Trans. Apr 17 3:24 ET (Apr 17 3:24 ET ) To get another shot at LeBron James, the San Antonio Spurs may have to go through Dirk Nowitzki, then Dwight Howard and James Harden, and finally Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. ''There's definitely that burning desire in the back of your mind that really wants to get back there,'' Spurs guard Patty Mills said. They get started on Sunday, right before James and the Heat begin what they hope is a run to a third straight championship. Miami's path seems much easier, but James' team also appears more vulnerable than the one that was an overwhelming favorite in last year's playoffs.
In the first round of the NBA playoffs, it makes sense that the matchup of the fourth and fifth seeds would have two fairly evenly matched teams. With Houston and Portland battling as the fourth and fifth seed, respectively, there are plenty of things that suggest this does bring together to fairly evenly matched teams. Houston has Dwight Howard and James Harden, while the Blazers has LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard. All four players were lottery picks, although the Rockets didn't draft either of their stars, rather acquired each over the last two off seasons.
TUALATIN, Ore. -- When the Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets lock horns this weekend in the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs, its going to be a matchup-friendly affair. Dwight Howard versus Robin Lopez, James Harden up against Wesley Matthews, Chandler Parsons trying to outdo Nicolas Batum, super reserves Jeremy Lin going toe-to-toe with Mo Williams. But without a doubt, the most intriguing, intense matchup will be at the point guard position featuring Patrick Beverley and Damian Lillard.
NEW ORLEANS -- For the Houston Rockets, the only season that counts begins at home Sunday night with their playoff opener against the Portland Trail Blazers. That is why after their 105-100 loss Wednesday night to the New Orleans Pelicans in a regular-season finale, which had no bearing on playoff seeding, the Rockets focused exclusively on the road ahead. As the fourth seed in the Western Conference, the Rockets (54-28) took full advantage of the quasi-scrimmage, giving center Dwight Howard a chance to shake off the rust from a strained left ankle that had sidelined him for three weeks. Houston coach Kevin McHale also was able to rest key players -- leading scorer James Harden, forward Chandler Parsons and guard Jeremy Lin -- before the Rockets enter the postseason grind.