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Playoff roundtable: Most compelling first-round series so far?

LaMarcus Aldridge; Dwight Howard The Blazers and Rockets have had three of their four games go to OT. (Sam Forencich/NBAE/Getty Images)

SI.com’s NBA writers debate the biggest playoff question of the day. Today, we examine …

What's been the best first-round series so far?

Lee Jenkins: Rockets-Blazers. The Blazers lead 3-1 but these teams are so evenly matched they ought to play best of nine. Three games have required overtime. LaMarcus Aldridge has scored more than 40 points twice. James Harden has gone from goat to hero and back. Damian Lillard has been as comfortable on the postseason stage as on an Oakland playground. Patrick Beverley has fought through a torn meniscus and a couple hundred screens. Oh ... and then there's that guy from the D-League who can't miss. Relatively speaking, the Blazers and Rockets are playoff novices, and at times defense has been lacking. But they've set the bar for first-round action.

Chris Ballard: Too close to call. Better question: Which series hasn't been compelling? This has easily been the most entertaining first round in recent memory. I was up in Portland for Game 3 -- aka the Troy Daniels game -- and thought that series would be hard to top. Then Vince Carter hit that nutty shot to end another Rick Carlisle vs. Gregg Popovich showdown. And Stephen Curry went ballistic amid the strangeness of Sunday morning. This is not even to mention how mesmerizing it's been to watch Russell Westbrook alternate between hero and saboteur, and to watch the Pacers suddenly relying on Luis Scola. Crazy to think that, only a few years ago, people were complaining that the new era of "superteams" would take all the drama out of the postseason.

Ben Golliver: Rockets/Blazers. I teased my Rockets/Blazers series preview by saying that people shouldn't sleep on it in favor of the more heralded Warriors/Clippers matchup. That's proved to be literally accurate, as three overtime games through four contests have kept me up writing all night. The storylines here are just so juicy: Aldridge's emergence, Daniels' D-Leaguer-to-Postseason Hero journey and Harden's struggles are the top three, but we're also getting to see Dwight Howard play excellent basketball and a great perimeter showdown between Chandler Parsons and Nicolas Batum. Hanging over every game is what a first-round exit would mean for the Rockets from a free-agency standpoint and for coach Kevin McHale's future. There's just too much to like here.

Matt Dollinger: Clippers/Warriors. Rockets/Blazers is tough to beat, but there are other series just as compelling. How about the sub-.500 Hawks up 3-2 on the Pacers, who might go down as the worst No. 1 seed in history? How about the West's 1-8 matchup, the Spurs and Mavericks, being deadlocked at 2-2 and having three of their four games decided by five points or fewer? But most intriguing of all has been Clippers-Warriors, which led our pre-playoff series rankings in terms of entertainment, but has become compelling for different reasons in recent days. Tied 2-2, the two teams play a pivotal Game 5 in Los Angeles on Tuesday. But the story of the series is the cloud cast by Clippers owner Donald Sterling and the NBA's investigation into his alleged racist remarks. We saw Clippers players silently protest before Game 4. How will they respond in L.A.? How about the fans? Will anyone show up? Will anyone care if the Clippers win or lose? Clippers-Warriors started the postseason of great basketball interest. Now, it's transformed into something even bigger: of great human interest.

Previously:

4/28: Which No. 1 more in trouble: Spurs or Pacers?

4/25: What storyline will decide Thunder-Grizzlies?

4/24: Bulls or Rockets more likely to fall into 0-3 hole?

More SI.com NBA playoff coverage

2014 NBA playoff schedule: Dates, times, TV

NBA playoff predictions: SI experts give series-by-series picks

MAHONEY: Why your team will (or won’t) win the title

GOLLIVER: Five storylines to watch in 2014 playoffs

MAHONEY: Ranking first round series by watchability

GOLLIVER: Grading all 30 NBA teams’ seasons

AWARDS: Durant SI.com’s unanimous MVP winner

DOLLINGER: Playoff Power Rankings

 

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