Best individual matchups of round 1 of the NBA playoffs
So without further ado, here are the top individual first round matchups to watch:
Blake Griffin vs. Zach Randolph: This is one of the best individual matchup of the first round for a few reasons. First, both players are vital to their team's success. Memphis plays a half-court game and Z-bo needs to be a consistent force down on the block in order for the paint domination strategy to work. And the Clippers need to establish an interior half-court presence if they want to win the series and I doubt they'll run many plays for Deandre Jordan, so Blake is going to have to step up.
Second, these two have history. We all remember last year's phenomenal first round series between these two teams. LA had a huge comeback in the first game and eventually won in seven. Randolph and the Grizz want revenge after last year and and letting Z-Bo go to work against a younger and less experienced Griffin will help them control the pace and keep Griffin busy on defense.
And in case you haven't seen this, there's been a little physicality between the two forwards recently too.
Tim Duncan vs. Dwight Howard: Dwight has been a beast lately. He finally remembered that he's really big and strong and has forced his way to the basket, imposing his will and getting to the line 49 times in his last three games alone. But the Playoff version of Tim Duncan will hold him, pester him, push him, and whatever else it takes to make Dwight uncomfortable. The Big Fundamental averaged 30 minutes a game during the regular season but, just like they do year after year, Duncan and the Spurs are about to turn it on when the post season starts.
Expect these two to dictate how the series goes. The only way the Lakers compete in this series is if Dwight is able to expose Tim Duncan. If it gets to a game 5 or 6 and we start to see Duncan struggle to keep Dwight off the block, the Spurs are going to be in big trouble. But if the Spurs can keep Howard in check, the series shouldn't last long.
Carmelo Anthony vs. Paul Pierce: Maybe they should temporarily change the rules of basketball and just make it a 1-on-1 to decide who advances to round 2. I'd watch that. Carmelo has been on fire this year and can single-handedly carry the team. But we've seen Pierce do the same thing before in the playoffs Pierce only has 3 games of at least 30 points this season, but if he's able to match Carmelo's production for a few games, this series could get very interesting and fans certainly wouldn't mind watching the two of them go back and forth, matching each other shot for shot.