There are many possible NBA playoffs match-ups that would raise the excitement level of NBA fans. There are match-ups that fans would like to see but are unlikely to happen once the playoffs roll around. However, there are still plenty of potential exciting matchups that could take place.
Potential NBA Playoff Matches
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Los Angeles Lakers – Battle of LA
This match, if it happens will not take place until the Western Conference Semi-Finals or Finals in the Conference. However, of all the potential match-ups this would be the most intense. A former season MVP in LeBron James will face reigning NBA Finals MVP in Kawhi Leonard. Not to mention other superstars like Paul George and Anthony Davis who would also be part of this series.
When the Los Angeles Clippers were born via relocation in 1984, it began the LA derby. However, it is also the fact that these two LA teams have never met each other in the NBA playoffs. Part of that is the Clippers’ lack of success in the NBA. Although, the Los Angeles Lakers had a chance to make that happen in the 2005-06 NBA season.
The Los Angeles Lakers are currently first in the West and have the second-best record in the NBA. However, the Los Angeles Clippers had the upper-hand this season going undefeated in two games against the Lakers. They will face each other again on March 8th and April 9th.
The Los Angeles Clippers beat the Denver Nuggets in five games and would face the winner of the Los Angeles Lakers-Phoenix Suns series. Unfortunately for Lakers fans, they lost in seven games to Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns.
Boston Celtics vs. Toronto Raptors – NBA Playoffs
These two teams, who play in the same division are very likely to face each other for the first time this year in the Eastern Conference semi-finals. There should be respect shown to the teams like the Philadelphia 76ers and the Orlando Magic who currently hold the sixth and seventh place in the Eastern Conference. However, the Raptors and Celtics are favorites to win against either the 76ers or the Orlando Magic. The Philadelphia 76ers is a good team but going with nine wins and 23 losses on the road is not going to cut it in the NBA playoffs.
There are good players on both sides. With the Raptors, there is Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, and Kyle Lowry. Meanwhile, in Boston, is their three-headed monster in Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Kemba Walker.
In this century, these two teams have been the benchmark of the Atlantic Division. Of the last 15 NBA seasons, the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics have won 13 Atlantic Division banners between them. The only other teams to win Atlantic Division banners in that time-span was the New Jersey Nets (now the Brooklyn Nets) in 2005-06 and the New York Knicks in 2012-13 NBA season. Also, these two teams are the only Atlantic Division teams to win an NBA title in the 21st century. They have set themselves apart from the rest in the Atlantic Division.
The Boston Celtics are currently leading the season series two games to one, with the final season game between these two teams on March 20th.
Toronto and Boston – NBA and NHL Playoff Rivalry
The Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics have trouble winning in opposing arenas when facing each other. The Celtics beat the Toronto Raptors for the first time since 2015 at Scotiabank Arena on Christmas Day.
The Raptors then beat the Boston Celtics on December 28th. This was their first win at TD Garden since 2016. In this century, the only sport where Toronto and Boston met each other in the playoffs was ice hockey. The Toronto Maple Leafs have faced the Boston Bruins three times in the last decade. The Boston Bruins won all three-times in the NHL playoffs in seven games.
The Toronto Raptors are ahead of the Boston Celtics by only one game and a half. If the Raptors fall into third place, they will face the Philadelphia 76ers.
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Toronto Raptors – NBA Playoffs
Toronto and Philadelphia sports teams now how to make the NBA playoffs series exciting. Both NBA playoff series in 2001 and 2019 were determined by one shot. Both Vince Carter and Leonard put up a shot late in the NBA playoffs on game seven.
The only difference was that Carter missed the all-important shot and Leonard made the shot. In 2001, the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Toronto Raptors and went to the NBA Finals. They lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in five games. Then in 2019, thanks to Leonard’s shot, the Toronto Raptors went to the NBA Playoffs Finals like the Philadelphia 76ers in 2001. Unlike Allen Iverson’s Philadelphia 76ers though, the Toronto Raptors won the NBA Finals and the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy, making the loss sting even more for 76ers fans.
Right now, the season series is 2-1 in favor of the Toronto Raptors. They will face each other again in the NBA regular season on March 18th at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Los Angeles Clippers – NBA Playoffs
This is the only potential NBA Finals matchup that made the list. This, of course, is a low probability, but the Milwaukee Bucks facing a Clippers can be considered an interesting final match-up. This potential NBA Finals match-up would be more interesting than either the Los Angeles Lakers or the Houston Rockets. James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo may have had some beef with each other in the past that has been building up in the last month.
