Thirty teams started the season, now we’re left with a sweet sixteen.
The 2014 NBA playoffs are ready to tip off. Many of us sports fans are saying “At last!” as it appeared that only two teams out of the East were true NBA Finals contenders whereas the West was wide open. After all, the Phoenix Suns did not make the playoffs this season and had almost fifty (fiddy!) victories this season.
This goes under the category of “The West’s dog could kick the East’s dog for $500, Alex.”
Anyway, as for the sixteen that officially did make the postseason—beginning with the Eastern Conference:
(1) Indiana vs. (8) Atlanta
For about three-quarters of the regular season, the Indiana Pacers looked like the best team in the Eastern Conference—yes, BETTER than the two-time defending NBA Champs, the Miami Heat.
Paul George was looking like a perennial superstar on the rise on the lines of LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Then, it looked as if they embarked on a cold spell as the season was reaching its closure and the playoffs began.
Actually, the Atlanta Hawks, for all of the grief this team receives for its lack of postseason success are 2-2 this season against the Pacers.
What is a primary reason for the postseason success of the Pacers? Roy Hibbert. What has happened to him lately is anyone’s guess, but if he’s as absent against Atlanta as he was down the stretch, Indy could be in trouble.
Something tells me that will not be the case, though. Indiana’s a one seed for a reason and the Hawks in the playoffs are…the Hawks in the playoffs. Indiana in six.
(2) Miami vs. (7) Charlotte
The Charlotte Bobcats are sending off said Bobcat into the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina in classy style as this will be their final season before returning “Hugo the Hornet” back to the Queen City.
Even though some of the Miami Heat players have made comments mentioning how this season is different given the Bobcats’ play—the Heat have still won the season series 4-0 against Charlotte this year.
The Bobcats could be a rising team in the future as they return the Charlotte Hornets back, but the Heat still have LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. There is a zero percent chance of them playing in the postseason the way they supposedly tanked against the Washington Wizards. Miami in five.
(3)Toronto vs. (6) Brooklyn
Welcome back to the postseason, Toronto Raptors! Apparently, the Raptors have something going on, that it has even caught the attention of T-Dot’s very own Drake. Dare I say, they’ve “started from the bottom, now we here”.
This is a Raptors team that is young, and if it is one thing we know about young teams, is that they are very motivated and driven.
But, if there is another thing we know about young teams in the playoffs, is that when they are up against a team with a wealth of playoff experience, which the Brooklyn Nets do have, those young teams do not do well.
The history of this league tells us time and time again that teams with experience ultimately win out over teams that simply possess talent and skill. Veterans win in the NBA, and this series will not be any different. This could likely one of the most entertaining series of the playoffs, but hello…Brooklyn in six.
(4)Chicago vs. (5) Washington
This is the part where we could wax poetically about the continued absence of a certain Bulls player who wears the #1 jersey, but that’s another column for another month.
Yes, there is no doubt that this is an improved Washington Wizards team this year. Plus, it appears that John Wall has also come into his own as a star player, despite him getting little press coverage because of the fact that he plays for a team not named Miami, Indiana, Chicago, or New York.
But, the Chicago Bulls are still a very defensive minded team. Not to mention, this team still has Joakim Noah anchoring the offense. As long as that’s the case, how about…Chicago in six.
Now, to Go West, young (and old) sports fans!
(1) San Antonio vs. (8) Dallas
Remember the days circa 2006 when San Antonio Spurs vs. Dallas Mavericks used to be a matchup we would preview for the Western Conference Finals instead of the first round of the NBA playoffs? Exactly.
Remember the days when the San Antonio Spurs, despite being the best team in the Western Conference, continue to manage to fly under the radar in comparison to the rest of the NBA? Yeah, those days are still here.
Some have this series as a potential playoff upset. Believe it or not, these are still the San Antonio Spurs—the same team that was within a (better not spoken of in Central Texas) Ray Allen three-pointer in last year’s NBA Finals Game 6 from winning their fifth championship since the days of the Twin Towers of David Robinson and Tim Duncan. Last time I checked, Duncan is still on this team—so is Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. San Antonio in six.
(2) Oklahoma City vs. (7) Memphis
The Memphis Grizzlies, for good reason, has been described as a seven seed that nobody wants anything to do with. Recently, as this team has amassed more experience in the playoffs, it appears they (Conley, Randolph, Gasol, etc.) have only improved and improved.
After all, this was the team that bounced this same Oklahoma City Thunder team last year’s playoffs—so there is a brewing playoff history between Memphis and OKC.
Let me rephrase that…it was not this exact Thunder team that the Grizzlies beat last year. That team had no Russell Westbrook as he was injured. This team does.
Oh, and Kevin Durant was awarded his first MVP of his career. Oklahoma City in seven.
(3)Los Angeles Clippers vs. (6) Golden State
Honestly, if any one of these series is going to most resemble four, or five, or six, or seven All-Star Games, this is it.
The Clippers and Warriors are two teams that are known throughout the league for the high amount of offense they produce. Expect the majority of these games in this series to end with both teams scoring at least 100 points a game.
In addition, these two teams are also developing a rivalry as well, so not only expect offense, but also some words exchanged as well.
In addition, they split the season series at two games a piece. But…Los Angeles in seven.
(4) Houston vs. (5) Portland
This is also an interesting series, and one that I am personally waiting for. The Portland Trail Blazers may be a five seed heading into these playoffs, but there was a portion of the year where this Damian Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Robin Lopez-led young team looked like the best team in the West.
As could have been predicted when the Rockets first made this move, the addition of Dwight Howard certainly gave them a presence inside. That in addition to James Harden, Chandler Parsons, and Patrick Beverley.
This series, on paper, seems to be more even than that of Toronto/Brooklyn in the East, but it is similar in the sense that one team has more playoff experience than the other. Both Dwight Howard and James Harden have played in NBA Finals. Plus, the Rockets won the season series this year. Houston in seven.
NBA Finals Prediction: Oklahoma City over Miami in seven.
As excited as we are about the beginning of the NBA playoffs, on behalf of Section 215, I am sending my best wishes to TNT and NBA TV’s Craig Sager as he is battling leukemia. This guy is one of the most well-respected (and well-dressed) personalities in all of sports television, and we hope he will be returning soon. But, if not, we’re hoping he can return to TNT/NBA TV next year.