For all you basketball junkies out there, this is the time of year that you’v all been waiting for—because it’s (finally) playoff time.
And since the first-round matchups have been set, we’re giving you the five best series that you need to make sure you don’t miss a second of.
So clear your schedule or set your DVR’s, because these are the can’t-miss hoops to look forward to over the next week or so.
5. Indiana Pacers vs. Atlanta Hawks
While I personally don’t think the Hawks stand a chance without Al Horford, there’s something to be said about these two teams over the past month.
As Atlanta fended off other teams wanting to claim the No. 8 playoff spot, the Pacers limped to the finish line, going through a dysfunctional time that challenged their team chemistry.
Add in the fact that Atlanta actually split with the Pacers in the four games they played this season, and there should be a bit of worry on the Pacers side should they get tested in the first couple games.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Memphis Grizzlies
Anytime the Grizzlies get into the playoffs, they seem to make the most of their opportunity.
Whether it’s upsetting the top team in their conference—as they did a few years ago—or making a deep run to the Conference Finals, Memphis plays with grit and defensive confidence.
While OKC has the superior players, this one gets interesting when looking at matchups, with Memphis having two inside players that should make the Thunder worried, as well as perimeter players who, should they slow Kevin Durant, could upset the Thunder.
Plus, Memphis has the best record in the league since the New Year, so they’ve played with playoff intensity for the past four months.
3. Houston Rockets vs. Portland Trail Blazers
If you’re a fan of scoring, then this is the series for you.
With both teams seemingly set to jack up threes without hesitation, this series could come down to which team gets and stays hot from beyond the perimeter.
Both upstart squads with stars like James Harden and Dwight Howard for the Rockets and Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge for the Blazers, either one of these teams could make a splash in the postseason following the first-round matchup.
2. San Antonio Spurs vs. Dallas Mavericks
These might be two of the oldest teams in the league, but that doesn’t mean the quality of the basketball has gotten any worse.
As one of the oldest rivalries in the Western Conference over the past 15 years, the Spurs and Mavs go at it again in a way-too-early playoff matchup that will either test the wits of the Spurs for a deep playoff run, or be an unexpected upset by the Mavs.
With Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan going at it again, it will surely be entertaining.
1. Los Angeles Clippers vs. Golden State Warriors
Simply put, these two teams really dislike each other.
Whether it’s one of the teams mocking the other during a blowout win, or another getting into some shoving matches and tossing gas on the fire with words through the media, the Golden State Warriors and L.A. Clippers series might not go the full seven games, but even if it just lasts the minimum of four, the contests will be tight—with a few bumps and bruises sure to develop.
[Photo via Alexander Tamargo / Stringer]