The Western Conference version of Dream Playoff Matchups makes its way on to Today’s Fastbreak!
It has been an absolute slugfest in the regular season for the West, just like how it has been for the past couple of years. Although Golden State has accumulated a comfortable 6.5 game lead over the 2nd seed, with the positioning of teams ranked two to seven being nearly interchangeable.
Without a doubt, these standings will not hold up until the end of the season, but here is what we should all be hoping for when it comes to playoff matchups:
1 Golden State Warriors vs. 8 Oklahoma City Thunder
Much like the Atlanta Hawks, their Eastern Conference counterparts, the Golden State Warriors have been dominating the field en-route to their Western Conference leading 52-wins. Everything seems to be clicking in the Bay Area and they even have the second-best chance to take home the Larry O’Brien Trophy, per VegasInsiders.
Under normal circumstances, this matchup should be a walk in the park for the one-seed. However, these are not normal circumstances.
Early injuries to reigning MVP, Kevin Durant, and now current MVP candidate Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City is in a position that they are not familiar with. Starting the season 3-12, Oklahoma City was forced to play catch-up but is finally in position to reach the postseason once again. If the current standings hold, they will be matched up against the Golden State Warriors.
Splash Brothers vs. (Potential) MVPs of NBA past and present.
Oklahoma City also has the chance to play spoiler this year, potentially ending Golden State’s magically run extremely early. They’re the eight-seed that isn’t really an eight-seed. In reality, Oklahoma City is a top-three seed with both Durant and Westbrook firing on all cylinders.
Can Golden State overcome what arguably is the most unfavorable first-round for a one-seed matchup in the history of the NBA?
It’ll take more than just three-point shooting from Golden State to overcome this Thunder team. Will there also be extra motivation for Curry and Westbrook if one if these players takes home the MVP award or both fail to?
More likely than not, this series will provide us with entertainment, excitement, and hopefully a whole lot of this:
2 Houston Rockets vs. 7 Dallas Mavericks
These two teams already shared a special connection before the season even tipped off. After losing gambles on then-free-agents Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh, Houston lost Chandler Parsons to their division rivals, the Dallas Mavericks, after deciding not to match the $46-million offer sheet.
We’ve seen this time and time again: big name player leaves team for division rival. It also makes for an interesting storyline in the postseason.
While Trevor Ariza was originally signed to go alongside Parsons, the signing actually turned him into a replacement. He’s performed anywhere from great to sub-par, so the book is out the window when it comes to predicting his postseason performance.
One thing we do know is that James Harden will make this a battle to remember.
My frontrunner for MVP, Harden has taken this team to new heights and with the additions GM Daryl Morey has made, Houston has all the tools to be extremely dangerous come April.
Dallas loaded up on their starting lineup, paving the way for a return to the postseason for Rajon Rondo.
That’ll be the battle to watch as both players gave gained a reputation for elevating their level of play when it matters most.
It’ll be a gunslinger type of matchup, the same kind of play that draws in so many viewers. Two of the top offenses in the NBA will go at each other with one mistake easily swinging the game.
The return of Dwight Howard will make the biggest difference for either team as he might be the defensive difference-maker that swings the results.
3 Portland Trail Blazers vs. 6 San Antonio Spurs
One thing we should all know by now is to never count out the San Antonio Spurs until they are officially eliminated from contention.
With a potential rematch looming, this is a series we should all hope to see.
In last year’s series, San Antonio masterfully picked apart the Trail Blazers, leaving no doubt who the better team was by winning the series in five games. The rest was history as San Antonio eventually steamrolled through the rest of the NBA, avenging their NBA Finals loss to the Miami Heat from the previous year.
Can the Trail Blazers reverse their fortunes from last season, jump-starting the dismantling of the reign of dominance San Antonio has had on the NBA?
Portland will need more than just some Damian Lillard magic if they want a chance.
Lilliard has performed well against San Antonio throughout his career averaging nearly 26-5-5 in the regular season but struggled against them in the playoffs. Lillard was no match for the Popovich coached Spurs, who made it a point to key in on Lillard, who shot only 30 percent in that series.
However, that was a younger Lillard who was only in his second year in the NBA. Will he be able to make the jump this postseason? Or will we once again see San Antonio make another championship run?
4 Memphis Grizzlies vs. 5 Los Angeles Clippers
On the surface, this matchup doesn’t necessarily scream of excitement. Once you get past the surface, it still doesn’t provide that much excitement.
Memphis plays “boring” ball to the casual basketball fan, playing stout defense and demoralizing teams playing inside-out ball. Los Angeles does have the appeal with Lob City present but has gained a reputation of being cry-babies and whiners.
Don’t believe me? Just re-watch their March 15 battle against the Houston Rockets.
There will be a lot of complaining from Los Angeles during this series and Memphis’ bully identity won’t win over new fans anytime soon. However, the premise of this matchup is to set up a potential second-round matchup with the Golden State Warriors/Oklahoma City Thunder.
What all that means is that we should be rooting for Los Angeles to win this series, if it were to happen.
We all know the bad blood that Los Angeles and Golden State have for each other and what better way to amplify the hate and intensity towards each other when the stakes are at its highest. Imagine the ratings on this one?
If Oklahoma City manages to pull off the upset, the rematch against Los Angeles would provide an aura that is yet to be determined. Last season, it was the Donald Sterling scandal that engulfed the storylines, stealing the attention that should have rightfully belonged to strictly basketball at that time.
For those Clipper haters out there, the Pau-Marc NBA Finals battle is always something you can hope for.
Honorable Mention: New Orleans Pelicans
Anthony Davis, your time in the playoffs will arrive. With news of Serge Ibaka’s knee procedure, this honorable mention may turn out to be something more. New Orleans needs to get their act together fast if the want to sniff postseason play.
Wasting performance like this won’t help the cause:
But at the moment, let’s all bask in the moment and realize that Anthony Davis is ready to take over the NBA sooner rather than later.
All statistics per NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com