Between Saturday and Sunday NBA fans were able to watch five Game 7s to close out the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs. With all those games finished the sports world can look towards the semifinals to four intriguing match ups across the league.
San Antonio Spurs versus Portland Trail Blazers
Portland won season series 3-1
Expect to hear many references of the “old guard” playing against the “new blood” when the Portland Trail Blazers meet the San Antonio Spurs.
Portland's young team has been very impressive for much of the year. Even though there was a moment where they faltered and slipped from the top of the Western Conference, they looked to have returned to form in their first round matchup against the Houston Rockets. Behind LaMarcus Aldridge's near ridiculous play and Lillard's willingness to take the last shot, the Trail Blazers will bring a lot of confidence with them into this series.
The Spurs were played very closely by the Dallas Mavericks for much of the series until Game 7 when they decided to blow the doors off of their opponents. Every year the story of whether or not this is a “last run” for the trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili follows them into every post season series. Still, they answer the call and continue to be one of the most effective units to ever appear in the National Basketball Association.
The series between the Spurs and Trail Blazers features two of the most under-covered teams in the league. Yet, that shouldn't stop the spots world from enjoying what will be a very competitive round of play.
Indiana Pacers versus Washington Wizards
Indiana won season series 2-1
Perhaps the most intriguing of the four match ups is this second round is the meeting between the Washington Wizards and Indiana Pacers. This is truly a “Tail of Two Cities” as Washington and Indiana had two very different paths to the second round of competition.
The Wizards became the underdog of the post season of sorts when they were able to outgun the Chicago Bulls. While their offensive performance was the focus of the praise for pulling out the win; their defensive efforts held through the entire series as it did for much of the year.
Indiana was pushed by the Atlanta Hawks, who almost secured the series at home but fell apart; opening the door for the Pacers to clinch the series on their home court. The Pacers struggled mightily during the post season as Atlanta found ways to break down the second best defense in the league. If the Wizards can replicate that performance while maintaining their own defensive strength the country's capital may find themselves pushing forward with this Cinderella story.
Oklahoma City Thunder versus Los Angeles Clippers
Season series tied at 2-2
The LA Clippers find themselves in yet another matchup that will probably be the most anticipated among casual basketball fans. If one was to use various social media outlets as a barometer of sorts they would find that games between these two teams were must see television. In the four games they played against each other during the regular season both organizations have averaged more than 100 points per outing. (The Clippers scored 107 versus the Thunder's 105.5.)
While both teams are playing through their own version of “controversies,” there will be two story lines worth watching during this series. DeAndre Jordan has been very impressive during the post season and looks to show the world that he is more than just a dunking machine. In OKC there have been questions, albeit quickly squashed, about the effectiveness of their stars in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Anytime the Clippers and Thunder step onto the court the action is set to be very intense from start to finish. This post season series will continue the trend that will keep fans excited.
Miami Heat versus Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn won season series 4-0
The Miami Heat spent most of the season on or near the top of the Eastern Conference. However, the Brooklyn Nets are one group that consistently found the way to stop any momentum that LeBron James and crew were able to put together. Miami has been known for being able to turn up their intensity during the post season, but the fact that the Nets have had their number all year increases the level of interest in this series.
Home court advantage has always been important to Miami through their previous two championship runs. However, the Nets have proven that they have the ability to win in not only their house, but in the homes of their opponents this post season. Coupled with the fact that they are 4-0 against Miami during the 2013-2014 season makes this matchup that much more intriguing.
The 2014 NBA season has been one of the most captivating in recent memory. With these eight teams making it to the second round of play, there is some type of story that comes with each series. The semifinal round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs is set to kick off on Monday.