2014 nba playoffs bracket

Finally! After all the talk, tanking, streaks and slumps, things will be settled on the court as we now begin the final march towards crowning an NBA champion.

Let’s take a look at the matchups in the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs.

(1) Indiana Pacers vs (8) Atlanta Hawks

roy hibbert pacers vs hawks 2014

In the matchup between the No. 1 seed and No. 8 seed, the Indiana Pacers will face off against the Atlanta Hawks.

It is no secret that the Pacers come limping into the playoffs. The team that made it all the way to the conference finals only a year ago was many prognosticators’ pick to get back there again this year. But down the stretch, the Pacers were simply awful, struggling to score on offense and becoming disorganized on defense.

The Hawks, as is customary of the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, come in with the worst record of any team in the postseason at 38-44. The Hawks battled with the Knicks for the final spot in the playoffs and were able to lock down their playoff position down the stretch going 7-3 in their last 10 games.

The Pacers won only four of their last 10 games to end the regular season and have won only once in Atlanta in the last eight seasons. Indiana had hoped that their first round matchup would be nothing more than a formality, but the team will need to come together on both ends of the court in order to advance.

Despite their struggles, the Pacers are the prohibitive favorite in this series and should make short work of the Hawks.

(2) Miami Heat vs (7) Charlotte Bobcats

lebron james heat vs bobcats 2014

The Miami Heat, like the Indiana Pacers, faced their own struggles late in the season, going 2-6 to end the regular season. Fortunately, they were still able to clinch the No. 2 seed in the East and as such will face a Charlotte Bobcats team that they have dominated in recent years.

The Bobcats are returning to the playoffs for the first time in four years and the second time in their short nine-year history. Charlotte is led by Al Jefferson, who anchored the team this season, his first with the team. Jefferson has earned All-NBA consideration with his performance all season long, but has noticeably been on a tear over the last two weeks.

Despite the efforts of Jefferson and Miami’s limited depth in the frontcourt, the Heat dominated the Bobcats in the regular season, winning all four matchups by an average of 13 points. The Heat will be getting Dwyane Wade back to full strength after the veteran guard sat out nine of the last 12 games .

This should be a good tune-up for a Heat team that needs to regain its mojo if they hope to make it to a fourth straight Finals appearance.

(3) Toronto Raptors vs (6) Brooklyn Nets

Toronto Raptors v Brooklyn Nets

In what could possibly the most evenly matched pairing in the first round of the playoffs, the Toronto Raptors take on the Brooklyn Nets. The teams split the four games they played against each other this year, with each matchup being decided by an average of less than four points.

The Raptors are coming in as the third seed, a position many thought the Nets would hold come playoff time. Toronto is back in the playoffs for the first time in six seasons and with a very different lineup than the last time they were here.

The Raptors are lead by do-it-all guard Kyle Lowry. Lowry’s toughness (leads the league in charges taken) and attitude set the tone for the Atlantic Division champs.

The Nets could feel down about finishing the season as the No. 6 seed but, considering all of the injuries they’ve endured, they have to be happy about their season to this point.

When Brook Lopez went down for the year the team had to find its identity which was difficult with an aging nucleus and an oft injured point guard in Deron Williams. They were able to right things and now find themselves, a veteran laden squad, facing off against one of the most inexperienced teams in the playoffs.

Neither of these teams could be accused of playing a fast paced style during the regular season, but if Toronto hopes to get past the Nets then they will need to use their youth and athleticism to do it.

(4) Chicago Bulls vs (5) Washington Wizards


In this No. 4 vs No. 5 matchup, the Chicago Bulls will have home court advantage against the Washington Wizards.

The Wizards are returning to the playoffs for the first time in eight years riding a four game winning streak. This will be the first playoff series for Washington’s star guard John Wall and his merry band of misfits including Marcin Gortat, Bradley Beal and Nene.

The Bulls have once again crafted a season that stands as a monument to defense. Their defense ranks second in the league, allowing 100.5 points per 100 possessions. While their identity is found on the defensive end, they are left wanting on offense and miss their oft-injured point guard, Derrick Rose.

In the absence of Rose, Joakim Noah has stepped up to fill the unlikely role of playmaker for the Bulls. Noah has been stellar and earned consideration for first team All-NBA. Noah has had five triple-doubles on the season and is the focal point for the Bulls on offense and defense.

If the Bulls hope to advance, they will have to rely as they have all season on Noah and smart team defense. For the Wizards, they will have to find ways to score while playing the team defense that ranked in the top 10 this season. If Wall and company are successful, it will be just the franchise’s second appearance in the second round in the last 30 years.

