western Conference winner and I'm sticking with Houston. That would mean that [the Rockets] would have to win three straight series on the road after [first-round opponent] Portland, which seems really difficult. I believe the Western Conference team will win it but you could also convince me about San Antonio, Oklahoma City and the [Los Angeles] Clippers as well. They are all really good.
To that I say, one step at a time.
Harden and Howard dominated Portland this year, but that doesn't make Houston a lock to advance. Aldridge and Lillard are stars in their own right, and Nicolas Batum is a budding star as well. The role players in Portland are very good. This won't be a swept series by either side.
I think Houston moves on and makes a run this postseason, but don't be too comfortable calling the Rockets the champs of the West just yet.
Look for San Antonio to Roll...Again
Houston's biggest competition in the West is the San Antonio Spurs. Honestly, that's not even something we should be remotely surprised about at this point.
Who ya got?
The Spurs will take on the Dallas Mavericks in Round 1, and fans will get to enjoy a veteran matchup between Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki. Neither is the force that he used to be, but when either team needs a shot in the clutch, look for the ball to run through these two players.
San Antonio locked up the top seed in the West after going 62-20 this season. Head coach Gregg Popovich completed yet another stellar campaign at the helm of this team in 2013-14, and he'll look for vengeance after losing to the Miami Heat in the 2013 NBA Finals.
The core hasn't changed, and the team has only improved since last year, so I like the Spurs' chances to contend for the title.