5 NBA Playoff matchups that need to happen in April
The 2019-20 NBA campaign got back underway on Thursday night following the All-Star break, and with the festivities out of the way, things are about to get very serious.
There are just two months remaining in the regular season, meaning the playoffs are upon us. Hard to believe, I know, but it feels like we say that every year.
So with the postseason right around the corner, let’s break down five playoff matchups that we really need to see this spring.
5. Utah Jazz vs. Denver Nuggets
To the casual fan, this matchup probably isn’t all that interesting. Jazz? Nuggets? Who cares?
But to those who actually watch the NBA regularly and understand the game, the idea of a Utah-Denver playoff series sounds incredibly enticing.
We are talking about two evenly-matched teams here, and it’s safe to say most people feel that one or the other is the biggest threat to the two Los Angeles teams out West.
The Jazz probably have more starpower in the form of Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Mike Conley, but the Nuggets have the best player in Nikola Jokic and an exciting young group that includes Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr.
This has “seven-game series” written all over it.
4. Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Rockets and Thunder have met in the playoffs before, with Houston dispatching Oklahoma City in a swift five games back in 2017.
But here’s the thing: Russell Westbrook was on OKC at that time. Now? He is a member of the Rockets, meaning Houston houses two of the Thunder’s former great players in Westbrook and James Harden.
Somehow, some way, Oklahoma City has managed to not only stay afloat but also thrive this season in spite of trading away both Westbrook and Paul George over the summer. Chris Paul has found the fountain of youth, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander looks like a stud in the making, and Steven Adams has been his usual consistent self.
But obviously, the Rockets have more established talent. Houston would unquestionably be heavily favored, but this would be a trippy NBA series to watch.
3. Boston Celtics vs. Toronto Raptors
For years, Celtics and Raptors fans have been at each other’s throats. However, despite contending for finals berths rather consistently over the last several years, the two Atlantic Division foes have actually never met in the postseason.
That could change this season, as the standings currently have Toronto and Boston potentially slated for a second-round matchup. The Raptors are the No. 2 seed and the Cs are third at the moment.
There isn’t as much overall starpower between the two sides as last year when the Raptors had Kawhi Leonard and the Celtics had Kyrie Irving and Al Horford, but don’t get it twisted: these clubs are both really, really good.
A playoff clash between these teams would certainly have the chance of going the distance, and while Boston probably has the edge in terms of talent, Toronto’s experience should not be taken lightly.
Can these two NBA teams finally just meet in May already?
2. Milwaukee Bucks vs. Philadelphia 76ers
Going into the season, most people had the Bucks and Sixers pegged as the top two teams in the East.
They were right on Milwaukee, but Philadelphia has been another story, as the Sixers have been up and down all year long and just got waxed by the Bucks recently.
Also, you kind of get the feeling that these two teams don’t really like each other. Even though Giannis Antetokounmpo used his No. 1 overall All-Star pick on Joel Embiid, there is a history between those two.
Antetokounmpo would be the best player on the floor, but the Sixers do have more individual talent across the board.
As of right now, the Bucks are No. 1 in the East (which will probably stay that way) and Philly is fifth with some room to move either way. If the standings hold, these two clubs could meet in the second round of the postseason.
1. Los Angeles Clippers vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Was there ever a doubt which matchup would be at the top of the list? There is not battle that has been more anticipated in recent years.
After decades of sulking in the Lakers’ shadow, the Clippers have emerged as a genuine threat to the Purple and Gold supremacy. In fact, many (if not most) believe that the Clips are actually the better of the two LA teams this season.
If the Kawhi Leonard-LeBron James matchup isn’t enough to get your juices flowing, you also have stars like George and Anthony Davis. Not to mention the possibility of the Morris brothers facing off if the Lakers end up signing Markieff (which could happen in days).
No disrespect to any of the Eastern Conference teams, but there is a prevailing idea that this potential series would be the real NBA Finals.
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