Nine times out of 10 in the playoffs, the better team wins. It's a wonderful consequence of the seven-game series that ensures the legitimacy of the NBA playoffs. There's no crazy "get hot, win four games and walk away with the title." That might make for better ratings, but at least the champion can always say without question they were the best team.
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But every once in a while, matchups matter. And the closer teams are to one another, the more those matchups matter. In a year in which so many teams seem pretty close to each other, those matchups are going to matter more and more.
Take the Western Conference, for example.
The Spurs want to avoid the Grizzlies, who want to avoid the Clippers, who want to avoid the Thunder, who want to avoid the Warriors, who want to avoid the Nuggets, who want to avoid the Spurs. The Thunder and Spurs are the best teams in their conference but both have suffered the pain of unfavorable matchups in recent years.
Meanwhile, in the East, the Knicks don't want to see the Bulls. The Heat are often so focused on the Celtics as rivals that they miss the fact that Indiana has significant matchup advantages and had a very good chance to eliminate them last year, Bosh or no Bosh. No team wants to see the Heat, but the Nets get absolutely destroyed by Miami's specific set of talent.
As we start to see the first signs of the light at the end of the long NBA regular-season tunnel, it's important to keep in mind that it's not just about how good the two teams that meet up are. It's how they match up.