However, the fact of the matter is they do not have any playoff experience facing each other. The same thing can be said about the Los Angeles Lakers as Antetokounmpo has never faced them in the playoffs. With the Los Angeles Clippers, there is one guy Antetokounmpo has faced in the playoffs, Leonard. Last year, Leonard was playing for the Toronto Raptors.
For example, in-game three and four in the Eastern Conference Finals, he guarded Antetokounmpo 44 and 52 percent of the time respectively according to NBA.com. This allowed the Raptors to win the NBA Eastern Conference winning the series in six games despite losing the first two games in the series. Both the Bucks and Clippers have won one game each against each other in the 2019-20 NBA Season.
Dallas Mavericks vs. Houston Rockets
The two teams that represent the state of Texas could very well be a playoff match-up for the ages. The Houston Rockets currently reside in the fourth spot in the Western Conference. The Dallas Mavericks are seventh in the Western Conference but are not too far behind the fifth-placed Utah Jazz. This playoff matchup has a good chance of happening.
With two MVP candidates in Luka Doncic and Harden, this matchup should be very exciting to watch. The Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets have met each other three times in the NBA playoffs. All of these matchups happened in the first round. First, starting with 1988 the Mavericks defeated the Rockets three games to one.
They would not meet again until 2005 when the Dirk Nowitzki defeated Tracy McGrady and the Houston Rockets four games to three. Then finally in 2015, Houston gets its first-ever NBA playoff win against the Dallas Mavericks, winning the series four games to one. The season series is currently tied at one game apiece with two games coming up on March 23rd and April 7th.
Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
The only time the Thunder made the NBA Finals since moving from Seattle to Oklahoma City, Harden and Westbrook were both on the team in 2012. Westbrook was considered the heart and soul of the Thunder, while Harden was traded straight after the 2012 post-season. Westbrook also was dealt to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Chris Paul.
The two best players on the Thunder right now never played with Westbrook or Harden. This includes Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who is having an incredible NBA season. However, there are many players that played with Westbrook including New Zealand native Steven Adams. This series would feel a lot like the 2007 NBA playoffs where Carter and the New Jersey Nets faced his former team in Chris Bosh and the Toronto Raptors.
These teams have never met each other, and there is no history of rivalries in other pro sports leagues. This has more to do with Oklahoma City though, as the Thunder is their only professional sports franchise. The Thunder have won the season series two to one.
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Miami Heat
This matchup would be quite interesting for any sports fan. The 76ers are currently sixth in the NBA Eastern Conference. The Miami Heat are fourth in the Eastern Conference, which makes this matchup very enticing. Jimmy Butler was the 76ers best player last year and was their best player in the NBA Playoffs.
“It was a big loss because me and him, we got to the point where we were really close – we’re still close. We talk a lot, that’s my guy, that’s my brother forever. I wish he was still on the team because I feel like the relationship that I built with him could have gone a long way. When it was the fourth quarter, we knew the ball would either be in me or Jimmy’s hands. I knew I could count on him. This year it kind of changes around. Now other guys have to step up and I have to do more.”
Butler knows everything about the 76ers and conversely, the 76ers know everything about Butler and his time in Philadelphia. It is quite impressive that the Heat are the ones with a better record as no one saw Bam Adebayo becoming an NBA All-Star. Ben Simmons will be a factor on the other side for the 76ers. They have played four games against each other with the Miami Heat winning three of the four games this season.
In the playoffs, both teams have won one series each. The Miami Heat won against the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the 2011 NBA playoffs four games to one. The 76ers returned the favor in the 2018 NBA playoffs also winning four games to one.
Overview of Potential NBA Playoff Matches
These seven potential rivalries are just a snippet of what could be coming in the NBA playoffs. Some of these potential matchups may happen. It is really too early to tell. Any of these contests may or may not happen depending on how the rest of the season and NBA playoffs pan out.
The Battle of LA, the Battle of Texas, and the big sports rivalry between Toronto and Philadelphia should make any fan very excited for this year’s playoffs. These are also just a few potential NBA playoff matchups that could take place in next year’s NBA playoffs.
This is a big reason why the Boston Celtics vs. Los Angeles Lakers NBA Final did not make the list. It is one of the most intense rivalries in all of sports, but there is no guarantee either team makes it to the NBA Finals.
This is especially true for Boston as the standings stay right now. They will most likely have to face the defending champions, the Toronto Raptors, in the second round, and potentially one of the best teams in NBA history, the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals. It is a tall task for the Boston Celtics to accomplish.
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