For every joke and jab about the monstrosity that has been the NBA’s Eastern Conference this year, its counterpart deserves a standing ovation. And I think the incredible caliber of squads in the conference promises some incredible series all the way through the playoffs — even round one.
If the season ended today, these would be your first-round match ups in the West.
1. Thunder vs. Mavericks
What a matchup this would be — a pair of regional rivals with a very current playoff beef to settle. In case you’ve forgotten, these two met in the 2011 conference finals before Dirk and Co. went on to win it all against the Heat, and then OKC got some revenge in 2012’s first round before heading to the finals themselves.
And with the Mavericks’ ability to get on a roll, and the inconsistency that has plagued the Thunder with Westbrook on the floor this year, this certainly wouldn’t be anything close to an easy series for the West’s top seed.
Prediction if it happened today: Thunder in 5
2. Spurs vs. Suns
Potentially my favorite position match up of this round one would be the point guards in this series. Goran Dragic and Tony Parker going back and forth, blow for blow, would certainly make for must-watch TV. Plus, this series presents the age-old “youth vs. experience” conundrum in its truest form. And let’s not forget — the Suns were supposed to be tanking before the season started.
Prediction if it happened today: Spurs in 4
3. Trailblazers vs. Warriors
These next two series are where things really get interesting. A Blazers Warriors series would be an absolute track meet. By games 4, 5, 6 and maybe 7, we’d be watching two worn-down defenses against two stellar shooting squads.
Obviously the Curry vs. Lillard match up would have everyone talking, but you’d also get to watch Lopez/Aldridge vs. Bogut/Lee. And it would be very interesting to see what Iguodala/Barnes could do to the deep bench of wings from Portland.
This one would promise a couple of overtime thrillers and buzzer beaters.
Prediction if it happened today: Warriors in 7
4. Clippers vs. Rockets
Talk about chippy.
These are two of the NBA’s most easily offended teams. Between Blake Griffin’s “I don’t get no respect” charades in front of the referees, to the strange and unpredictable mind of Dwight Howard, to the “Chris Paul is a flopper” rants, this one would easily get out of hand — which I love to watch.
Plus, if the two teams got really tired, we could see the NBA’s first-ever mutual “Hack-a-(name)” agreement with a contest getting decided between the free throw prowess of Dwight and Deandre Jordan.
We can only hope.
Prediction if it happened today: Clippers in 7