This NBA season has been a rollercoaster ride fore amongst many teams. There are many surprise teams and then there are also the usual teams we all expected to be on top of the NBA world. However,Though being in the middle of March, the playoff race is far from decided.
In the eEastern cConference, the eight teams to make the playoffs are solidified but the order is far from being clearit. The Toronto Raptors, led by all-stars DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry are running away with the number one seed. Their new style of offense that stressed ball and player movement implemented by coach Dwane Casey has done wonders. as Tthey are now a legitimate title contender and a top-5 team in the league. The 2nd seed will most likely be held by the Boston Celtics. Due to injuries, they have leveled out after an electric start to the season. Their offense is in the latter tier of the league but their defense is their calling card. Their defensive rating is ranked number one in the NBA and when healthy, the Celtics can contend with anyone. The 3, 4, and 5 seeds are going to come down to the wire. The 3 seeded Cavaliers led by the King are always in contention. LeBron is arguably having one of his best seasons, but chemistry and coaching issues have degraded this unbelievable season he is having at age 33. The Pacers and Wizards, looking to upset the Celtics and Raptors, respectively highlight the 4 and 5 seeds, looking to upset the Celtics and Raptors.
The Western Conference playoff race is the closest it has been in a while. There’s possibly 10 teams that can legitimately make it and seeds 3-10 are separated by 5 games. (As of March 19) The 1 seeded Houston Rockets led by James Harden and Chris Paul are sitting on top of the world with a 56-14 record. With the best record in the league, the Rockets are ready for another playoff push. Harden, the MVP frontrunner, is averaging 31 points per game, 9 assists per game, and 5 rebounds per game. He fills up the stat sheets with triple doubles and fifty point games. Harden and the Rockets are built for a championship and are ready to dethrone the splash brothers in California.
The Golden State Warriors are in the midst of another great season despite a multitude of injuries to their stars. They are currently 53-17, 2nd in the Western Conference. There have been many surprise teams this year but the Warriors are not fazed. For the second consecutive season, they’ve had four all star players on their team and their big three (Steph, Klay, & KD) amassing over 72 points per game on very efficient scoring. The 3-10 seeds are playing their hearts out and trying to earn the best placement in the playoffs. The 3 seed surprisingly is the Portland Trail Blazers who have won 13 straight games. Damian Lillard has been on a tear recently and has played as an MVP candidate.The remaining teams in the race for the final five seeds consist of the Thunder, Jazz, Pelicans, Spurs, Timberwolves, Nuggets, and Clippers. As of now, it’s too close to call who will end up where because the outcome of each game drastically changes the standings.
- Toronto Raptors over Miami Heat in five. Demar Derozan and Kyle Lowry will be a problem for the weaker guards on the Miami Heat and will handle them easily.
- Boston Celtics over Milwaukee Bucks in six. Kyrie Irving will lead the Celtics past a very underrated Bucks team. The Bucks could give the Celtics fits inside with All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.
- Cleveland Cavaliers over Philadelphia 76ers in 5. This could be a close series in many aspects. Joel Embiid could carry the Sixers to a series win, however, LeBron James will take over and win a hard-fought series.
- Washington Wizards over Indiana Pacers in 6. At the beginning of the season, the Wizards were considered Eastern Conference contenders but when John Wall went down, their chemistry wasn’t the same. However, a John Wall return will push the Wizards by young star Victor Oladipo and the Pacers.
- Toronto Raptors over Washington Wizards in 5. The Raptors have shown a level of consistency throughout the season and will take care of a repetitive mid-tier playoff team.
- Boston Celtics over Cleveland Cavaliers in 7. The LeBron James championship streak will finally come to an end as the defense of the Celtics steps up when it counts. Kyrie Irving will show up and
First Round Matchups:
- The Houston Rockets will have a very tough first round matchup with the Timberwolves. The combination of all stars Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns will be a problem but ultimately the superstar backcourt of Chris Paul & James Harden will serve to be too much for Minnesota.
- The Golden State Warriors are matched up against the New Orleans Pelicans in a rematch of the 2015 first round matchup. Difference is, the Warriors did not yet have Kevin Durant and still swept them. It’s tough seeing the Pelicans even winning one game despite having a transcendent talent in Anthony Davis. They simply don’t have enough firepower to compete.
- Damian Lillard is having one of his best seasons of his career as the Blazers are the third seed in the West. They arguably have the two best players in the series on their team, making it hard to see the Donovan Mitchell-led Jazz winning four times. The Jazz have one of the league's best defenses, but their offense won’t be enough to keep up with the combined 50 points per game between Lillard & McCollum.
- The Oklahoma City Thunder are in a position to be a very scary 4 seed in the West. With reigning MVP Russell Westbrook & All-NBA caliber player Paul George, they have enough firepower to compete with any team in the West. This should put them over the well coached Spurs, mainly due to the absence of Kawhi Leonard due to injury. The Spurs are too old & slow to run with a young Thunder team.