The NBA playoff teams were decided long before the season finale on April 16. However, the order of the NBA playoff teams out West was yet to be completely decided, as the No. 2, No. 3, No. 7 and No. 8 seeds were still on the line. Ultimately, the Oklahoma City got to finish just behind the San Antonio Spurs, while the Memphis Grizzlies won the right to face them.
The Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks played each other on April 16, right after each of them beat the Phoenix Suns just to reach the playoffs. Yet the winner of their match-up would get to avoid the NBA best San Antonio Spurs in the first round -- an honor finally won by the Grizzlies by 106-105 in overtime.
The Grizzlies and Mavericks fought hard merely to reach the playoffs and become big underdogs to the Thunder and Spurs. Yet Memphis did upset Oklahoma City in last year's second round, although the Thunder actually have Russell Westbrook set to face the Grizzlies this time. As for the Mavericks, while their 49 wins would be enough for the No. 3 seed in the East, it only got them a No. 8 seed in the West and a battle with the Spurs.
The Thunder could have fallen to the No. 3 spot, if they lost to the Detroit Pistons and the Los Angeles Clippers then beat the Portland Trail Blazers. It was actually easier said than done for the Thunder, who went to the wire to finally knock off the Pistons by 112-111. As a result, the Clippers could rest and resign themselves to facing the Golden State Warriors in round one.
Yet again, the NBA playoffs out West are led by the Spurs and Thunder, with San Antonio and Oklahoma City trading the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds this time around. Being the top seed didn't help the Thunder last season -- although Westbrook's injury did more to stop them -- whereas being a No. 2 was good enough for them to beat the No. 1 Spurs in the 2012 conference finals.
This is a Western Conference where the top five teams finished with a better or equal record than the two-time champion Miami Heat. As such, very little will qualify as an upset in this bracket. The accompanying list breaks down the crowded murderer's row in the West field.
Spurs embark on title run again
San Antonio Spurs (62-20, face Dallas Mavericks in first round) When Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and the Spurs had their hearts broken in last year's NBA Finals, it looked like the best shot they had left for a fifth ring. 62 wins later, here come the Spurs again with home court throughout the playoffs.
Thunder return to playoffs with Westbrook
Oklahoma City Thunder (59-23, face Memphis Grizzlies in first round) The last time the Thunder played a full postseason with Russell Westbrook, they went to the 2012 NBA Finals. Therefore, Oklahoma City hopes that history repeats, rather than the one from 2013 where it lost Westbrook and got knocked out by Memphis.
Clippers seek payback
Los Angeles Clippers (57-25, face Golden State Warriors in first round) Blake Griffin and the Clippers blew a 2-0 lead in the first round to the Grizzlies last postseason. After winning 57 games behind a MVP-worthy season from Griffin, the Clippers have no excuse to come apart again.
Howard makes playoff debut for Rockets
Houston Rockets (54-28, face Portland Trail Blazers in first round) The Rockets got much more from Dwight Howard in his first season with them than the Lakers got in their only season with him. Will that luck extend to the playoffs?
Trail Blazers break into playoffs
Portland Trail Blazers (54-28, face Houston Rockets in first round) The Blazers and LaMarcus Aldridge made the biggest leap in the West, and look to keep leaping forward in the postseason.
Curry looks for another big show
Golden State Warriors (51-31, face Los Angeles Clippers in first round) As a sixth seed last postseason, the Warriors pulled a first round upset and challenged the Spurs in the second round. Nevertheless, a repeat performance from Stephen Curry and the Warriors may be even harder now.
Grizzlies squeak back into postseason
Memphis Grizzlies (50-32, face Oklahoma City Thunder in first round) Zach Randolph and the Grizzlies started the year on a hangover after their Western Conference finals run last season. But the Grizzlies got back in, only to face a Thunder team they knocked out last postseason.
Mavericks return to playoffs
Dallas Mavericks (49-33, face San Antonio Spurs in first round) Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks took a one-year absence from the playoffs, but are back this postseason. Yet 49 wins were only good enough for the eighth seed and a date with their old playoff rivals from San Antonio.