With the 2012-13 NBA regular season over and the playoff standings set, it’s time to dissect the first-round matchups. From team vs. team to player vs. player to front-court vs. front-court, here are the top-five most interesting matchups for the first round of the NBA playoffs.
1. Carmelo Anthony vs. Kevin Garnett
As if there wasn’t enough animosity between New York and Boston already, earlier this season Garnett decided to step it up a notch by reportedly making some comments about the taste of Honey Nut Cheerios. Although that happened in January, this series will mark only the second time these two players have faced each other since the altercation due to Garnett missing two games to injury. And while no extra motivation should be needed in the playoffs, both players will be determined to get the better of each other and KG’s talking will be on overdrive. Cheerios Bowl 2013. Let’s get it.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Houston Rockets
James Harden makes his playoff debut with the Rockets against all of his buddies on the Thunder. In the three matchups these teams had during the regular season, the Thunder went 2-1, with the winning team in each game eclipsing 120 points. So we know this will be a high-scoring series with both Harden and Kevin Martin looking to make noise. Harden needs to show he can be the number one player on a winning team and Martin will want to prove he’s not a downgrade for the Thunder.
Another interesting factor to look out for is what Zach Lowe from Grantland tweeted Thursday morning. In the three regular season games between OKC and Houston, the Thunder were +1 in the 80 minutes Nick Collison was on the bench and +48 during the 64 minutes he was in the game. Now, the plus-minus stat is always at risk to be misleading, but splits this drastically different usually have merit. Collison is a bad matchup for the Rockets and if the Thunder want to close out this series earlier, they will play him often.