The playoffs are so close I can smell them. With only a handful of games remaining the standings are still far from decided as only 3 wins separate the fourth place Jazz from the tenth place Clippers in the west and the eastern conference seeding can easily shuffle. In the west, Houston and Golden State have the top two seeds locked up in that order while Toronto has a slight edge over Boston for eastern conference supremacy. Everyone below these four teams in the playoff picture could seemingly end up at the bottom or top of the bracket depending on their performance down the stretch. With such uncertainty this late in the season it is fun to speculate about match ups or dream up the perfect series and that is exactly what I will do here. These are the three series I'm dieing to see.
Golden State Warriors vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Alright, lets get the obvious reason out of the way. Durant vs. Westbrook is still a thing right? At least a little bit? With Durant "all up in his feelings" lately, this blog boy can't help but feel like Russ leading the Thunder past the Curry-less Warriors in the first round would be the ultimate "f**k you" for leaving and would either put the final nail in this story's coffin or amp their relationship up to a legendary Shaq/Kobe-esque pettiness. Not that Westbrook will ever win a title to hold over KD but you get it.
If last night is any indication of how the series would play out the ferocity with which each team plays one another is enough to juice up an already tense playoff atmosphere. If Paul George and half of Carmelo Anthony were to actually show up in the playoffs, the Warriors could be in real trouble. Regardless of whether or not those dudes show up, what we would see is Westbrook and Durant giving it everything they've got and that sounds fun.
It's clear that Golden States offense is not the same without Curry and that is the glimmer of hope that some of us need to to believe that the Warriors can be dethroned. Who knows, if the Thunder won maybe Durant would go back in the summer.
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
This was an easy choice for me because, as I've said before, the Sixers are appointment viewing. The unfortunate part is that Embiid's injury may hold him out for a good portion of the first round. Not cool. Embiid and Simmons are amazing to watch and a series that pits them against LeBron is everything I've ever wanted. This potential series would give LeBron a good hard look at Philadelphia as a potential landing spot in free agency this summer. The Sixers would almost certainly fall in less than 7 games but if they put up an impressive fight and show the king that the Process is worth trusting, a first round exit could still count as a win.
Aside from the allure of the King's future, this series would give us a glimpse into the future of the east. With Fultz slowly proving he can make his way in the league, Simmons logging crazy triple doubles and Embiid trolling the rest of the league with his dominance in the post, it's clear that Philly is the real deal.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets
The Spurs recently beat the Rockets by 17... without Kawhi. Sure it was an off night for Houston's offense but I'm sure D'Antoni is having flashbacks to every other time he's been out coached by Pop. While the Rockets have been by far the league's best team this year, they've proven prone to playoff collapse. Actually now that I dig into my memory I seem to recall a time not so long ago that the Harden lead Rockets fell apart against... oh who was it? Oh yes, the Spurs. That wasn't actually that long ago was it? Right! It was last year and I'm sure that series is fresh in the minds of every single Rocket left over from last season's roster. The difference is the addition of Chris Paul and bizarre subtraction of Kawhi Leonard that still has the entire universe baffled.
Regardless of the roster transformations from last year's match up, its hard to count the Spurs out as long as coach Pop is at the helm.