Are we about to see the greatest NBA playoffs of all time?
It’s about time we broke away from the monotony of the NBA postseason. Last year’s Finals matchup between the Warriors and Cavaliers (to cap off their finals trilogy) was all too predictable. Golden State didn’t even lose a playoff game until game 4 of the Finals. Cleveland cruised to the championship round with almost the same amount of ease.
This year, however, neither team is the overwhelming favorite to even make it that far, as fans and sportswriters alike have been toying with the idea of a Boston – Houston match-up all season. Besides that, there are plenty of other squads that are ready to make some postseason noise.
To get an idea of how crazy this year’s playoffs might be, let’s take a look at the current Conference standings as the season winds down to an end.
Starting in the West, we see that both Houston and the Golden State Warriors have clinched their division and a guaranteed playoff spot (as indicated by the lowercase y). Then from the third position all the way down to 10th it’s anybody’s game (a lowercase x indicates a clinched playoff spot, and there is not one to be seen). There are roughly 10 games remaining for each team to play in the regular season.
Portland, who have risen to the third position after a double-digit win streak that was snapped by the Rockets, shockingly enough have not guaranteed themselves a playoff spot. The western conference is saturated with good teams that are sitting at about the same level, putting them only games apart from each other. Only 3 1/2 games separate the 3rd seed from the 8th seed. A losing streak to end the season could push the Trailblazers out of contention, while a win streak to finish out the season could potentially bring the Clippers back into the playoff picture.
Heck, the Lakers technically aren’t out of the running yet, but it is highly unlikely that any of the teams above them lose enough games to slide underneath them in the standings.
On the other side, the Eastern Conference has a watered-down version of this dilemma. At this point, most teams are fighting for home court advantage rather than a spot in the playoffs, but it’s a fight all the same. The Bucks currently are sitting comfortable in the last playoff slot with a 6 game lead over the Pistons, but moving up the rankings provides an opportunity to avoid a first round exit at the hands of Toronto.
For many years the Eastern Conference has been considered the weaker half of the NBA, but the talent has definitely risen and the ‘Big Easy’ looks more competitive than ever this year. The Cleveland Cavaliers (who have ruled the East ever since LeBron’s return from Miami) have clinched a playoff spot, but are not viewed to be as dangerous of contenders as the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics. Add to that mix ‘The Process’ in Philadelphia in the All-Star rise of Victor Oladipo and Indiana and you’ve got an interesting turn out for the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Will this be the year that someone finally breaks Lebron’s finals streak? Will anyone be able to dethrone the Warriors from repeating a championship? The competition this year is fierce, and teams are fighting for their lives. I predict that that same intensity will be brought into the postseason, and boy will we be in for a show then.
Graphic source: ESPN.com
Image source: SI.com