Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
For pure intrigue, which potential first-round matchup gets you worked up the most?
David Aldridge: I LOOOOVE Denver and OKC. We may have a final average score of 130-127. It’s hard to see either team being able to slow down the other unless they junk it up defensively, and that might only yield temporary results. I really want to see the Felton-Lawson/Westbrook matchup at the point and Nene vs. Kendrick Perkins in the hole. I imagine we’d also see a lot of Arron Afflalo and/or Wilson Chandler against Kevin Durant, and I’d love to talk with each of the Nuggets about how he’ll prepare for the matchup. Denver’s Pepsi Center and OKC’s Ford Center are great fan venues as well. Should be a fun, fun series.
Steve Aschburner: I’m curious to see what Doug Collins has up his sleeve against the Miami Heat. Normally, I’d expect Philadelphia to struggle because coping with both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade night after night has to be even more daunting than the mere idea of coping with James and Wade night after night. With so many young players, the Sixers are at risk of losing this series mentally even before they’re tested physically. But Collins is a mature coach, communicates well with his guys and probably is relishing the challenge of stopping one or holding down both Miami creators. I’m looking forward to learning something from the Sixers’ coach.
Fran Blinebury: If we can’t have Miami vs. NY, then Boston vs NY will be almost as good. There’s the clash of all the stars and all the egos and all the excitement that could be caused by the Knicks winning one of the first two games in Boston. There is the question of whether Shaq will be able to play and, if so, whether he’ll be able to contribute. Even if he doesn’t play, Shaq will surely have a few things to say as it all unfolds. Can Rajon Rondo get back to this out-of-this world form from early in the season? Can Kevin Garnett just prod everybody in green forward again? This is the test to see if the Celtics really are as creaky and vulnerable as many think or if they’ve just been playing rope-a-dope with all of us again and are ready to start off another deep playoff run.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Tough to say because we don’t know a lot of the first-round matchups. The 4-5 in the West will obviously be worth a close watch since the Nuggets are one of the few so-called underdogs, as the team without homecourt advantage, that has a shot to advance. Also, Celtics-Knicks has suddenly become interesting, though only slightly. Boston’s late slump adds to the intrigue. It’s just not enough of a slump to make New York a serious threat for the upset.
Shaun Powell: Thunder-Nuggets is an obvious clash of contrasts, a team with no stars versus a team with two stars. We’ll see if George Karl’s prophesy rings true and whether a bunch of good players is enough to go far in the post-season. Also, there’s the very interesting subplot involving tough guy/big man Kendrick Perkins and whether he’s The Missing Piece for OK-C. Love to see him and K-Mart go at it, PG-13 style.
John Schuhmann: The contrarian in me tries to come up with a different answer, but I keep coming back to Celtics-Knicks. And it’s not about a Boston-New York rivalry that means nothing when the players step on the court. For me, the intrigue is in the All-Star matchups at the forward positions and the questions surrounding the two teams. Can the Celtics flip the switch again after struggling for the last month of the regular season? Can Shaq play? Is Rajon Rondo going to wake up? Can the Knicks win in the playoffs with their offense-first system? Is Chauncey Billups going to be the savvy veteran or the inefficient shooter? There are so many things to watch in this one.
Sekou Smith: It’s hard not to cast your eyes at that Celtics-Knicks matchup and think any other series will be able to match it for drama and “pure intrigue,” your words not mine. The Thunder-Nuggets should supply us with plenty of intense action, as will all of these first -round matchups will. But the idea of Boston’s recent struggles and the Knicks’ inspired play of late certainly adds to the excitement of a series between two of the league’s oldest and most storied franchises. Plus, we’ll get to see Spike Lee going at the Celtics and their fans for at least four games. It doesn’t get much better than that.