The NBA regular season is a week away from completion, so while we don’t know in which slot the Thunder will finish, we can narrow it down. The Thunder will be the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the West, which means a first-round matchup against one of five teams:Denver,Dallas,Phoenix,HoustonorUtah.
For the record, most pundits predict the following order of finish for those five teams:Dallas,Denver,Utah, then eitherPhoenixorHouston. That would pit the second-seeded Thunder againstDenver, or the top-seeded Thunder againstUtah.
But which team would the Thunder most like to face? Here is OKC’s results the last two years against those five teams.
Dallas: Thunder went 2-1 vs.Dallasthis season, though the Mavs had two home games. Last season, when the Mavs won the NBA title with a roster now void of Thunder killers Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea,Dallaswent 2-1 vs. the Thunder, with two games in OKC. Then the Mavs went 4-1 in the Western Conference Finals.
Denver: Thunder is 2-0 vs. the Nuggets this season, including that fabulous overtime game in February, plus the teams meet Wednesday night in OKC. Last season, the Thunder went 3-1 vs.Denverbefore the Thunder won a playoff series 4-1. The Nuggets retooled their team in February 2011, so the playoff Nuggets more closely resemble this season’s Nuggets.
Utah: Thunder is 2-1 vs. the Jazz, with two games inSalt Lake City. Thunder went 3-1 vs.Utahlast season. The Jazz was remade after the February 2011 trade of point guard Deron Williams.
Houston: Thunder is 2-2 vs. the Rockets, with two one-point losses toHouston. Last season, the Thunder went 3-1 against the Rockets, with a one-point loss. So the Thunder is 5-3 the last two seasons vs. the Rockets, with all three losses by one point.
Phoenix: Thunder is 2-0 vs. the Suns this season, going into the Wednesday night game inPhoenix. OKC was 3-1 vs. the Suns last season.
So who shouldOklahoma Citywant to face? Here’s how I would rank them:
1.Denver: The Nuggets play the Thunder fairly tough, but OKC has found a way to dominate George Karl’s team two years running.
2.Phoenix: The Suns are fun and gritty – a rare combination – but they’ve got no chance of stopping the Thunder.
3.Utah: The Jazz beat the Thunder in their most recent meeting, but OKC won five straight before that.
4.Houston: For cosmic reasons, the Rockets and the Thunder usually play close games. The Thunder wins the majority, but still, that’s playing with fire.
5.Dallas: The Mavericks are a shell of their championship team, but Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry still can swish clutch shots. Best to let the Lakers or Spurs worry about the Mavs’ pedigree.