The NBA playoff round has just begun and there is excitement round the corner. Here is a preview of the top five series to watch. Catch the thrill this season.
After the six month grind of the NBA regular season, it’s finally time for the top eight teams in the eastern and western conferences to battle it out in the playoffs for the NBA championship. The season was highlighted by fantastic individual performances by the likes of Harden and Westbrook who both broke records that have stood since the 1960’s.
But all that is in the past. For now all that matters is which team will end up on top and take the NBA championship. Or to put it another way, to see if any other team can catch up to the super team in the Bay area, the Golden State Warriors.
With playoffs underway, here are the top five series to keep an eye on in round 1:
5. Golden State Warriors (1) vs Portland Trailblazers (8)
All the talk in the NBA coming into the season was about the Golden State Warriors. Former MVP Kevin Durant joining the already star-studded roster which includes, back to back MVP Stephen Curry, one half of the splash brothers Klay Thompson and Defensive Player of the Year candidate Draymond Green has turned the Golden State Warriors into the Real Madrid of Basketball.
On the other side court are the Portland Trailblazers who scraped in the playoffs on the heroics of their newly acquired big man Yusuf Nurkic and point guard Damian Lillard. While the result of this contest isn’t hard to guess it’s still a fascinating watch just to see how well the Golden State Warriors start of their championship bid.
Prediction: 4-0 Golden State Warriors
4. Cleveland Cavaliers (2) vs Indiana Pacers (6)
Current titleholder Cleveland Cavaliers, led by arguably the best player in the league LeBron James, was touted to be the number one seed in the east again at the start of the season. But sloppy defensive play, coupled with the unexpected rise of the Boston Celtics means that the Cavaliers enter the post season at the second seed.
Cleveland hasn’t looked like itself since the all-star break in February. They have had one of the worst defensive ratings and have had a less than impressive win loss record. But, at the end of the day, history has taught us better than to bet against a team with LeBron James in it.
Everyone will be looking at this series as the battle of the superstars, LeBron James vs nemesis Paul George, whose Pacers team looks rejuvenated since the return of Lance Stephenson. But the big question to answer is whether Cleveland will flip the proverbial switch and return to the defensive intensity that helped them win the Championship last year.
Prediction: 4-2 Cleveland Cavaliers
3. Boston Celtics (1) vs Chicago Bulls (8)
Boston vs Chicago in the east is a battle of the unexpected. On one hand are the Boston Celtics, who no one expected to oust Cleveland as the number one seed. Led by the charismatic play of their 5’9” point guard Isiah Thomas and some stellar play from their role players, Boston turned out to be the surprise of the season out east.
But this line up of the Boston Celtics hasn’t proven itself in the playoffs, never having won the playoff series since the Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett days of 2012.
On the other side of the spectrum are the Chicago Bulls who no one expected to reach the post season at the All Star break in February. Chicago has been one of the most inconsistent teams this season sometimes playing extraordinarily well and defeating the likes of Cleveland and Golden State, only to lose to a lower ranked team in the next match. On paper this might seem pretty straightforward but both teams are unknown quantities.
Prediction: 4-3 Boston Celtics
2. Los Angeles Clippers (4) vs Utah Jazz (5)
The LA Clippers have been to basketball what South Africa has been to cricket, ever the bridesmaid never the bride. Filled with stars like Chris Paul, DeAndre Jorden and Blake Griffin they should be amongst the best teams in the league, but they have never managed to convert that star power to success in the playoffs.
After multiple attempts this seems like the do or die season for the Clippers with all the talk leading to Chris Paul and Griffin leaving the team if they fail to find success in the post season again. The Jazz on the other hand look like a team that is on the start of the same journey that the Clippers are at the end off. They are a young team led by three rising stars in Gordon Hayword, George Hill and Defensive Player of the year candidate Rudy Gobert. Having the lower seed means that Utah lose home court advantage but none the less this contest is poised to be the most evenly matched one amongst the other round 1 series.
Prediction: 4-3 Los Angeles Clippers
Update: Rudy Gobert picked up an injury in the first game of the series yesterday. Not having him in the team could have huge implications for the series. But on the other hand the Jazz went on to win the first match of the series without Gobert on a last second buzzer beater.
1. Houston Rockets (3) vs Oklahoma City Thunder (6)
The fact that this is the match up that everyone is looking forward to shouldn’t come as a surprise for anyone who has been following the regular season. It’s the head to head matchup of the only two MVP candidates this season (Sorry Kawhi and LeBron), James Harden of the Houston Rockets vs Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Both players have been having career best seasons and who should win the league MVP award has been the subject of raging debates amongst many NBA fans.
On one hand is Russell Westbrook, who is out breaking record after record since the departure of long time teammate Kevin Durant to the Golden State Warriors. He’s the first player since Oscar Robertson in 1962 to average a triple double (over 10 points, rebounds and assists) through a whole season and also holds the record for most triple doubles in a season with 42. He’s single handedly brought the Thunder into the playoffs with his electrifying play.
In any other season James Hardens numbers would have made him a unanimous MVP choice, he’s second only to Westbrook in points per game, leads the league in assists and is only a couple of rebounds shy of the magical triple double average. But what Harden has going for him is a superior team record. He’s led his Houston Rockets to the third seed in the west and propelled the Rockets into one of the best offensive forces in the NBA.
Houston does have the much better team but questioning Russell Westbrook’s capability hasn’t turned out to be a good strategy for a lot of press or pundits. His sheer determination is likely to produce some electrifying basketball in this first round.
Prediction: 4-2 Houston Rockets