Mar 25, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) drives in the post against Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
It is a long ways off but already predictions for the NBA playoffs are becoming clearer. How could the Eastern Conference play out?
#1 – San Antonio Spurs
#2 – Los Angeles Clippers
#3 – Oklahoma City Thunder
#4 – Dallas Mavericks
#5 – Houston Rockets
#6 – Golden State Warriors
#7 – Portland Trail Blazers
#8 – Denver Nuggets
#1 San Antonio vs. #8 Denver
Injuries decimated what was a pretty good Denver Nuggets team in 2013-2014 and as a result they fell out of the playoff chase. This time around they should be able to stay healthy, but in a tough Western Conference will manage just the 8th seed. That will pit them against the world champion San Antonio Spurs. Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried will lead an early push but in the end the deep and seasoned Spurs will handle their business.
Result: Spurs in 5
#2 Los Angeles vs. #7 Portland
Doc Rivers and his Los Angeles Clippers should have the Donald Sterling mess in their rearview mirror by this point, and not a moment too soon. Time is ticking for the current core led by Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Though they hold the 7th seed, that is no reason to dismiss the Portland Trail Blazers who will be all sorts of trouble behind Damian Lillard and Lamarcus Aldridge. This series is a real tossup.
Result: Trail Blazers in 7
#3 Oklahoma City vs. #6 Golden State
Serge Ibalka returned too late to save the Oklahoma City Thunder against the Spurs in the Conference Finals, but their NBA title hopes remain very much alive as long as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are together on the floor. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and the Golden State Warriors won’t back down from a fight though. Expect offensive fireworks in this series.
Result: Thunder in 6
#4 Dallas vs. #5 Houston
There are many juicy subplots to this one besides the Texas angle. The Houston Rockets, namely James Harden doesn’t believe former teammate Chandler Parsons was a big loss in free agency. The 25-year old forward will have a chance to prove otherwise with his new team the Dallas Mavericks. Much will depend on how he plays for them, and also how his replacement Trevor Ariza plays for Houston.
Result: Mavericks in 7
#1 San Antonio vs. #4 Dallas
The last time these two teams met it was in a thrilling first round tilt of the NBA playoffs that went the full seven games. In the end the Spurs managed to shut the door on the Mavs, but things have changed. While San Antonio has the same roster intact, Dallas added some intriguing pieces including Parsons and veteran center Tyson Chandler. Their additions to the front court along with the aging and fatigue of the champs could be the tipping point one way or the other in the series.
Result: Mavericks in 6
#3 Oklahoma City vs. #7 Portland
Another evenly balanced matchup that has become the staple of the powerful West. Indeed the Thunder and Trail Blazer match up quite well from the back court with Lillard and Westbrook to the front with Aldridge and Durant. They are two teams that can score for certain. In the end it may come down to which one plays better defense. Key note: OKC ranked 12th overall last season, Portland ranked 22nd.
Result: Thunder in 7
#3 Oklahoma City vs. #4 Dallas
The interesting thing about these two teams is that they have met twice in the playoffs since 2010. Both times the series didn’t last very long. The first meeting was a Dallas Mavericks runaway in five games in which Dirk Nowitzki averaged 32 points. The next year the Oklahoma City Thunder returned the favor, ending Dallas’ brief reign as champions with a four-game sweep in which the Mavs failed to score over 100 points in any of the games. Expect that lopsided trend to continue.
Result: Thunder in 5