While the matchups in the Eastern Conference are set in stone, the Western Conference won’t be finalized until the regular season wraps up tomorrow (Wednesday) night.
Home court advantage is a big deal in the NBA playoffs and bigger to none than the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers are looking to three-peat, but are a year older and Thunder can be heard louder and louder in the distance. A year ago, on their way a second consecutive NBA title, Showtime was put to a test against Oklahoma City.
Here is what we do know, San Antonio is the top dog, and holds home court through the Western Conference playoffs. It’s not yet clear whom the Spurs will open up with, but it will be either Portland, Memphis or New Orleans. We also know that Denver will enter the post season as the fifth seed, with Dallas, Oklahoma City or even the Lakers their opening round opponent.
Despite being best in the west (record wise) the Spurs aren’t getting much post season respect. San Antonio is a three-headed monster, with Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker all a year grayer. A Spurs win tonight in Los Angeles might even bump the Lakers down to fourth. Why is that significant? It would mean a potential 2nd round rematch should both win their opening round series. Probably not what San Antonio is wishing for, but certainly a possibility should they win tonight.
Oklahoma City is the opposite of San Antonio when it comes to hype. The Thunder are the sexy pick with young stars, led by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Oklahoma City strengthened its only weakness, acquiring bruiser Kendrick Perkins from Boston in a trade deadline deal. Nobody wants to play the Thunder, at least not early on in the post season.
Denver has been the surprise of the west. Since the blockbuster Carmelo trade, the Nuggets have been one of the hottest teams in the NBA. Head Coach George Karl has gone as far to say its his best and most favorite team in his years in the Mile High City. While the Nuggets lost the star power in Anthony, they acquired incredible depth and substantial talent as well in the deal.
Dallas has high hopes and their is not a deeper team in the Association. Dirk Nowitzki is having a huge season and the Mavericks go ten deep on the bench. The loss of Caron Butler hurt, but the addition of Corey Brewer has helped off set that. Make no mistake, the difference in the Mavs this season, is the rebounding and physical defensive presence of Tyson Chandler.
Portland is the only other team in the west that may make some noise. The Blazers improved their lot with the trading deadline acquisition of mercurial forward Gerald Wallace. LeMarcus Aldridge and Wes Matthews should both receive consideration for most improved honors, while injuries have become synonymous with Brandon Roy and Greg Oden.
How important are these end of regular season games? I’ll give you my favorite answer, it depends. It didn’t matter for Boston as they were locked in to their slot in the East and rested the old boys in the loss to Washington on Monday night. Other teams have indicated that they will rest players, in hopes of a quick rest of bumps and bruises. Playoff matchups do matter and they will be impacted by these last few games, meaning they matter as well.