The NBA playoffs are crazy. Let me rephrase. The Western Conference playoffs are crazy. The East is substandard basketball. The only question in the East is can anyone beat Miami. I don’t mean in a series. I mean in a game.
But in the West, the question is not which team will survive to play the Heat. The question is, which team can win the next game? Every game is a total gutcheck.
Look at this way. Here on Monday afternoon, with OKC-Memphis and Golden State-Clippers tied 2-2, and Dallas leading San Antonio 2-1, and Portland leading Houston 3-1, which team has the best chance of reaching the semifinals?
If the Rockets had beaten the Blazers on Sunday night to even the series 2-2, I was prepared to say that the fighting-for-its-life Thunder had the best chance to advance of all eight teams. Now, that distinction goes to the fifth-seeded Blazers.
Heck, let’s do the list. Let’s rank the West teams on their chances of getting out of the first round:
1. Blazers: Who would have thought? But the bench-deficient, defensively-challenged Portland have the best chance. That’s what a 3-1 series lead will do for you.
2. Thunder: Despite the euphoria of getting this series tied, there’s one thing to remember. OKC still is playing the Grizzlies.
3. Clippers: The Donald Sterling mess has the Clippers in upheaval. But LA also has Blake Griffin, and the Draymond Green experiment won’t have lasting success for the Warriors. And for all we know, the Clippers will rally around their anti-Sterling feelings. Or they could belly up. Who knows?
4. Spurs: Hard to pick a team that’s down 1-2 and faces a Game 4 showdown on the road. But that’s what I’m doing. No one really believes Dallas is better than San Antonio.
5. Mavericks: Math demands that whichever team is playing the four-seed is automatically the five-seed. I don’t think Dallas will win, but who knows?
6. Warriors: Golden State has played valiantly. But the Clippers are the better team. Their only albatross is the Sterling scandal.
7. Grizzlies: This isn’t a ranking of the best teams. The best five teams in the NBA as we speak are Miami, OKC, the Clippers, Memphis and the Spurs, in some order or another.
8. Rockets: Houston, we have a problem.