(1) San Antonio Spurs vs (8) Dallas Mavericks


The San Antonio Spurs have once again earned the top seed in all of basketball, but it is how they have done it this year that is the real story. The Spurs have relied on the likes of Patty Mills, Marco Belinelli and Jeff Ayers to take minutes from Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan in order to keep the stars fresh for the playoffs.

San Antonio is the only team in the league whose leader in minutes played per game is averaging less than 30. Tony Parker leads with 29.4, and that is less than 109 other players in the NBA.

The Mavericks had to fight hard for their spot in these playoffs. Dallas only clinched in the final week of the season and had a chance for the No. 7 seed until it evaporated via a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on the final night of the season.

Ultimately, the Spurs have absolutely owned the Mavericks, winning all four matchups this year and nine in a row over one of their in-state rivals. The Mavericks are here due to the play of their two stars in Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis as both vets put the team on their back at various times in the season.

If the Mavericks are to take four against the defending Western Conference champions, they will need their teammates to step up in a big way.

(2) Oklahoma City Thunder vs (7) Memphis Grizzlies

marc gasol serge ibaka thunder grizzlies 2014

Oklahoma City has to be happy with their draw against the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round. In four games against Memphis this season, the Thunder went 3-1.

Their first win against Memphis came without Marc Gasol in the lineup for the Grizz, and it was something of a blowout. In their second matchup, Gasol was back for Memphis and the Thunder were without Russell Westbrook. The result was a 90-87 Grizzlies win. So with Russell Westbrook, the Thunder are 3-0 against Memphis, winning by an average of 10 points per game.

The Grizzlies earned the right to the seventh seed after defeating the Dallas Mavericks in an overtime thriller on the last day of the season. Though, it is hard to say who exactly the true winner of that game was as both teams will be facing apparent juggernauts in the first round.

For the second-seeded Thunder, this will be their opportunity to exact revenge on a Grizzlies squad the eliminated them from the second round of the playoffs last year. Of course, in last year’s matchup, the Thunder were without Westbrook, who sat out with a serious knee injury.

With the services of their menacing guard, the Thunder should be able to handle the Grizz.

(3) Los Angeles Clippers vs (6) Golden State Warriors

chris paul stephen curry clippers warriors 2014

In what has to be the first-round matchup with the most bad blood, the No. 3 seed Los Angeles Clippers will square off against the Golden State Warriors.

These two teams share a healthy dislike for one another, with each team accusing the other of unearned arrogance. The animosity came to a head during their Christmas Day matchup when the Clippers refused to join the Warriors for pregame chapel, and that extended to the court during the game.

Unfortunately for the Warriors, they will be without their defensive talisman in Andrew Bogut. Bogut has been said to be “out indefinitely” with broken ribs. On a team that forged a new identity as a lockdown defensive squad, Bogut gave them the rim protection and attitude that had many thinking the Warriors could be contenders this year.

Without Bogut, Golden State will struggle to contend with the uber-athletic frontcourt duo of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. The Clippers are not without their question marks as well.

Injury has limited the backcourt rotation with Jamal Crawford, J.J. Reddick and Chris Paul all missing time at the tail end of the season. With a short guard rotation, Steph Curry could run wild, but the Warriors will need more than just that if they are to knock off one of the leading contenders for the West crown this season.

(4) Houston Rockets vs (5) Portland Trail Blazers

damian lillard blazers rockets 2014

Though they finished with identical records, the Rockets earned the No. 4 seed and homecourt advantage over the Blazers thanks to taking the season series 3-1. Houston comes into the playoffs trying to get back to full strength after Patrick Beverley, Chandler Parsons and Dwight Howard all missed significant time at the end of the season due to injury.

In terms of this matchup, the most important Rocket may just be Patrick Beverley. Beverley is known for his dogged defense and his ability to contain Damian Lillard after forcing 16 turnovers from the Blazer point man during the regular season might just be the barometer of Rockets’ success.

The Blazers are hoping to recapture the magic that had them atop the Western Conference standings for much of the first half of the year. Since the calendar changed over, the Blazers have won 58 percent of their games compared to the 2013 part of the season where they won 78 percent of their games.

The length of the Blazers with Robin Lopez and LaMarcus Aldridge could potentially force the Rockets into playing Omer Asik and Dwight Howard together. That is a pairing that lineup Houston trotted out on precious few occasions during the regular season.

Make no mistake about it, James Harden will make his presence known during this series. The Blazers have no answer for him on the defensive side of things. If Harden is allowed to run wild, then expect the Rockets to make it a short series.


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