WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. – The NBA Playoffs are fast approaching, so it is time to take an in-depth look at the match ups for this season.
Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
This is probably the most anticipated first round matchup, as James Harden’s Rockets will take on Russell Westbrook’s Thunder in a battle of the MVP candidates. Both players have had historic seasons. Westbrook just broke Oscar Robertson’s triple-double record, as he posted his 42nd against the Nuggets last Sunday. Since Kevin Durant bolted for Golden State, Westbrook has literally put Oklahoma City on his back. He is the odds on favorite to win the MVP at the moment, despite his team being the sixth seed in the West. Harden makes a strong case as well, as he’s posted career highs in points, rebounds and assists this season, and currently has his Rockets as the three seed. Normally, overall team record is
taken into account when deciding the MVP, but this season has been an anomaly due to Westbrook’s ridiculous numbers. This series should go at least six games, but in the end, the Rockets will prove too much for the one man show that OKC currently is.
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Utah Jazz
Another highly anticipated series will be Utah and Los Angeles, as this could be the last hurrah for the trio of Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan, as the former two are both impending free agents at the end of the season. Since the Clippers acquired Chris Paul in 2011, they have yet to make a conference finals, which is insane considering CP3 is one of the 10 greatest point guards to ever play the game.
Utah, on the other hand, will be making their first playoff appearance since 2012, and the young nucleus of players they have will be getting their first taste of the bright lights. Utah ranked third in defensive efficiency this season and boast the best defensive center in the game with Rudy Gobert. Additionally, Gordon Hayward has also morphed into one of the best two-way small forwards in the game. Overall, the Clippers deserve the slight edge in this series, due to experience, but the Jazz will likely push their limits, and make this a seven game series.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Indiana Pacers
Finally we have the Cavs and the Pacers. This is the first time a LeBron James-led team is not the number one seed in a long time. Cleveland did not play up to their potential this year, as its defense really lacked all season. When James didn’t play, the Cavs did not even look like an NBA team. However, we all know that once LeBron enters playoff mode, anything is possible.
Indiana had a strong season, finishing as the number seven seed in the Eastern Conference. Paul George was special down the stretch for Indiana, as he basically carried this Pacers’ team into the playoffs. In conclusion, it is likely that Cleveland will work out the defensive woes that plagued them all year. In the end, they have three of the 20 best overall players in the game and that will show in this series. It’s possible that Indiana could steal a game at home, but ultimately the Cavs will win in five.