NBA playoffs continue to be exciting for fans as most elite teams prepare to face one another
The opening round of the National Basketball Association playoffs consisted of many exciting matchups that nearly became upsets at times, but ultimately finished with top teams as victors. Most dominant were the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, who were able to sweep the first four games versus the Indiana Pacers and Portland Trailblazers, respectively. Additionally, the Houston Rockets coasted to a five-game series win versus the Oklahoma City Thunder, knocking out MVP candidate Russell Westbrook. However, other top teams struggled at times in games, like the San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards and Boston Celtics, who all won the round 4-2.
The Warriors, who swept the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round, are set to play the Utah Jazz. However, against a Jazz team that will struggle to match the offense of Golden State, the Warriors should have no trouble demolishing their opponent in a seven-game series.
The other three matchups will be the most interesting series to watch, as they all seem to feature relatively even matchups.
First, one exciting series to watch will be Cleveland versus Toronto. The last time these two groups met in the playoffs was in the 2016 Eastern Conference Finals, in which Cleveland took the series in six games. In that series, forward LeBron James and point guard Kyrie Irving dominated offensively, but now, with Raptors’ newly acquired top defender Serge Ibaka, the team may perform slightly better defensively against “The King.” Additionally, after last year, Raptors’ guard DeMar DeRozan has improved significantly, with the new ability to consistently control games in ways he has never been able to before throughout his solid career.
Other than these factors, though, the series looks similar to that of last season, with a talented Toronto backcourt that does not create the same playoff presence as Cleveland’s veteran group. Cleveland will likely have the edge in the round.
After a unique first round for Boston, the Celtics now look to take on point guard John Wall and the Wizards in what should also be a great battle. The first-seeded Celtics started their last round down two games to nothing at home, but managed to come back in style, winning four straight games and closing off the series in six. With high morale, they could pose a threat to the Wizards. Aside from their mindset, they may not be talented enough to oppose an emerging Washington team, though. Wall and shooting guard Bradley Beal make up a dangerous backcourt against any team, but Boston will have particular trouble on defense, as point guard Isaiah Thomas will be unable to guard either Beal or Wall effectively. Additionally, Boston struggles with both rebounding and size, making the Wizards a potential nightmare for the Celtics. Though several aspects of this matchup favor Washington to win the series, a top seed like Boston can never be counted out entirely.
Lastly, the Spurs look to take on Houston in what should be a ferocious, competitive series. The Spurs have depth, star talent and one of the league’s best coaches, but Houston has the second-best scorer of the 2016 to 2017 season in point guard James Harden, and little can be done to stop him. Luckily, with one of the league’s top defenders in forward Kawhi Leonard, who will guard Harden, the Spurs seem to have an advantage. However, the Rockets’ three-point shooting can stun teams and may help them keep the highly-anticipated series close.