The NBA postseason is off to an exciting start, and there are potential matchups in the finals that would help the playoffs reach an intense conclusion.
Last year's finals participants, the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat, are already through to the conference finals. Meanwhile, the other two series in the second round are headed toward a Game 6. The Indiana Pacers lead their series with the Washington Wizards 3-2, and the Oklahoma City Thunder lead the Los Angeles Clippers in that series 3-2.
Let's just think past the conference finals for a moment and discuss which matchups would provide for the most thrilling finals.
No. 1: Miami Heat vs. Los Angeles Clippers
Granted, considering the Clippers trail the Thunder 3-2, this series is a bit of a long shot, but it would definitely be exciting.
Sure, the Heat would be big favorites in this series, and they won both times the two met in the regular season.
On Nov. 7, the Heat beat the Clippers 102-97 in Miami. On Feb. 2, the Heat again beat the Clippers 116-112. Both of the games were exciting, and the second game is a great indication of the kind of excitement this series would provide.
In that contest, in which Chris Paul did not play, Blake Griffin went for 43 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. To give us an idea of the kind of advantage the Clippers would have in the interior in this series, DeAndre Jordan added another 15 rebounds, as the Clippers had a plus-21 advantage on the boards.
What would make this series so entertaining is the pace of play and the fact that the stars for both sides would be in a position to produce big results.
No. 2: Miami Heat vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
We saw this finals matchup just two seasons ago, and it was not nearly as compelling as the Heat and Spurs last season. The Heat triumphed over the Thunder 4-1 in 2012.
As you'll notice, however, I don't have the Spurs-Heat on this list. Instead, I've opted for this matchup based almost exclusively on two players: LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
They are the two unquestioned best players in the NBA, and the rivalry between the two escalated this year, as Durant ended James' reign as the league MVP. Sure, LeBron has been gracious in the process of Durant taking his MVP. In an Associated Press article on ESPN, James had this to say on Durant: "Much respect to him and he deserves it. He had a big-time MVP season."
Despite the well wishes, there is no doubt that he is itching to one-up Durant in the postseason.
Both men have ample talent around them, but the spotlight would fall squarely on the two superstars.
If Durant really wants to challenge James as the current king of the NBA, it is going to take more than winning an MVP award. He needs a championship. It would be fascinating to see if he could lead the Thunder past James and the Heat.
No. 3: Indiana Pacers vs. San Antonio Spurs
The Indiana Pacers have had their share of woes at the end of the season and in these playoffs, but if they get to the finals, it is safe to assume that they regained full control of their mojo.
This begins on the defensive end of the court for the Pacers, and it would be a great matchup to watch the Pacers defense try and stop the Spurs' fluid offense.
BBallBreakdown knows it doesn't get any better than the Spurs offense:
The Spurs finished sixth in the NBA in scoring and first in assists. Their ball movement is outstanding. Meanwhile, the Pacers have the perimeter defense that allows them to rotate quickly and limit open looks. They also have strong protection around the rim with center Roy Hibbert.
For basketball purists, watching the Spurs attack the Pacers when they are bringing their best on defense is about as good as it gets.