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NBA Playoff Preview 2014
The Playoff Field for 2014
With 10 games to go, the playoff field for each conference is down to nine teams competing for eight playoff spots. In the East, realistically only the eight seed is up for grabs between the Hawks and Knicks. In the West it is a completely different story. Phoenix and Dallas are currently tied for the eighth and ninth positions in the conference, and they are within 2.5 games of the Portland Trailblazers, who currently hold the fifth spot in the conference. While one of teams five through nine will miss the playoffs, the potential first round matchups could change drastically if a few teams slide up or down the standings. With the first round matchups being close to set among the middle seeded teams in the East, there are some must watch series that we could see early in the NBA playoffs. In the Western Conference, the potential four seed versus five seed matchup could be a must watch series as well.
Must see playoff series in the first round
Last NBA postseason featured a first round matchup that went the distance, between the Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn Nets. This season is shaping up to feature the same first round matchup again, as the four and five seeded teams in the Eastern Conference. This matchup is very interesting because the two teams are almost the exact opposite. The Bulls are a team without significant offensive talent when Derrick Rose is out, but their defensive focus and intensity makes them a very tough matchup. The Nets do not always play the best defense, but they have a roster filled with veteran offensive talent that plays at a very controlled pace. The game between these two teams, can feature some very entertaining games in which their strengths are highlighted. As a result of each team's weaknesses, both teams find a way to stay in every matchup between the two. This makes for some very exciting finishes, with games that are decided in the final minute of regulation, or in overtime play. With the way these two teams have matched up lately, Chicago has the advantage and would be confident going into a series against Brooklyn.
Another potential Eastern Conference first round matchup that is a must watch series, is Toronto against Washington. The guard play on both of these teams is what makes the matchup so compelling. These teams have strong players along the back line, in Washington with Gortat, along with Valanciunas and Amir Johnson in Toronto. However the offensive ability on these two teams, comes from the outstanding guards that they have on their rosters. Washington's point guard, John Wall is one of the most explosive players in the NBA today. He plays along side long range shooting specialist Bradley Beal, who is his primary wing-man. The Raptors also have a great point guard in Kyle Lowry, who himself is a great three point shooter. His primary wing-man, DeMar Derozan is a very talented guard with a variety of offensive skills, and is the ninth leading scorer in the NBA this season. Both the Raptors and Wizards can play stretches of quality defense, but the guard play and scoring ability of both these teams, is what makes this such a great first round matchup. The Raptors have the advantage in this matchup, due to the versatility of DeMar Derozan, and the scoring depth that Terrence Ross provides them with.
In the Western Conference, the must watch series in the first round would be a matchup between the Portland Trailblazers and Houston Rockets. Both teams feature one excellent guard and one excellent big man, along with solid role players that form the supporting cast. The star players for Houston are shooting guard James Harden and center Dwight Howard. They would match up with Portland's stars, point guard Damian Lillard and power forward LaMarcus Aldridge. This makes for a very interesting matchup, as both teams can play a variety of styles, but would prefer to let their best guard create offense in big situations. Both teams have sharp shooters from the outside, as well as the personnel to distribute the basketball to players with open shots. Ultimately the edge will go to Houston, because Terrence Jones is a complementary big man to Dwight Howard, who has the offensive skill to average double digit scoring.
In the East, the favorites are quite clear. The Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat, have proved all season long, that they are the two best teams in the Eastern Conference. In the West, the favorites are also the two teams in the conference that currently own the best records. The defending Western Conference Champion San Antonio Spurs, and the resilient Oklahoma City Thunder. While there are other talented teams in both conferences, none of them stand out as having the star power and team chemistry that allows them to play team defense, the way these four teams do. With these factors considered, it would be very surprising if the championship series in each conference were not a matchup of the Heat versus Pacers and the Spurs versus Thunder. With these matchups in place, NBA fans will be in for some long and entertaining conference championship series.
Championship Series and Finals Predictions
Eastern Conference Finals: Pacers vs. Heat, Heat in 7 games.
Western Conference Finals: Spurs vs. Thunder, Thunder in 6 games.
NBA Finals: Heat vs. Thunder, Thunder in 6 games.
Ultimately the 2014 NBA playoffs, should prove to be one of the most entertaining NBA postseasons in recent memory. From the drama of hard-fought first round series, to the stars facing off in the championship series for each conference, the playoffs will provide the fans with plenty of entertainment this year. While the favorites are the teams most likely to end up in the finals, the talent that their stars are putting on display this season, is amazing to watch. While Lebron James is having one of his best seasons, Kevin Durant's efforts so far this season have been more than MVP worthy. Durant's will to win is without question that of greatness, and he has given us a preview of what is to come. The Thunder have been led through adversity so far this season and still remain as one of the top teams in the NBA. This is why they will be the team that takes home the trophy this season, when a thrilling postseason is finally over.