It’s playoff time in the NBA meaning that basketball fans will be glued to their televisions until the middle of June. What is their not to like about the early rounds of the playoffs? There are seemingly games on every single night during the early rounds and most series last at least six games. And each and every game is broadcast by either TNT, ESPN, ABC or NBA TV.
For the most part, as fans we watch the first round to see which upsets could take place. It is usually not until the second round where we start to see the real playoffs begin. But this season is different because there are some really intriguing first round matchups in the Western Conference.
#6 San Antonio Spurs (55-27) vs. #3 Los Angeles Clippers (56-26)
This first round matchup totally proves that the Western Conference is loaded once again. Before Wednesday night’s loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, the Spurs were riding an 11-game win streak and in position to win Southwest Division and capture the No. 2 seed which would have put them in a first round series against Dallas. Instead, the Spurs lost, Houston won to capture the division and the Spurs slipped all the way down to No. 6.
The Clippers have been on fire themselves having won seven straight and 14-0f-15. So here we have two teams who have won at least 95% of their games down the stretch and they are still only the No. 3 and 6 teams in the West.
During the regular season, the two teams split their four head-to-head contests and this series has seven games written all over it.
#4 Portland Trail Blazers (51-31) vs. #5 Memphis Grizzlies (55-27)
As in previous seasons, the Western Conference always features a good No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup. There have been times this season where Memphis looked like the best team in basketball. One thing is for sure, they are a tough playoff out.
Don’t expect Portland to be a pushover against the big bad Grizzlies especially since they have home court advantage due to the fact that they won the Northwest Division while the Grizzlies finished tied for second in the Southwest.
During the regular season, the Grizzlies won all four head-to-head contests and unless the Blazers win a home game early in the series, it could be over rather quickly. But then again, if you’ve watched the NBA playoffs ever, it’s a whole new ballgame compared to the regular season and this series has seven games written all over it despite what happened earlier.
#2 Houston Rockets (56-26) vs. #7 Dallas Mavericks (50-32)
San Antonio’s loss on Wednesday night coupled with Houston’s win over Utah gave the Rockets their first Southwest Division title since 1993-94 (it was called the Midwest Division back then). And incidentally, the Rockets went on to their first of two consecutive NBA titles. Here we are 21 years later and the Rockets are division champs again and get to take on the up-and-down Dallas Mavericks.
While the Rockets have played well down the stretch except for back-back defeats against the Spurs a week ago, the Mavs have been average at best. They have lost seven of their last 13, and 12 out of their last 23. And the Rockets hold a 3-1 advantage head-to-head during the regular season.
So why is this series on our list? Because we know how the Mavericks like to rise from the ashes this time of year. Just ask the Spurs last season when the Mavs took the eventual World Champions to seven games in the first round.