March Madness has ended and the NBA Playoffs are fast approaching. We can only hope that the NBA can bring us as much excitement and drama as we experienced through March. With only a couple games left in the NBA season for each team it looks as though much of the playoff seeding has already been set, especially in the Western Conference. Let’s take an in depth look at the potential playoff matchups we could see in a couple weeks, beginning in the West. Don’t worry east coast fans, your review is on its way so check back soon!
Lets start by listing the order of seeding as of right now:
1. San Antonio Spurs
2. Los Angeles Lakers
3. Dallas Mavericks
4. Oklahoma City Thunder
5. Denver Nuggets
6. New Orleans Hornets
7. Portland Trailblazers
8. Memphis Grizzlies
The top of the conference looks pretty stable heading into the postseason with only 3 or 4 games remaining for each team. The bottom of the conference may change a little but chances are the teams will most likely be in this same position come playoff time with the exception of Portland and New Orleans flip-flopping. Now that the nitty gritty is out of the way, here is an in depth look at each playoff series.
(1) San Antonio Spurs vs. (8) Memphis Grizzlies
The regular season series is split between these two foes largely due to the post power of the Grizzlies. Zach Randolph manages to have some of his biggest games against the undersized Spurs so this matchup could be interesting. In the end the key determinant of the series will be the ability of Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo to keep Spurs’ guards Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker in front of them. I don’t think it will happen. Now that Rudy Gay has been sidelined with a shoulder injury, the Grizzlies aren’t going to have enough firepower to keep up with one of the highest scoring Spurs teams in franchise history. Zach Randolph may be able to steal a game or two with huge games but this team is just not built to win a 7 game series with the San Antonio Spurs. Expect strong contributions out of Ginobili and Parker which will give them a good start heading into a much more difficult second round.
Verdict: Spurs in 6
(2) Los Angeles Lakersvs (7) Portland Trailblazers
This series could be very interesting, especially if the Lakers continue to play the type of basketball they have been during their last three losses. Portland is probably the most dangerous team in the Western Conference not named the Oklahoma City Thunder. There is still room for LaMarcus Aldridge and the Blazers to move to a different seed, playing the Spurs or Mavericks which would probably be a better matchup, but this seems as a likely destination. Of the top 4 seeds in the West, the Lakers are the last team Portland fans want to see their team matched up with. Los Angeles is much bigger and much more physical than the Trailblazers when they are playing Phil Jackson’s type of basketball. If you see this seeding in the west and the Lakers haven’t snapped out of poor shooting and turnover prone offense this one could be an upset, but its a longshot. I see Kobe Bryant getting his team back to the traditional “Lakers” come playoff time so all you ‘Blazer fans better hope for a different matchup.
Verdict: Lakers in 5
(3) Dallas Mavericks vs (6) New Orleans Hornets
As of late the Mavericks have not been playing the best basketball which should be concerning for fans since we are so close to playoff time. Starting with a 28 point loss to the Lakers, the Mavericks are riding a 4 game losing streak heading into their final four games of the season, only one of which is against a playoff team. As long as Dallas does not drop more than a game, they will retain their third ranked seed heading into the playoffs. Who they could be matched up against varies. They play host to New Orleans in their second to last game of the season which could affect where the Hornets are seeded. In the end the Mavericks will surely be fighting for the second round against the Hornets or the Trailblazers. For Mark Cuban’s sake, the Mavs better hope its not the latter. The Trailblazers have caused some trouble for the Mavericks as their season series is split 2-2. It would be much more in favor of Dallas if they are paired with New Orleans.
Verdict: Dallas in 5
(4) Oklahoma City Thunder vs (5) Denver Nuggets
We were treated to a preview of this matchup on April 5 and it sure didn’t disappoint. It was a back and forth matchup all night before Kevin Durant pulled his team away late. We even had some drama as several words were exchanged and technical fouls were assessed to each team. Denver has been one of the most surprising teams since the All-Star break and has been playing incredible at home. This will be a high flying and high scoring affair that could go all the way to the 7th game. Make sure you tune into at least a couple of these games.
Verdict: Oklahoma City in 7
Obviously there are several different first round pairings that we could see but this one seems to be the most likely. Make sure to check back on Monday for the Eastern Conference Preview after we have seen the two games on Sunday with huge playoff implications (Chicago vs Orlando and Miami vs Boston).