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.
What’s a first-round matchup you’d like to see?
Steve Aschburner: If you could get, right out of the chute, what many expected could be the Western Conference finals, who wouldn’t want to see that? So I’d be glued to Lakers vs. Spurs, on paper one of the most amazing No. 1 vs. No. 8 opening rounds in NBA history. Big names and reputations everywhere, old nemeses in new colors and circumstances, the Lakers’ last best chance to salvage their season vs. what might be the Spurs’ last best chance to win a title with its historic Big 3.
Fran Blinebury: Thunder vs. Rockets. Revenge of the Beard. Hangin’ it on Harden. Slammin’ it at Sam (Presti). OK can you C me now? Hey K-Mart, there’s a mess on Aisle 4. Need I go on? I can’t ever remember a player as young and as good and as critical as James Harden being bounced off a Finals team and getting a chance to stick it in the ear of the bouncers just a few months later in the playoffs. This would be simply delicious.
Jeff Caplan: Out here in the Western Conference, where there’s actually more than one team of intrigue, there’s several would-be matchups to ponder. However, one in position to launch right now is James Harden against his old mates: Rockets vs. Thunder. Houston is 1-2 against OKC this season, but both losses, coming by a combined 52 points, were in 2012 when the team was still new and adjusting, and coach Kevin McHale spent a month away on personal leave after the death of his daughter. In 2013, the high-powered Rockets are 1-0 against the Thunder with a 122-119 victory in Houston on Feb. 20. Harden has averaged 29.3 points against his former team, has shot 55.0 percent from 3-point range and has averaged 12.3 free throws in the three meetings. Imagine the pressure on the reigning champs and Harden-replacement Kevin Martin against The Beloved Beard and a Rockets squad that has swapped the top spot with OKC all season as the highest scoring team in the league.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Clippers-Lakers. It may not happen because the Lakers may not get up to No. 6, even if the Clips get to 3. But if it does, what a moment for Clippers credibility, to be able to be the team that drives the Lakers season into the ground once and for all.
John Schuhmann: Pretty much any matchup in the West. Seriously, I look at those eight teams (assuming the Lakers hold on to the eighth spot) and there’s not one series I wouldn’t thoroughly enjoy. Even the Grizzlies, who play the best defense and play at the slowest pace of all those teams, are fun to watch. In the East, I would love to see any series between the Knicks, Nets and Celtics. The regular-season matchups between those three teams (with the exception of Tuesday’s game in Boston, which was lacking two very ornery defensive anchors) have been intense, and an Atlantic Division playoff series would be crazy. Knicks-Celtics looks like the most likely scenario of the three possibilities.
Sekou Smith: There are potential first round matchups that intrigue on both sides of the conference divide. That Denver-Memphis clash in the West, New York-Boston in the East or even a San Antonio-Los Angeles Lakers showdown. But if the basketball powers that be would be so kind as to grant us a Los Angeles Clippers-Golden State Warriors tilt in the first round, I’d be forever grateful. Styles make fights and this one would be filled with non-stop action. Generally, the outcome of first-round series tend to stick to the seeding. But the Clippers and Warriors could be a free-for-all without a clear-cut favorite. The Clippers might have the better record, but they’ve had all sorts of trouble with the Warriors this season. The Warriors won the season series 3-1. The Warriors handed the Clippers their first loss of the season, 114-110, on Nov. 4 at Staples Center, and one of their worst losses of the season, a 115-94 beating in Oakland that was their second straight loss after the Clippers’ franchise-record 17-game win streak (Denver snapped the streak a night earlier). These teams haven’t played since Jan. 21, but you had better believe they’d both be eager to battle for state bragging rights, what with the Lakers limping down the stretch of the season and not guaranteed to even make the postseason.