Finally after 82 games, endless debates, devastating dunks, clutch jumpers and last second drama, we have arrived at the NBA Playoffs.
The date that every basketball fan around the world circles on his calendar has arrived; the Promised Land where potential becomes realised, favourite tags are ripped to shreds, and where anything can and will happen. It’s a three-month roller-coaster ride like no other where eight teams from each conference battle to climb the NBA’s Mount Olympus and cement their place amongst the greats of the sport.
The journey is not an easy one; teams need a number of factors to reach the glistening gold of the Larry O’Brien trophy and if we’ve learned one thing from watching the Playoffs over the years, it’s that the basketball gods are cruel.
Stars from the regular season often wilt in the crucible of playoff basketball overcome by the history. When ranking the legacy of the greatest players of all time, it always comes down to how many rings they have. The playoffs separate the good from the great and the great from the immortals.
So, who will carve out their name amongst the elite this year? Let’s find out.
Eastern Conference Finals
Chicago Bulls vs Atlanta Hawks
Hawks will cruise to the Finals dismantling Brooklyn in 4 in the first round and stoping a spirited Washington team in 6. They have too much depth and have been too consistent all year to see any other logical outcome. This is a special group of players and their emphasis on team basketball makes them a spectacle to watch.
The Bulls’ road in the East will be less certain. The Bucks are too inexperienced to really give them a test but their biggest challenge will come in the semi-finals against Cleveland and their all-star cast. The Bulls-Cavs game will come down to flip of a coin, it’s that tight.
However, if the Bulls stay healthy they are the deepest team in the East by a mile. Once the Bulls are victorious against Cleveland they’ll take the Hawks.
The Bulls’ relentless defense will be too much for Atlanta and they’ll wear them down over 7 games. Chicago have certain players that can catch fire in clutch situations. If D-Rose shows glimpses of his former self in his first playoff appearance since his horrific knee injury then the Bulls will make it to the NBA Finals.
Verdict:Bulls in 6.
Western Conference Finals
Los Angeles Clippers vs Golden State Warriors
The Clippers simply HAVE to make the Western Conference Finals at the very least this year. It’s absolutely insane that a player like Chris Paul has never played in a Conference Finals and even crazier that the talent that surrounds him at the Clippers have never even come close in the Playoffs.
They have the daunting task of facing the ageless current NBA champions, San Antonio Spurs. However, a lot can happen in a year and the Clippers will win because this is not the 50 win Spurs team from last year.
Gregg Popovich’s side are the 6th seed and the Clippers’ desire will bring them past the Spurs. In this writer’s humble opinion, they will then topple the Rockets or Mavericks and march into the finals causing Steve Balmer to go into hyper-drive and take his awkward dancing to a new level.
Thankfully, the dancing will come to an abrupt halt when they meet the Splash Brothers. Golden State are too deep, too fast and have too many guys that the Clippers cannot guard. If Andrew Bogut stays healthy the Warriors will take this series a lot quicker than expected.
Verdict: Warriors in 5
That leaves us with a Chicago-Golden State final. Bulls vs Dubs. Derrick Rose vs Steph Curry. Stay tuned to Pundit Arena for our prediction on who will sit on the NBA’s throne come the end of the season.
Ciaran Darcy, Pundit Arena.