The first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs was for sure the most fascinating one of the past decade. We saw several underdogs causing major trouble to the favorites in each matchup but in the end, the strongest favorites got the ticket to the next round. Out of the eight teams still standing in the postseason, there are four really strong championship contenders. Let’s see who they are.
Although the Heat don’t look as scary as last year, they are still the strongest favorite for the title. As long as LeBron James performs like he currently does and as long as Dwyane Wade stays healthy, Miami can stay optimistic about its chances to win the Larry O’Brien trophy. Of course, the road to the NBA Finals will be anything but easy, as the Heat will most probably meet the Indiana Pacers in the Conference Finals and there is when Roy Hibbert and David West can once again strike at the Heat’s Achilles heel.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Kevin Durant just recently received the MVP award for the 2013 – 2014 regular season. Of course, everyone around the league, even the four – time MVP, LeBron James, admitted that KD deserved the trophy. Now, Durant and Russell Westbrook are looking to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to the NBA Finals for the second time in franchise history. However, they both know that anything but the conquest of the title this year will be a letdown to all the fans of the team but also to themselves. Although the Thunder lack of depth, they are certainly capable of topping any team that stands in their way and the superstar duo of KD and Westbrook will be orchestrating that run.
Los Angeles Clippers
OKC’s matchup in the Western Conference Finals, the Los Angeles Clippers are also a very strong favorite for the title. Lob City is the deepest team amongst the eight still active in the postseason. Blake Griffin is continuing to showcase his skills, Chris Paul seems to manage to retain his health, at least for the moment and the rest of the crew is responding well to the urgency call. If Lob City rolls past the Thunder in this series, they will enter the next series, the Western Finals, as the favorites to get the ticket to the NBA Finals. With Doc Rivers mentoring and leading the team to a championship path, the Clippers can be more optimistic than ever that this will be their year.
Now, why am I not listing the San Antonio Spurs or the Portland Trail Blazers in this list, instead of the Pacers? The reason is simple, I strongly believe that Indiana stands more chances to make it to the NBA Finals. Assuming that the Pacers eliminate the Washington Wizards, one way or another, they will have a unique chance to take revenge from the defending champs in the Eastern Finals. The Pacers can beat the Heat in a seven game series, using their superiority inside. But in order to do so, Roy Hibbert has to play at his best. If he does, look for the Pacers to make it to the NBA Finals.