2014 NBA Playoffs: Matchups Everyone Wants to See in Later Rounds
Round 1 of the NBA playoffs has not disappointed. This is the best time of year for basketball fanatics everywhere, and up to this point, the matchups have lived up to the hype.
Then again, basketball fans shouldn't be satisfied, as there's plenty of action to come.
As the postseason continues, the competition will get stiffer. Everyone has their favorite teams, but when it comes to looking ahead, there are five possible matchups that call to us more than the rest.
A championship is on the line, and 16 teams are vying for a title. Unfortunately for some, the narratives simply don't support their appeal, which is why fans are hoping for specific outcomes every step of the way.
Round 2: Golden State Warriors vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Oklahoma City Thunder and the Golden State Warriors know how to put on a show. Not only did they combine for 210.5 points per contest in the regular season, but Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry (not to mention Russell Westbrook) can take over a contest at any given moment.
Offense is what most think of when these teams come to mind, but they've proven they're capable on defense as well. OKC finished the year fifth in defensive efficiency while the Warriors were third, according to ESPN.com.
So let's recap. Offense? Check. Defense? Check. Superstars? Check.
What else could you ask for? Do you want close games?
In the regular season, Oklahoma City won the series 2-1. Two games were decided by a single point, while the other ended 127-121 in OKC's favor.
It's been said once, but I'll say it again: These two know how to put on a show. This matchup would be good for fans across the league, since it would be beyond entertaining.
Round 2: Brooklyn Nets vs. Miami Heat
As much fun as it's been to watch the Toronto Raptors return to the postseason, fans are begging for a series between the Brooklyn Nets and Miami Heat.
In the regular season, Brooklyn had Miami's number. The team went 4-0 against the Heat, and three of those contests were decided by just a single point (the other went to overtime).
Brooklyn found success against Miami by forcing it to slow down the pace. That's the nature of playoff basketball, meaning all four regular-season contests acted as previews to this potential showdown.
If the Raptors go on to win Round 1, fans shouldn't fret. The athleticism of both Toronto and Miami would be on full display, and we'd have a No. 2-vs.-No. 3 matchup between a championship favorite and an underdog-turned-aggressor (yes, we're disregarding the Charlotte Bobcats at this point—sorry, guys).
Round 2: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Los Angeles Clippers
If you're craving a physical series, cross your fingers these two meet in Round 2.
The Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers have met in the last two postseasons, and it's been a war both times. As B/R's Zach Buckley put it during the 2013 playoffs, "Just like their 2012 version, this series has been as much about a clashing of basketball ability as it has been a test of wills."
Buckley's right; these two teams know how to irritate opponents (not to mention each other). They finished 2013-14 tied for defensive efficiency, per ESPN.com, and as shown in Buckley's piece above, Zach Randolph and Blake Griffin aren't afraid to scrap when necessary.
The only problem with this potential faceoff is that we'd have to say goodbye to the Oklahoma City Thunder and Golden State Warriors in Round 1. It's a significant price to pay as fans, but the sacrifice would result in a grind-it-out series between rival opponents—something any basketball fan can get behind.
Round 3: Miami Heat vs. Indiana Pacers
LeBron James versus Paul George. The Miami Heat versus the Indiana Pacers.
This is the matchup we've been waiting for all season, and it's the one we still want to see toward the end of the playoffs.
As we've learned during the second half of the year, the East isn't the two-horse race we once thought it was. In fact, you could argue on many different levels that this is no longer the best possible series in the conference finals.
That said, it would be a disappointment if it doesn't happen.
On the year, Indiana and Miami went 2-2. Unfortunately (for the chances of this series happening), the Atlanta Hawks are up two games to one on Indy in the first round of the postseason, as of April 25.
No offense to the Hawks, but they just don't have the same appeal as the Pacers on a league-wide level. Atlanta is playing well at this juncture, but it's Pacers-Heat people want.
Finals: Miami Heat vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Kevin Durant is sick of being No. 2. He made that clear with his quote on the cover of Sports Illustrated a year ago, per SI's Ben Golliver:
I’ve been second my whole life. I was the second-best player in high school. I was the second pick in the draft. I’ve been second in the MVP voting three times. I came in second in the Finals. I’m tired of being second. I’m not going to settle for that. I’m done with it.
Barring a complete shocker in the MVP race, Durant is about to knock one of those off his list. However, to be the best, you have to beat the best, and in this case, that means taking down the back-to-back champs in a 2012 finals rematch.
Out West, the favorites have to be the San Antonio Spurs. But while the Spurs have been the most consistent team all year, a San Antonio-Miami rematch lacks the same flair that's on display when Durant and LeBron James take the court.
This is a series fans will watch however they feel about the teams. These squads are polarizing, and when you put them together on the league's biggest stage, they get your attention—hate them or love them.