As Browns fans ponder just how audacious their hope for next season should be and Bengals fans stare stagnantly at a decade plus of soul stealing mediocrity, there is the NBA. While baseball fans loiter sheepishly in the first month of another 362 game season, there is the NBA. While the NHL is such a joke of a professional league that an expansion team in Vegas wins a division in their first year, yes, there has always been, the NBA.
And now the NBA’s yearly crowning achievement, the Playoffs!?# are upon us. This year’s theme is a repeat of last year’s “Can anyone stop a Golden State-Cleveland rematch?” mixed in with an influx of young, talented teams. Here’s a look at some of the series most worth watching plus predictions for the First Round.
Pelicans v. Trail Blazers: Perhaps the most tragic moment of this season was the night DeMarcus Cousins tore his achilles tendon. That New Orleans finished with the #6 seed is a testament to the greatness of Ant Davis and, and, wait...Rajon Rondo? Jrue Holiday’s a damn good point guard and it should be fun to watch how big Davis has to play for New Orleans to stand a chance against future fellow All NBA 1st teamer Dame Lillard and his Rip City squad.
76ers v. Heat: I don’t think Miami is going to beat Philadelphia but boy is Philly fun to watch right now. They have been the hottest team in the league since the All Star break and the ‘Process’ has never sounded so attractive. Look, great teams hardly ever hit that “great” level until they go through some real playoff battles and most of the top Sixers have little to no playoff experience. It’s hard to confidently predict Philly is going to the Eastern Conference finals let alone dethrone the King but the NBA is on notice and Illadelphia is going to be in the conversation for years to come.
Thunder v. Jazz: Oklahoma City has been all over the place this year and their performance in the playoffs will shed light on how people view Billy Donovan as an NBA head coach, if Carmelo is really washed or not, and how confident Lakers fans can be that PG13 is coming to town. Utah’s exceeded most expectations the year after losing Gordon Hayward by making it to the 5th seed in the wild, wild West. Was Carmelo lulling us all to sleep this season (first time in his career averaging below 20 a game with a career low shooting percentage) only to bring out peak hoodie Melo for the postseason? The better the Thunder do, the more likely Paul George opts to stay and build with Westbrook spurning his old California home.
Cavaliers v. Pacers: The Cavaliers were more drama-filled than usual this year. Guess that happens when you have the King on your team. The Cavs should not be worried about this series but this is the first taste of the postseason for a lot of their key bench contributors (Cedi, Jordan, Nance Jr) and time for Tristan Thompson to stop fooling around and honor the commitment he made to his wife I mean 82 million dollar contract he signed in 2015. The Cavs shouldn’t have much difficulty making it back to the Finals but LeBron will have to whip his team into playoff shape for it not to be a bumpy road. Cavs win this series in 4 or 5, there will be little doubt that they’re on their way to being the 5th team ever to make 4 straight Finals appearances. (‘66 Celtics, ‘85 Lakers, 87’ Celtics, ‘14 Heat)
Houston Rockets (1) v. Minnesota Timberwolves (8): Are we sure that Tom Thibodeau can coach for real? For real, for real? T-wolves have great young talent, a superstar in Jimmy Butler, and a future one in Karl-Anthony Towns but barely made the playoffs. Houston added all-time great Chris Paul and remains the team with the best chance to beat GS. Rockets in 5
Golden State Warriors (2) v. San Antonio Spurs (7): I just don’t want to talk about a Warriors-Spurs series where there’s no Kawhi Leonard. Remember game 1 of their conference finals series last year before Kawhi got hurt? We may never see that again in San Antonio. Warriors in 5
Portland Trail Blazers (3) v. New Orleans Pelicans (6): This should be a fun series pitting 2 of the best and most exciting young players in small markets. A delectable treat for NBA fans that don’t get to watch the Blazers and Pellies often. Portland in 7
Oklahoma City Thunder (4) v. Utah Jazz (5): Can’t say enough about how good a coach Quin Snyder’s been in the NBA. The former Duke captain’s successfully made the jump from college. I don’t know if the same could be said about Billy “Frances from She’s The One” Donovan. Thunder in 6
Toronto Raptors (1) v. Washington Wizards (8): Washington is one of the most talented 8th seeds to have ever been but Scott Brooks just ain’t that dude. Toronto in 6
Boston Celtics (2) v. Milwaukee Bucks (7): Milwaukee tanked in their regular season finale against Philadelphia so they could avoid LeBron and play a Kyrie-less Boston team but choosing to fight Brad Stevens isn’t a good move for anyone let alone some guy named Joe Prunty. Giannis! though and I see a lot of ouzo shots in Greece’s future. Milwaukee in 7
Philadelphia 76ers (3) v. Miami Heat (6): It’s gonna be asking a lot of Miami to really make this a series. I think you’re well aware of my thoughts on Philly. Philadelphia in 5
Cleveland Cavaliers (4) v. Indiana Pacers (5): The best player in franchise history leaves in Paul George and the Pacers have their best season in 4 years. Can’t ask for a better result when losing a superstar. Pacers fans should already be thrilled with this season. It's nearly over. Cavs in 5