NBA fans have been treated to a slew of trades and roster additions this season. The Western Conference is more competitive than ever while the Eastern Conference is stacked at the top. Whether you follow a team that is the first or eighth seed, there will be tantalizing playoff match-ups from top to bottom.
Houston Rockets vs. San Antonio Spurs
If there is one team the Rockets wouldn’t want to face in the Playoffs it would be the Spurs. Though a lot has changed since the Spurs dumped them out of the Playoffs two years ago, this second round humiliation will be in the back of James Harden’s mind.
Harden’s post season will need to match his historic regular season if the Rockets are to return to the Conference Finals. Chris Paul’s heart breaking injury in game five against the Warriors last year will serve as motivation for him. While Coach Mike D’Antoni is 0-5 in Playoff series against Coach Gregg Popovich.
Though the Spurs haven’t had a vintage season, they return to the Playoffs for a 23rd consecutive trip. They have dipped on defense this year compared to last, but are an excellent rebounding team and defend the three point line very well. Shooting more threes themselves this year, the Spurs surprisingly lead the league in three point percentage this season.
This bucket from DeMar DeRozan with Klay Thompson all over him was FILTHY pic.twitter.com/ATJNxJn2D1— Chris Montano (@gswchris) March 19, 2019
This first round match-up would be a fascinating one between two teams who have a point to prove.
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Philadelphia 76ers
A Milwaukee Bucks – Philadelphia 76ers match-up would be a series for the ages. Likely to come in the second round, this would pit modern day giants Giannis Antetounkompo and Joel Embiid against each other. Both teams are having their best seasons since Ray Allen and Allen Iverson matched up in 2001.
The Bucks and 76ers have such different roster constructions, but both have very deep and versatile teams. Embiid and Giannis had a titanic match-up this week, Giannis with 52 points and Embiid 40.
Though the 76ers have had some chemistry problems since bringing in Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, they have been meshing well since Embiid returned from injury. Milwaukee on the other hand have less stars but have a well rounded roster with four shooters surrounding Giannis. Bar any upsets, fans can look forward to this huge match-up in the second round
Denver Nuggets vs. Utah Jazz
The Denver Nuggets are set to go back to the Playoffs for the first time since 2013. In a battle with the Warriors for the first seed, Denver has ridden Nikola Jokic all the way to home court in the Western Conference Playoffs.
Are Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets the deepest team in the league? pic.twitter.com/poPm3J44Ec— Nuggets Nation (@NuggetsNationCP) March 21, 2019
Though this may look poorly matched where a seven seed plays a two seed, Utah has made the second round the last two years. In both these years they upset higher seeded opponents. Utah have probable defensive player of the year Rudy Gobert while Denver now has the league’s sixth rated defense.
Denver’s all round shooting and depth of roster may favor them over a seven game series. But Utah will be confident in their playoff experience and rising star Donovan Mitchell. Both teams could go into the series confident of knocking the over out and heading to the second round.