One would think a climatic regular season finale, which saw a legend retire and a record broken, would be the feel good stories to go out on, but not even close. Things are only getting started in the NBA with the playoffs already in progress, and if there is one thing that the regular season could predict for these playoffs it’s that anything can happen.
In the Eastern Conference there is a lot of room for upsets, particularly for the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers who are facing the surging Detroit Pistons. The Cavs grinded out a victory in game one but if the Pistons can repeat their shooting performance over the course of the next few games they may very well steal some victories. Still, expect the Cavs the move on in this one.
Second seeders, the Toronto Raptors are pitted against the Indiana Pacers. It’s hard not to feel a little sorry for the Pacers as they’ve had a great return to form this year, thanks in large part to Paul George recovering from his leg breaking like turkey wishbone. Yet still, that story has been overshadowed by Kobe retirement and the Warriors’ record run. The Pacers might be able to snag a win but the second seed Raptors should head into the second round.
It seems inevitable that fans will see at least one upset in the east, and if it’s going to come from anywhere in this first round, it’s safe to say it’s one of these two series. The Miami Heat are sharing the court with the Charlotte Hornets. While the Hornets were one of the biggest surprises to come out of the season, almost flipping their record from last year, the Heat scored a franchise record breaking 123 points in game one.
Meanwhile, the Atlanta Hawks have a 2-0 advantage over Isaiah Thomas and his Boston Celtics. While things are looking just about wrapped up for the Celtics, don’t be surprised if they make some adjustments and steal this series.
Looking down the road at the conference finals, it’s hard not to expect the Cavs to make it through. The Six has become one of the hottest cities in the world and the Raptors are going to make their summer even hotter by pushing deep. Who wins between the two though? LeBron has played in the past five Finals; expect the tradition to continue.
First round action of the Western Conference seems much more set in stone, and it isn’t until the later rounds that match ups will begin to get interesting. Even without Stephen Curry in game two, the defending champion Golden State Warriors made easy work of the Houston Rockets. The playoffs just wouldn’t feel like the playoffs without a meandering performance from Dwight Howard, so at least enjoy that while the Warriors close out the series.
The San Antonio Spurs have found the basketball fountain of youth and they will likely stay in their winning ways until head coach Greg Popovich decides to retire. It would perhaps be one of the biggest shocks in the playoffs if the Memphis Grizzlies end up coming back from their already 0-2 deficit.
Oklahoma City Thunder might be the only team in the west that doesn’t look to have the first round on lock down. The Thunder missed the playoffs last year with Kevin Durant sitting out, so based off that added anger to play with, it would be a collapse of epic proportions to see the Thunder fall to the Dallas Mavericks. Speaking of epic collapses.
Los Angeles may have just lost their Lakers star, but the Clippers are looking to make the city forget that name a little quicker than normal. In their last few playoffs appearances, the Clippers have always been looked at as a favorite to go all the way but never manage to meet those expectations. The looming question for them isn’t can they get past the Portland Trailblazers in the first round, they likely will, but can they be a dominant team deep in the playoffs?
The answer to that question is probably no. The Golden State Warriors are an insane team and their conference championship ticket is all but punched unless Curry’s ankle injury becomes a bigger problem. The Spurs seem all but destined to make the push as well. Out of all the teams mentioned in both conferences, the Spurs and Warriors are the best two teams so a seven game series between the two is what basketball fans deserve.
Sports fans are currently living in an era with storybook endings to the greats. Tim Duncan is in the twilight of his career and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if arguably the greatest player of a generation stepped away. What better way would there be for Mr. Fundamental to end his legacy than by stopping LeBron James in the finals one more time?
Basketball Gods, get to work.