Now more than ever, the first few rounds of the NBA playoffs are duds. 4-0 sweeps. 4-1 wins if we’re lucky, and only 4-2 on occasion. It isn’t until the later rounds that the games can pass as entertaining.
But this could be the year that everything changes. There’s a multitude of mouthwatering possible first round matchups. Here are the 5 best:
Cavaliers vs Bulls
For obvious reasons. The Cavs-Bulls rivalry dates back to LeBron’s first stint with Cleveland. His feud with Joakim Noah and co. was a comical, yet thoroughly entertaining back-and-forth saga.
But now that those Bulls are gone, they’ve been replaced by a new crop. Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo are a match made in hell, but for some inconceivable reason, give the Cavs fits. And that’s what we need to see more than anything else. The Cavaliers must be challenged before the Finals. Even if it’s just 5 or 6 games. For the NBA’s sake
Looks like the James-Wade reunion will have to take a backseat for now.
Rockets vs Thunder
Is there a more appealing first round matchup than Rockets/Thunder?? I think not. While this isn’t a rivalry in any sense of the word, you wouldn’t know that given the current climate of the NBA.
James Harden and Russell Westbrook are both having historic seasons, and will battle tooth and nail for the MVP award until the end of the season. And we’d all be lucky to see that epic battle trickle into the postseason. This could be a first round series for the ages.
Spurs vs Grizzlies
The Grizz are an average team on paper. The Grizz are an average team when they’re playing other average teams. But the Grizz are not an average team when they play the West’s best.
Memphis boasts an unbelievable record this season against the top teams in the West. But that’s per the usual. Their gritty style of play and execution down the stretch is a formula for success against the best. Maybe this is the year that Memphis breaks through in the postseason.
But no matter what happens, this will be a thriller, I wouldn’t want to miss it.
Warriors vs Blazers
It was just announced that Kevin Durant is unlikely to return by the first round, which makes this matchup all the more appealing. It has everything that epitomizes the current NBA. Two trigger happy teams. Two lethal backcourts. Two versatile front courts.
And with both teams finding their strides just in time for the playoffs, this has the potential to be a high-scoring thriller. A far cry from Golden State’s first rounds the past few years.
Clippers vs Jazz
While this wouldn’t be the highest profile potential first round matchup, it would have all the storylines. A young, up and coming roster facing a veteran team on its last limbs, its window for a championship closing rapidly.
A Jazz victory could signal that they’re ready to compete with the big guns, while finishing off the infinitely entertaining “Lob City” Clippers for good. A Clippers victory could signal the beginning of one last run at the title, while holding off the inevitable rise of the Jazz for at least a year. Either way, it’s a must-watch.