NBA playoffs are on the horizon
While the ground outside and the forecast over the coming weeks may not show it, we are officially in spring and with that comes the seasonal transition that sports fans everywhere are ready for. March Madness has left us with four battle hardened teams ready for their chance at glory. Baseball spring training is well on its way, with opening day right around the corner. The NBA regular season has been raging all winter long and teams have eight short games to make their final pushes before the playoffs. Here’s how the playoff picture has been shaping up for the NBA.
For the past few seasons the Raptors have been a young, eager team looking to put the pieces together. This season, Kyle Lowry, Demar Derozan and the rest of the squad have quietly been dominating the east. Lebron and the Cavaliers have been facing their own internal turmoil and drama. The Celtics have dealt with their fare share of injuries to newly acquired top players Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving. The Raptors quickly filled the void and have captured home field advantage for the eastern conference playoffs. The Celtics and Cavaliers follow them with the two and three seed, respectively, and are still dangerous teams with sincere finals aspirations. In the middle of the pack, the upstart 76ers and Pacers are set to face off in the first round as the fourth and fifth seeds respectively. The Wizards follow them at seed number 6 and will have the tumultuous task of facing the Cavaliers in round one. John Wall has returned to practice, so if he and Bradley Beal play well, it won’t be an easy win for the Cavs. Giannis Antetokounmpo has taken the NBA by storm, but his Bucks will face a tough test against a more complete Celtics team in round one. Dwyane Wade, likely in his last season, will have one more shot at postseason glory if his 8 seed Heat can upset the Raptors in round one.
It is no secret that a lot of top talent of the NBA plays in the west, making the western conference playoffs arguably more exciting and meaningful. This year should be no exception. The Warriors have been a shoe in for the conference for the past couple of years, but this year things could be different. James Harden and the Rockets have been absolutely dominant all year long and have surely earned the 1 seed. They will face the Utah Jazz in the first round. Golden State has not slouched though, they should still win at least 60 games and the second seed in the west. They will host a first round matchup against the Timberwolves. The middle four teams in the west are separated by only two games, so the last couple of weeks could change the order drastically, but here’s how it stands today. Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers are set to take on the Spurs in the first round. Even without the talents of Kawhi Leonard, the Greg Popovich and the spurs are still a dangerous team. Oklahoma City leads New Orleans by only half a game, so their seeding could change, but as it stands today, they will square off in round one.
This season will end differently than the last three in that the Cavs and Warriors will not meet in the finals. James Harden and the Rockets will outlast the Warriors in seven games to make it to their first finals since 1995. On the eastern front, the Cavs will fall earlier than expected and the Blazers and Celtics will battle it out in the eastern conference finals, with the Celtics eventually gaining the upper hand. James Harden, Chris Paul and the Rockets will end the season victorious and will fly the championship banner in Houston.