Dream Playoff Matchups: The Eastern Conference
Much of the recent NBA buzz has surrounded potential NBA Western Conference Playoff matchups and the narratives the NBA wants to see. Will Stephen Curry be able to will his Golden State Warriors into the playoffs? How will the Denver Nuggets fair in the postseason without Jamal Murray? Will the Los Angeles Lakers be able to avoid the play-in game if LeBron James continues to sit out?
With all these headlines circulating NBA media, many have overlooked what’s going on in the Eastern Conference. The Eastern Conference playoff continues to be up for grabs. The overall seed is a two-team battle, while the remaining teams continue to jockey for playoff seeding. This indirectly creates buzz around different potential playoff matchups. Fans, as well as media, continue to discuss their team’s most desirable matchups based on star power as well as playing style advantages.
With this uncertainty still looming, the final matchups may not be solidified until the final days of the regular season. With that being said, there is be only one discussion surrounding the Eastern Conference postseason. That is, which dream playoff matchups do the NBA wants to see?
Which Eastern Conference Playoffs Matchups do we Want to See?
The Top of the East vs. Last Year’s Champ
The Philidelphia 76ers have been hovering around the number one seed for most of the season. It has been a tight race with the Brooklyn Nets, and it appears the top spot could be determined on the final day of the season. The 76ers are loaded with talent starting with MVP hopeful, Joel Embiid. Embiid is arguably the most dominant big man in the game and an absolute force on both the offensive and defensive ends. Paired alongside Embiid are a couple of high-profile perimeter players including Tobias Harris and Ben Simmons.
The 76ers have one of the most complete teams in the league and are highly viewed as an Eastern Conference Finals favorite this year. However, standing in their way is last year’s Eastern Conference champion, Miami Heat.
While the Heat’s record this year may lead the average fan to believe the Heat should be a cakewalk this year, many who have watched them know that is not the case. The Heat, led by All-Stars, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, has dealt with significant injuries throughout the year. The injuries seemed to stack onto each other. As soon as one player returned to the lineup, another one went out. When the Heat plays consistently together, they resemble the team that made the Finals run last season.
This potential faceoff would definitely fall under the category of dream playoff matchups. Both of these teams are tenacious on the defensive end and truly play with that grit that NBA fans love to watch. This series would feature a bunch of trash-talking, possibly a few flagrant fouls here and there, but mostly, high-intense basketball.
Is that not what NBA fans want to watch each and every night?
The Battle for New York
It is not a surprise that the Brooklyn Nets are atop the Eastern Conference playoff standings. They have assembled what might possibly be the most offensively talented big three in NBA history with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden. Alongside the trio, the rest of their roster is seasoned with top-notch veterans. Players who have played in the dog days of the postseason and know what it takes to win. Basically, this team is built to contend for not just one, but multiple titles.
Nonetheless, the Brooklyn Nets as well as the entire NBA landscape have come to realize something. The Nets are not the only team from New York making noise, thanks to Julius Randle and his MVP caliber play. You heard it right…. the New York Knicks might actually be back.
Before everyone starts freaking out, please understand that the Knicks being back does not mean they are title contenders. The Knicks being back means they are finally playing consistent, winning basketball. They are on pace to make the postseason for the first time since Carmelo Anthony led the Knickerbockers to the playoffs in 2012/13.
Why is this a dream playoff matchup you might ask? Well, it’s the first time in over 60 years that a playoff game would feature two teams from the state of New York. The NBA world would be able to see Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden navigate their way through Madison Square Garden on their way to a championship. Plus, there are bragging rights on the line between Brooklyn and New York City.
Even though the Nets would be heavy favorites in this series, the Knicks would welcome the challenge. Do you not think that a New York playoff matchup is just what NBA fans need to start off a postseason?
KD vs. Russ: The Rivalry Continues
Kevin Durant joined the Brooklyn Nets last year after a three-year stint in Golden State playing for the Warriors. Prior to that, Durant played his entire career for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Knowing that, let’s bring in an Eastern Conference team that would immediately create must-see television. Who might is that you ask? Well, it’s none other than the Washington Wizards.
Some of the newer NBA fans may not understand the significance of this potential playoff matchup. It is not because Durant grew up in the Washington DC area, and this game is some feel-good story playing against his hometown. There was not some sort of trade or botched transaction that created hostility between Durant and the Wizards organization. In fact, it has nothing to do with the Wizards organization at all, it has to do with the Wizards starting point guard, Russell Westbrook.
Much like Durant, Westbrook also began his NBA career in Oklahoma City playing for the Thunder. In fact, Westbrook and Durant created one of the league’s most prolific duos during their time together. They helped bring the Thunder five Northwest Division titles and a Finals appearance which resulted in a loss in five games to the Miami Heat. Frankly, the duo, along with fellow teammate James Harden, were expected to bring a multitude of Championships back to Oklahoma.
However, following a Game seven loss to the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 Western Conference Finals, the organization took a turn. Durant decided to pack his bags and leave the Thunder for the Golden State Warriors that offseason. This act did not sit well with Westbrook nor any of the current Thunder players. Hatred and hostility grew between the once dynamite duo and it blossomed into an intense and bitter rivalry.
After almost half a decade later, this rivalry is still going strong. The two have been able to put aside the animosity, but the competitiveness and sourness in Westbrook’s heart still light a fire whenever they face off against each other. If these two teams are pitted against each other for another round of playoff matchups, the NBA is in for a real treat.
The Greek Freak vs.The C’s
Giannis Antetokounmpo has flown under the radar for much of this season. However, he is still putting up MVP caliber numbers and the Milwaukee Bucks are still an Eastern Conference Powerhouse. Oddly, Giannis has not received as much national spotlight as we have grown accustomed to over his past two seasons.
On the other hand, the Boston Celtics have been a disappointment this year (for the most part). They have been hovering around .500 while playing very inconsistent basketball. This is very non-Boston-like, especially with a team that features four all-star caliber players.
Nonetheless, a matchup featuring the Bucks and the Celtics would intrigue many NBA fans. A back and forth duel between Giannis and Jayson Tatum would be a delight to see; not to mention watching the Bucks’ high-powered offense try and navigate through a stingy Celtic defense, led by Marcus Smart. This series has everything necessary to generate national buzz for seven games.
While the NBA wishes the Celtics would be a bit more consistent leading into the playoffs, Brad Stevens understands the adjustments necessary to turn his team into playoff mode and will help make this a must-see event. Toss the two-time MVP into this contest and the NBA will find another series to add to its list of dream playoff matchups.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images