San Antonio Spurs VS Utah Jazz
It's happy times in Utah once again after the Jazz clinched the eight and final seed of the Western Conference play-offs. Not that it should make any difference in the big picture because they're running against a team that swatted them unmercifully in the regular season. Sorry, but Utah's 91-84 win against the San Antonio Spurs doesn't count because the latter fielded a nine-man, all-role player team led by Tiago Splitter - and still almost won the game! In the two games that Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili all suited up, they won handily against the Jazz. That one game with Manu on the shelf, San Antonio still won in Utah by a tight margin.
The Drama: Oldies but goodies
Unless Utah finds a way to get Al Jefferson and Paul Milsap untracked for the entirety of the series, then this first-round match-up has about as much drama as "Dude, Where's My Car?". Nothing against the Jazz, but San Antonio is by far the deepest team in the league, they're not as old as people say they are, they have a potential All-NBA point guard in Tony Parker, they have a rejuvenated Tim Duncan, they have a healthy Manu Ginobili, they have the best coach in the NBA, they…well, you get the picture.
The Case for Ratings
Ask yourself this: who came in 2nd in the league in team scoring this year? If you answered the Spurs, stand in front of a mirror and say a speech accepting your fake reward. The supposedly boring Spurs ran up 103.7 points - Denver tops it at 104.1, although they only squeaked by San Antonio after dropping 131 on Minnesota in the regular season finale - and did it through an entertaining brand of basketball that opened up shooters, and created driving lanes for Parker and Ginobili. As for Utah, they can score too (4th at 99.7) and they've got some weapons that will test the Spurs' front court. But at the end of the day, all those things San Antonio had that we elucidated above will be on full display against a Jazz team that will just be completely overmatched.
Who Wins: If Utah manages to win a game against the Spurs, consider that momentum heading into next season. That being said, we're still leaning more on San Antonio bringing out their brooms for this one. Spurs in 4.
Oklahoma City Thunder (2) vs Dallas Mavericks (7)
The Oklahoma City Thunder have probably circled this series for the longest time, not only because they match up well against the Mavs, but because they've got vengeance on their mind after losing to Dallas last year in dramatic fashion. From Dirk and Durant, Westbrook and J-Kidd, and Harden and Jet, there are a lot of intriguing match-ups littered in this series that could swing a game or two in one team's direction. If there's one thing we learned from last year's Western Conference Finals, it's that these two teams can put on a show. And the fact that we're getting it in Round 1 instead of Round 3? Sign us up!
The Drama: To quiet a storm
From a competitive value, we SHOULD be expecing nothing less than hotly-contested games throughout the series. But perception isn't always reality. The Mavs were not the poster boys of consistency for the better part of the season - they were 22-22 in the last 44 games - and they've had to deal with all those compressed games with a roster that's sprouting wrinkles by the day. Make no mistake, though, we're still not selling them short. Not when you have Dirk, J-Kidd, Jet, Matrix, and Coach Carlisle on that side of the bench. But they just happen to be facing the one team they would've loved to avoid.
On the flip side, expectations are through the roof for the Thunder to represent the West in the NBA Finals. They came close a year ago, but a transcendent Dirk Nowitzki who played out of his freaking mind stood in the way. A year older and a strange lockout-shortened season later, the Oklahoma City Thunder are poised to take that proverbial step to the next level if they can find a way to keep Dirk from going video game on them again.
The Case for Ratings
Dirk versus KD redux. This is the West's answer to Melo versus LeBron. If you're not glued to the TV to watch these two go at it, then we have nothing to say to you.
Who Wins: We would have given the Mavs a bigger shot at upsetting the Thunder if Tyson Chandler were still around. Heck, we would have probably penciled them in to make a deep run if they had the same core they had last year. But TC took his talents to Gotham City, JJ Barea is hibernating in Minnesota, and DeShawn Stevenson is..we actually don't know where he is right now. A slightly inferior team compared to last year won't get Dallas past OKC, especially since the latter have serious intent of retribution on their minds. OKC in 6 tight games.
NEXT: The Black Mamba and the Nuggest, along with Lob City and the Bears