FOR the first time in 13 seasons these playoffs won’t feature LeBron James. While I’m slightly jumping the gun (never say never), there is still plenty to look forward to in the 2019 postseason, with true contenders on both sides of the bracket and a vulnerable Golden State Warriors team instilling faith in the rest of the league. Of course, for the playoffs to live up to the hype we want to see heavyweights clash before the championship round and these six matchups are some of the best we could be treated too.
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Milwaukee Bucks vs. Toronto Raptors
IT’S only right that we get to see the two best teams in the East combat at some point. I’m more intrigued in the individual battle at hand with Giannis Antetokounmpo vs. Kawhi Leonard the battle for the East crown. Following LeBron’s departure last summer both the ‘Greek Freak’ and ‘The Klaw’ could stake their claim as the new King of the East with a victory over the other. Chances are the only way they’ll meet is with a potential NBA Finals berth on the line. Even better.
Golden State Warriors vs. Sacramento Kings
I’M going to talk this into existence. Yes, the Sacramento Kings are currently four games behind the Utah Jazz for the final playoff spot out West and yes, they may have missed their chance with a 3-7 record in their last 10 games. However, they do have matchups with cellar dwellers like Chicago, Phoenix and Cleveland with two games against Dallas and New Orleans up their sleeves as well. Sacramento vs. Golden State was enthralling in the regular season with no game decided by more than five points and the Warriors winning all four matchups. A playoff date would likely result in a similar outcome, but there’s no doubt the young Kings would take it up to Golden State and play an exciting brand of basketball, which is more than we can say for a potential Spurs/Jazz/Clippers matchup.
Golden State Warriors vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
RUSS vs. KD. Der. There is one clear reason for NBA fans to dream about a playoff series featuring the Warriors and Thunder, with the two former teammates and MVP’s locking horns. There’s so much more to the contest than the two polarizing stars with OKC shaping up as the biggest threat to Golden State’s three-peat within their conference. You could make the case that Paul George is in the running for Defensive Player of the Year, Most Improved AND Most Valuable Player awards this year and adding a healthy Andre Roberson means the duo could wreak havoc defensively against the Dubs’ wing players. Anything could happen in this best-of-7 battle.
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Boston Celtics
THIS one explains itself, with the two storied franchises playing 105 playoff games against one another. Boston holds a 58-47 head-to-head advantage with help from their meeting last season with the undermanned Celtics advancing in five games. Things could be different this time around with the healthy Celtics in flux, while Philadelphia seems to have assembled a crew capable of winning it all. The Al Horford vs. Joel Embiid matchup would be must-watch TV, along with the commentators inevitably mentioning the uncertain future of pending free agent Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris every fourth possession.
Denver Nuggets vs. Portland Trailblazers
THE Northwest division rivals have only met twice this year, with two games still on the schedule. Their contests have been compelling so far though with a combined four-point leading to a pair of Denver victories. Nikola Jokic dropped a season-high 40 points in the January meeting and flanked by Enes Kanter you’d imagine that Jusuf Nurkic will be out for revenge against his former team/teammate. Gary Harris was the star of the first win, returning from injury with a 27-point performance, outshining C.J. McCollum’s 33 and the two would likely go head-head-head once again in a projected postseason clash. Facing each other two more times in the final week of the regular season could be a great teaser for a second-round thriller.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Houston Rockets
WHO wouldn’t want to see James Harden go up against his old squad? The MVP favourite has averaged 34 points against the Thunder this season, with Paul George going at 31 points over the same three contests. There are plenty of reasons to wish for this series to eventuate, but watching one of the greatest scorers of our generation go against perhaps the games best perimeter defender is hard to ignore. Let’s not forget about Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook – two polar opposite point guards who fuel their team’s success locking horns, plus a post duel between Clint Capela and Steven Adams. A second-round matchup would likely be how this came to fruition and I for one wouldn’t be complaining.
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