By: Brent Raines ~Sports Editor~
The NBA playoffs are in full swing in what may be on one of the more exciting playoffs in recent memory.
Both conferences feature many riveting storylines and great players, even without the presence of great stories such as Paul George’s return and Russell Westbrook’s dominating season.
The Eastern Conference might be the less talented of the two conferences, and that is evident by the first round matchups.
LeBron James and the two-seed Cleveland Cavaliers are expected to roll against the rebuilding seven-seed Boston Celtics while the East’s top team, the Atlanta Hawks, is not expected to struggle against the eight-seed Brooklyn Nets.
With the three-seed Chicago Bulls racing out to a 2-0 series lead on the six-seed Milwaukee Bucks, the only competitive series is expected to be between the Washington Wizards and the Toronto Raptors. The five-seed Wizards knocked the four-seed Raptors off in game one in Toronto.
The Western Conference, which is widely considered to be one of the strongest conferences ever, is another story.
While the 65-win and top seeded Golden State Warriors have fended off the Anthony Davis-led New Orleans Pelicans for a 2-0 series lead, the rest of the match-ups seem to be competitive affairs.
The two-seed Houston Rockets pulled out with a win in a Texas-sized battle against rival and seven-seed Dallas Mavericks in game one.
The four-seed Memphis Grizzlies continued their season long domination of the five-seed Portland Trailblazers in game one, playing much of the game without starting point guard Mike Conley as he attempts an earlier than expected return from plantar fasciitis. The series gaining the most national attention might be the one featuring the defending champion San Antonio Spurs and the star studded Los Angeles Clippers.
The three-seed Clippers took game one in Los Angeles, while the normally sharpshooting Spurs struggled to make open baskets.
Even without the drama surrounding Paul George’s return from his horrific leg injury suffered while playing for team USA, the playoffs are stuffed with storylines. The Rockets and Mavericks have always had a competitive rivalry, intensified by the Rockets signing of former Mavericks forward Chandler Parsons last off-season. Several verbal shots have been fired in the past week, including Mavericks owner Mark Cuban referring to the Rockets when saying, “That’s not a very good team over there.” No matter who wins, the winner may have to face another Texas rival in the Spurs.
On the West coast, Pelicans coach Monty Williams suggested that the Warriors may illegally pump noise into the famously noisy Oracle Arena.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr responded with a sarcastic request of his team’s fans before game two, “I’m going to make an appeal for our fans to be as quiet as possible.”
If the Vegas odds makers are right, then we can look forward to a Warriors versus Cavaliers series in the NBA finals.
Even if that does not end up being the case, this year’s playoffs look to be one of the most exciting in recent memory.