Sunday, April 15, 2018

Sports: NBA Playoffs (First Round)

The NBA returns for what has been a predictable tournament for the last few years. There are plenty of exciting games, excellent players, and only the best teams make it far but the dominance of the last few years by certain teams has made this somewhat routine. The last three years have had the same teams in the Finals and that doesn't look to change this year. I've been running into several people who believe the NBA is either boring, rigged, or completely fake. I find this observation unbelievable and usually espoused by casual viewers or people who pay little to no attention to the NBA. There have been a lot of changes in this league and I think this year is the start of tons of new stories that will play out over the next decade. 

Eastern Conference
Toronto Raptors vs Washington Wizards
I wasn't able to really follow the Toronto Raptors much this year but they have pushed themselves to the top of the NBA East. Drake's favorite team won't have it easy in the first round as the Washington Wizards have their best player John Wall returning from the disabled list. Still, the Raptors have a winning formula and they should be able to get out of this round but they might run out of luck soon after. The Raptors took the first game 114-106.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs Indiana Pacers
The Cleveland Cavaliers look to head their third NBA Finals in a row and Lebron James looks to go to the eighth NBA Finals in a row. The reigning runner-up tried to rebuild their team, losing some unhappy players and adding some supposed new talent but disagreements and upsetting losses caused a midseason rebuild. This year may be different for Cleveland and their first opponent can be sneakily tough. The Indiana Pacers have had a mediocre season but they have rebuilt after losing their star so they have young players looking to prove something. 

Philadelphia 76ers vs Miami Heat
The process of the Philadelphia 76ers has finally started to pay off. Their top draft picks from years of tanking has made them a solid 4-seed but moving any further will take true talent. The Miami Heat have had a long recovery after losing two all-stars. One returned but age has caught up with him. I'm leaning towards the Sixers but there could be an upset. The Sixers took the first game with a resounding win 130-103. The Heat managed to pull off an upset with a ten-point win 113-103 in game two. Philadelphia returns to dominance with a 128-108 in Miami. The Sixers had a bit of a challenge in game four but moved closer to eliminating the Heat with a third win 106-102

Boston Celtics vs Milwaukee Bucks

At the start of the season, I thought the Boston Celtics would be the team to upset the status quo and with their giant legacy, it looked like that could happen but an opening day game injury and a late-season injury have taken out two of their best players. The Milwaukee Bucks have been rebuilding to get here but their young players still might not have enough to get past Boston. 

Western Conference
Houston Rockets vs Minnesota Timberwolves
The best team in the NBA has a lot to prove in these playoffs. The Houston Rockets may have the best record in the league but without a title, it means very little. Plenty of teams let the regular season slide when they can dominate in the playoffs but we've yet to see if the Rockets, who made some big additions, will be able to make regular season magic into playoff magic. James Harden seems like a solid MVP candidate and dispatching the scrappy Minnesota Timberwolves with their final game entry into the playoffs shouldn't be too hard. 

Oklahoma City Thunder vs Utah Jazz
The Oklahoma City Thunder have had two years to recover from losing their best player but they worked to build a new superteam this year. That did not pay off as much as they would have liked and they are taking on a new refreshed team in the Utah Jazz. I don't get to watch these West Coast teams but I think the Thunder are a safe bet.

Portland Trailblazers vs New Orleans Pelicans
A surprising pair of teams that have built their teams into solid performers which have put them in this position. I am leaning towards the Portland Trailblazers but the New Orleans Pelicans could definitely pull off the upset with plenty of star players that have just not gotten it together. The Pelicans took the first game 97-95. New Orleans continued to roll through Portland 111-102. Back in New Orleans, the Pelicans beat the Trail Blazers 119-102. Finishing off the sweep and proving me totally wrong, the Pelicans won game four 131-123.
Golden State Warriors vs San Antonio Spurs
The Golden State Warriors have appeared seemingly unstoppable for the last three years and the addition of Kevin Durant to Steph Curry's shooting sealed the deal last year. This year, the Warriors still seem awesome but not as strong as last year and injuries have sidelined Curry for the first round. The once great San Antonio Spurs have fallen and almost didn't make it into the playoffs as the competitive West fought for positions. This series looks to be lopsided as the Warriors crushed San Antonio 113-92

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