The 2019-2020 NBA season is winding down, and the postseason is right around the corner. The playoff teams are mostly set, while the eighth seeds in both conference try and hang onto their spots.
This regular season has had plenty of storylines and exciting matchups. Come playoff time, that should continue. Here are the matchups that would make for the best series in the first-round.
Los Angeles Lakers (1) vs. New Orleans Pelicans (8)
While the Memphis Grizzlies currently have the final playoff spot in the West, New Orleans is right behind them at only three games back. A late-season push could very well happen, and the Grizzlies could find themselves in a first-round series with the top-seeded Lakers. This would make for one of the most exciting series to kick off the playoffs.
The two teams have met four times this season, with Los Angeles sweeping the series. However, the last two featured Zion Williamson, who has lived up to the hype since returning from injury. Zion vs. LeBron for a full series would be must-see basketball.
The other major storyline would be Anthony Davis and the Pelicans’ young core against their former teams. Davis would likely be heavily booed anytime he touched the ball during the road games, while Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and Lonzo Ball would have something to prove at the Staples Center after being dealt for AD.
Despite the Lakers’ dominance in the regular season, a first-round matchup with the Pelicans would make for a challenging series for the top-seed; it would also be one filled with story lines.
Miami Heat (4) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (5)
In the Eastern Conference, a four-five matchup between Miami and Philadelphia would make for one of the best first-round playoff series. With Miami’s strong offense against Philly’s elite defense, this series could go seven games if the teams met.
All-Stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo would be leading the Heat against the much bigger Sixers, who still haven’t figured out the best style of play. Still, the Sixers have enough talent to advance deep into the playoffs if everything can start to click, starting with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, who would arguably the two best players in the series.
A tight series would also put a ton of pressure on the Sixers, who have performed inconsistently all year. A first-round loss to Miami would almost certainly mean the end to Brett Brown’s tenure as coach, as well as potentially the Simmons-Embiid duo. A loss for the Heat would lead them back to the drawing board.
Los Angeles Clippers (3) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (6)
The Clippers, despite facing injuries much of the year, are one of the title contenders in the Western Conference. Currently the three seed, they could face a tough challenge in the first round if they play the Thunder, who sit sixth.
In this series, Paul George would be facing his former team, who dealt him to the Clippers for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, and a load of draft picks. The Thunder, behind the play of veteran point guard Chris Paul, have shocked the league.
The Clippers remain one of the NBA’s best teams, but haven’t had their entire roster available for a full stretch. They have one of the deepest squad’s in the league, but could face problems in the postseason of George, Kawhi Leonard and others don’t have the right chemistry.
The Clippers would likely win, but the Thunder would put them to the test. If any of the top-three seeds get upset in the playoffs, it might be L.A. at the hands of OKC.
Featured image credited to AP.
Stats credited to basketball-reference.com.