Finally, after six months of regular season play, this past Saturday saw the opening games of the NBA Playoffs being played. The regular season itself had been fraught with headlines on and off the court. With the continual dominant play of ‘super teams’ in the Golden State Warriors, a greater importance on players achieving triple doubles and questions of effort for teams such as the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs decisions to rest players throughout the year, only for the next six weeks of May and June basketball. The question fans and analysts are asking now is whether or not we will see a team prevent, for a third consecutive year, the Cavaliers and Warriors from squaring up in the Finals?
The short answer. No. Sorry anyone in out there wishing for that star studded, high ratings showdown between the Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz, but barring a serious injury, we’ll see a third installment of the Warriors/Cavs rivalry. Out of all of the four North American professional sport leagues, parity exist the least in basketball, it was almost comical how little the two teams truly cared about the regular season. Especially Cleveland, who decided to sit players so much, they lost out the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Still, there is always the chance of an upset.
As long as the San Antonio Spurs are playing the postseason, the Warriors can not sleep easy at night. With more than two decades of experience, a young influx of players combined with veteran leadership, and Gregg Popovich manning the sails, San Antonio may have been the Jill Stein and Gary Johnson of the season, trying to knock off the two dominate frontrunners. Which would make the Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets the write-in candidates of this metaphor.
With expiring contracts and a failure to live up to high expectations over the past few seasons, the Clippers enter the postseason with the knowledge that this could potentially be the end of the most successful era in their team’s history. And being the fourth seed and heavy favorites in their first round series against the Jazz, it is almost a forgone conclusion that they will meet the Warriors in the second round of the postseason. Four seasons ago, a Clippers vs. Warriors series was a battle between two equals. Today, one team wishes to put themselves on the Mt. Rushmore for top teams in history while the other desperately wants to hold on to relevance.
And, as explosive as Houston can be, they do not possess the offensive talents of the Warriors or a well oiled San Antonio Spurs team. Both teams also hold a massive advantage on the defensive side of the ball, as in they can play defense unlike any Mike D’Antoni coached team.
But enough with the West and their teams and on to the Eastern Conference…. Boston looks good. Okay, let’s face it, the reason why LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love sat out so many games is because they knew there is no team in the Eastern Conference that will beat them in a seven game series. It would be surprising for any team to take them to six games, let alone win four out of seven. Cleveland is so confident in their ability to get back to the Finals, they might sit players in the postseason!
The Indiana Pacers, who is their first round match-up, is similar to the Houston Rockets in their lack of defense, which will be exploited by an offense heavy Cavs roster. The Toronto Raptors, who won back-to-back games against Cleveland in the postseason, has taken a step back from last May. Their series against the young Milwaukee Bucks will be tough enough to beat, let alone going against Cleveland or the top seeded Celtics. Boston and the Washington Wizards, probably the two best teams in the East outside of the Cavs, still can’t simply measure up when the Cavs play to their abilities in a series.
At the end of the day, barring the old men from Texas taking down the Splash Brothers and company or LeBron getting a tapeworm, let us look forward to the trilogy’s conclusion in NBA Finals: Civil War between the Warriors and Cavaliers. And maybe, with another memorable Finals, the teams could go down along with the Celtics v. Lakers series from the 1980s as one of the greatest team matchups in sport’s history.