As the first round of the NBA playoffs wind down, the Western Conference is compelling.

The young Thunder will most likely face the Mamba and his Lakers. The reinvigorated Spurs will tip it off against the young Clippers or Grizzlies.

Out west, the treacherous journey will be long and arduous. Incredible matchups, tough teams, and wily vets with multiple rings, with some long series mixed in with the unpredictability of who will advance.

Every shot contested, hard fouls at the rim, and close games will enthrall basketball fans.

Yes, the road will be tough to make it out of the west.

In the Eastern Conference, though? Those things need not apply.

No one, and that means no one, is touching the Miami Heat.

The minute Derrick Rose’s ACL left his knee, so, too, did the intrigue in the east. At this point, at the next point, and the point after that, fans will tune in to see who finishes second.

Save your Rondo to the rescue arguments. Forget about your Sixers mysticism. Abandon the Pacers belief. This thing is over.

The Heat fell down in the NBA Finals last season to Dallas. The Dream Team had no recourse against Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs. Coming into this season (once there was a season), it seemed like they would come back to avenge the defeat.

LeBron James put up a MVP campaign on his road to redemption. There’s no telling if he’ll hoist the trophy that matters most. The teams out west can give Lebron and Wade a run for their money. Just like last year, a worthy opponent will await them.

That worthy opponent doesn’t exist in the Eastern Conference. Perhaps the Bulls could have defeated them in a seven-game series with home court. At times, even that seemed like a long shot.

This season, the Heat looked to be stuck on cruise control. Now, they’re ready to kick it into full gear.

And while many will point to the Celtics’ 3-1 record against Miami this season as a rallying cry, Boston doesn’t have enough. The C’s won’t get past Lebron this season; forget about it.

Mark it down now and if you bet on the Heat to make the finals earlier this year, cash your tickets.

These playoffs have become a mere formality in the Eastern Conference. It’s sad, because years and years of great, gritty basketball have been in the east.

Great teams battled blow-for-blow with tremendous rivalries developing. This isn’t that Eastern Conference. The second round matchups will probably hold some traditional franchises, but they aren’t what they once were.

Outside of basketball purists, no one wants to watch the Sixers without a star against the aging Celtics and Rondo. Indiana has some extremely good players, but they’re just serving as cannon fodder in the second round.

The key to gaining viewers is having a team that can challenge and beat Miami. The hate for Lebron and the Dream Team Part II is strong among the viewing public. To have a Rose-led Bulls team meet them in the ECF would have been fantastic for the NBA.

Alas, it won’t happen. Those viewers will have to wait for the Finals.

The road out west is tough.

Miami’s path is a stroll down easy street.