The NBA’s real season begins today. Forget the trials and tribulations of the last 6 months. The ups, downs, highs, and lows of the NBA regular season mean almost nothing now. A distant memory. 16 teams remain, and at the end, just as in Highlander, there can be only one.
The fans in Philly salivating at potential redemption with the additions of Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. The Nuggets faithful riding high as their team moved from outside the playoff picture looking in last year to the 2 seed in the west. Orlando fans thinking their team may have a little magic left in their hat. Toronto fans asking kawhi not us this year? Celtic hooligans looking to forget a turbulent regular season. And golden state guys gearing up for one last championship at Oracle Arena. Everyone from coast to coast is ready for NBA playoff basketball.
Who will be left standing when June arrives? When the squads remaining have been paired from 16 to 2? Injuries, momentum, and matchups are all so important now. But before we get past memorial day, lets review the opening round match ups:
West #1 Seed Golden State Warriors vs West #8 Seed Los Angeles Clippers
The Warriors are the overwhelming favorite according to Vegas bookies, and who are we to argue with them? The Warriors could lose 2, maybe 3 all stars and still would be considered the favorites here. This series will serve as a nice building block for the Doc Rivers’ led Clippers squad. With the ability to clear cap space this summer, at least being competitive in the series could go a long way towards attracting Kawhi Leonard home, or even… Warrior small forward Kevin Durant?
Most fun match up: Draymond Green vs. Montrezl Harrell
Player that will be introduced to the casual fan: Shai Gilgeous Alexander
Outcome: Warriors in 4
West #2 Seed Denver Nuggetts vs. West #7 Seed San Antonio Spurs
On paper the Nuggets are far more talented than the Spurs. Deeper, younger, longer. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Last year the Nuggets were not participants in the playoffs, while the Spurs have taken up permanent residence in the NBA’s second season. Pop’s experience will go a long way, as well the Spurs no name, but oh so effective bench unit, but in the end, the Nuggets are for real.
Most fun match up: DeMar DeRozan vs. Gary Harris
Player that will be introduced to the casual fan: Derrick White
Outcome: Nuggets in 6
West #3 Seed Portland Trailblazers vs. West #6 Seed Oklahoma City Thunder
This match up was setting up to be a well balanced affair highlighted by who could get more out of their supporting cast. Both teams had hard working, but perimeter limited bigs (Jusef Nurkic and Steven Adams), paired with 2 outstanding beyond the arc stars.
Recently though Nurkic was lost for the year. There is some balancing of the force as Paul George is a bit hobbled. In reality though, this is the playoffs, and if there is a chance that George can be out there, he will be. And based upon the regular season THIS, with all due respect to Seinfeld, was shaping up to be the Summer of George. This should be the most entertaining opening series of the playoffs. 2 evenly matched teams with lots to prove.
Most fun match up: Russell Westbrook vs. Dame Lilliard
Player that will be introduced to the casual fan: Jeremi Grant
Outcome: Thunder in 7
West #4 Seed Houston Rockets vs. West #5 Seed Utah Jazz
A series of spot lights and shadows. The Rockets boast 2 of the NBA’s most recognizable stars in James Harden and Chris Paul. Meanwhile the Jazz are led (that’s right, I said led) by the NBA’s most anonymous star, Rudy Gobert. A Frenchman playing in the Great Salt Lake. A solid, if not spectacular offensive player, Gobert is an absolute force on the defensive end. Rockets fans may counter by saying the Clint Capela is a poor man’s Gobert, which I’d agree with, if you meant that Rudy Gobert was Jeff Bezos and Clint Capela had my bank account.
Most fun match up: Donovan Mitchell vs. James Harden
Player that will be introduced to the casual fan: Kenneth Faried
Outcome: Rockets in 7
East #1 Seed Milwaukee Bucks vs. East #8 Seed Detroit Pistons
This boys and girls is why you work so hard in the regular season. To secure home court throughout the playoffs, and to be able to play an unworthy opponent in the first round. The Pistons boast 1.5 stars, and one of them, the 1 in the 1.5 is hobbled. With a full force Blake Griffin, this would still likely be a 4 game series. With him being half the man he normally is, this will be a cake walk for the Bucks. That is just what the doctor ordered though they’re looking to get back their most underrated player, Malcolm Brogdon. Its not every day you have a former Rookie of Year as your most underrated star, but that’s just what has happened in the cheese state. Brogdon’s contributions on both ends of the floor are extremely underrated. He is an ultimate glue guy and leader that any team with championship asperations would be lucky to have.
Most fun match up: Bruce Brown vs. Eric Bledsoe
Player that will be introduced to the casual fan: Pat Connaughton
Outcome: Bucks in 4
East #2 Seed Toronto Raptors vs East #7 Seed Orlando Magic
A tale of two cities. It was the best of times. It was the okayist of times. For Toronto, they put a lot of eggs in this basket. Hit with the realization that they had made it as far as they were going to with the Lowry/DeRozan pairing (something that the Wizards with Wall/Beal and Blazers with Lilliard/McCollum haven’t realized), they made a seismic move and sent DeRozan to the Alamo for 2 way stud Kawhi Leonard, a possible 1 year rental. In Orlando, its been a slow build on the path to NBA relevance. Piece by piece they’ve been building. This playoff appearance is the fruit on the tree that they’ve nurtured. The experience will be immeasurable for Aaron Gordon, and Jonathan Isaac, and may go a long way towards convincing Nic Vucevic to stay.
Most fun matchup: Pascal Siakam vs Jonathan Isaac
Player that will be introduced to the casual fan: Pascal Siakam
Outcome: Raptors in 4
East #3 Seed Philadelphia 76ers vs East #6 Seed Brooklyn Nets
A popular pick for pundits as an early round upset. After last year’s 2nd round loss to the Celtics, Philly has seemingly remade their roster, ditching the balance they had achieved in favor of a top heavy squad. Their starting 5 is a tough match up for anyone when they’re clicking. But as always, it remains to be seen how much they can get out of their best player, Joel Embiid, who is currently hampered by a balky left knee. Will Philly by looking ahead to a match up with Toronto? Or can they keep their focus on the upstart Nets? Brooklyn will be looking to show they belong in the big boy conversation. Not only for their pride, but for their ability to attract a marquee name or two to the big apple.
Most fun match up: Jimmy Butler vs D’Angelo Russell
Player that will be introduced to the casual fan: Jarrett Allen and his magnificent afro
Outcome: 76ers in 7
East #4 Seed Boston Celtics vs East #5 Seed Indiana Pacers
To paraphrase Rick Pitino, Victor Oladipo isn’t walking through that door. The Pacers made a gallant effort to keep up with their early season pace following the devastating injury to their star guard. The pick up of solid 2 way vet Wes Matthews was big. But as usually occurs in these cases, the team was regressing back to where they ought to have been sans Oladipo the last month or so of the season. Meanwhile, Boston hopes to ascend to where they thought they’d be as the season opened. As a rough season full of internal turmoil, they seemed to have had their Ubuntu moment on a west coast trip late in the year. It all adds up to what could be an oddly unbalanced 4/5 match up.
Most fun match up: Al Horford vs. Myles Turner
Player that will be introduced to the casual fan: Bojan Bogdanovic
Outcome: Celtics in 5
- By Jason Sullivan
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