The NBA playoffs tend to be the most predictable postseason in sports, but still first round upsets surely await. Last year’s one-seed in the West, the Spurs, got beat by a more physical and youthful Grizzlies team. This year, the fight begins with the bottom of the Western Conference. The Nuggets, Rockets and Jazz are all tied, occupying the 7th, 8th and 9th positions in the playoff picture. Phoenix is two games back, Minnesota is two and a half and Portland is three. When looking for upsets, there’s always that “wildcard” team that nobody wants to play. Last year, the Grizzlies win wasn’t a shock. Most NBA followers can look at a match-up and identify the dangerous teams. This year, the Nuggets look like that team.
Their erratic play is ironically an asset come playoff time. All it takes is one run, and the Nuggets have proven they can beat some very good teams. Wins over the Knicks, Sixers, Lakers, Mavs, Clippers and Celtics demonstrate the resilience and character the Nuggets can show at times. Other times though, they look over-matched by mediocre or even poor teams. However in the playoffs, it isn’t about beating up on bad teams.
The Rockets have also performed well against the top of the West. Wins over the first 2 seeds (Spurs and Thunder) must give the Kevin McHale coached squad some confidence. The problem may be the strength of the Thunder is just too much to overcome, especially with their intense home court advantage.
Nevertheless the Spurs, who truly don’t deserve to be underestimated, still feel like an upset waiting to happen. They’ve done nothing but perform excellent, but inside most fans is a feeling that their age might get to them with a potential match-up against the Rockets or Nuggets. First things first for the bottom of the Western Conference standings; get in the playoffs. Once two of these teams do, they’ll have a chance to remind every fan why we watch sports, for the underdog!