NBA playoffs showcases history making players

By: Isaac Turner-Hall

The NBA regular season is wrapping up this week, and while the Eastern Conference playoff spots are locked up, the Western Conference still has two playoff spots up for grabs among three teams: the Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz and the Dallas Mavericks, with the Rockets on the outside looking in.

Only two games are left for each team, including an extremely important matchup for the Jazz. If the Jazz lose, then that will open the door for the Rockets to sneak into the playoffs as the 8-seed, and their prize will be a seven-game series with the Golden State Warriors as the Warriors go for win number 73 to break the ’95-’96 Bulls record of 72-10.

Golden State has been playing nuts all season, ever since they started out going 23-0. Everybody expected big things from this team and, boy, did they deliver. Stephen Curry has “in-the-gym range” and puts defenders on skates routinely. The Warriors are looking to try to separate themselves from the ’95-’96 Bulls team, but they know the only way to do that is to get the championship.

But one team that hasn’t received the attention that it deserves this season is the San Antonio Spurs, who went 39-0 before losing its first home game of the year, which was a loss to the Warriors. They are only 6.5 games behind the Warriors for best record in the league, and the Spurs have proven themselves good enough to possibly beat the Warriors in a seven-game series, which no one else has done at any point during the year, and they are led by three future hall of famers in Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan, so the Spurs definitely have the experience and talent to make a championship run against the Warriors.

Outside of the Spurs and Warriors, the Western Conference doesn’t have any “scary” teams that could do a lot of damage other than maybe the Oklahoma City Thunder or Los Angeles Clippers, who both have All-Stars like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook for OKC and Chris Paul and Blake Griffin for the Clippers. They both have plenty of firepower to make a run against the Spurs or Warriors, and they have role players who could contribute in crucial moments come playoff time like Paul Pierce for the Clippers, who has gained the nickname “The Truth” for his clutch performances during his career in Boston.

The last two teams remaining in the Western Conference are the Portland Trail Blazers and Memphis Grizzlies, who are both glad to be in the playoffs, especially the Grizzlies who have lost 12 of their last 15 and are lucky that they locked up a playoff spot before they started losing like this. The Trail Blazers, who lost Lamarcus Aldridge to the Spurs in the offseason, still have players like Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, so they still were good enough to make it into the playoffs, but no team in the playoffs will be an easy series, not even for the Warriors or Spurs.

In the Eastern Conference, it has felt as if it is the Cleveland Cavaliers versus everybody else as Lebron James and the Cavs have been at the top of the East the entire season and were favorites to win the East since before the season even began.

There are other teams that want to compete with them and have a good chance of doing so. Teams like the Toronto Raptors with Kyle Lowry leading them to a second place finish. After averaging 22 points, 6.5 assists and two steals per game, he’s been playing some of the best basketball this year.

And teams like Atlanta Hawks, who had the East’s best record last year and have one of the most balanced teams in the NBA, will also want to make a run deep into the playoffs and won’t be satisfied with losing to the Cavs or somebody from the West.

New superstar players are making a rise to stardom in the East, including players like Hassan Whiteside for the Heat. He’s almost averaging a whopping four blocks per game while averaging 14 points and 12 rebounds. The Heat are also led by Dwyane Wade, who is in his final season but is playing like he is in the middle of his career, and with other veterans like Joe Johnson and Luol Deng, the Heat have the perfect recipe to pull off the upset against the man who helped bring them two championships, James.

Other young stars on the rise are Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum for the Charlotte Hornets and Isaiah Thomas Jr. for the Boston Celtics, who don’t have a single player younger than 30 years old. All three of these teams are very young and want to make a run into the playoffs this year, but the future is very very bright for both of these teams teams.

And at the bottom of the East, the Pacers and Pistons are fighting for the seventh seed in the tournament. The Pistons are an extremely young team as well, and they have plenty of talent on their roster like Andre Drummond, who is putting up extraordinary numbers with 16 points and 15 rebounds per game.

Other players are getting used to being in the starting role like Reggie Jackson, who came over from OKC after being the backup for All-Star PG Russell Westbrook, but he has adjusted well, averaging just under 19 points and seven assists per game.

The Pacers are trying to grab the seventh seed as well, but they will need help from Detroit as Detroit will need to lose one of their final two games because the Pacers lose any tiebreak with Detroit, but facing Cleveland in the first round might not be so bad for Indiana, even though Cleveland took the season series 3-2. The Pacers have played them close in every game, and there have been over 60 lead changes in the games, and with All-Star Paul George leading them, their confidence is high, and they expect to beat the Cavs in the first round and make many upsets come these playoffs.

The NBA season this year has been one to remember, from Golden State’s quest to 73 wins or the 76ers’ quest to 72 losses or the Spurs’ unbelievable 40-1 record at home, people have enjoyed watching Curry make defenders look silly and hitting three pointers all year as well as James taking it to the hoop and dunking on helpless defenders and Durant and Westbrook taking over a game where nobody can stop him.

Now people get to see them do it when it matters most the playoffs. Will Golden State make history as one of the greatest teams ever, or will the Spurs, Thunder or Cavs stop them, or will it be a team that nobody expects to make a playoff run? Only time will tell.

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