The unpredictable world of the NBA playoffs


Photo courtesy of the NBA

“Curry from downtown… BANG” is a phrase many teams know all too well, and one that has dominated the NBA playoffs this season. However, even with Curry’s godly ability on offense, the defending champion — the Golden State Warriors — lost in six games, highlighting the unpredictable nature of this year’s NBA Playoffs. With all the amazing semifinal matchups this year, there have been a lot of fantastic narratives and, consequently, a lot to unpack.

The most unpredictable series by far this year has been the LA Lakers versus the Golden State Warriors. Apart from a close game one that went in favor of the Lakers, both games two and three were won by 30-point differentials, which, for two incredible teams, is unprecedented. So far, the difference in the series has come down to LA’s Center — Anthony Davis. His great performance in games one and three led to two LA wins, whereas his rough outing in game two led to the only LA loss of the series. In game four, the LA Lakers were able to win and take a two-game lead in the series, giving them a 95% chance of winning due to being up 3-1. However, if the Warriors had won, the playing field would be even, with the series being tied up 2-2. The Lakers’ win was catalyzed by Anthony Davis’ amazing offense and defense, with him recording 23 points and 15 rebounds. Additionally, heroic efforts from LeBron James who had 27 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists on the night and Lonnie Walker, who recorded 15 points in the fourth, led to a Lakers win. Determined not to lose on their homecourt, the Warriors had a monstrous game-five win, which saw Draymond Green, Stephen Curry and Andrew Wiggins all drop 20 plus points, and were able to extend the series and force a game six in LA. However, what followed in that game was one of the most unfortunate shooting bouts of this year’s playoffs. Lebron James, Anthony Davis, and Austin Reaves combined for 70 points in a 122-101 win where the Warriors shot 38% from field goal range and looked as if they had no answer for LA’s offense, who got anything they wanted on each possession. Despite the rough ending, this was one of the most competitive and well-fought series that the NBA has had in a while, and for that, both teams should be incredibly proud for giving it their all. 

Up in the North, the Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns faced off in a crucial game five, as the series was tied 2-2 at the time. The winner of this game would travel back to Phoenix, looking to guarantee a spot in the Western Conference Finals. The main matchup in this series was Denver’s center  Nikola Jokic facing off against the Sun’s Devin Booker, who has seemingly morphed into prime Michael Jordan and is torching the Nuggets. He is averaging more than 36 points per game and is the main reason why the series is tied after the Nuggets took an early 2-0 series lead. However, with Devin Booker cooling down in games five and six, and Nikola Jokic continuing his domination of the series, which culminated in a 30-point triple-double in game six, Denver won the next two games and took the series to make their second Western Conference Final in four years. 

Down South, the Miami Heat won their series 4-2 against the New York Knicks. Relative to the others, this has been the one matchup where defense seems to have trumped offense. Both the Knicks and the Heat are known for their offensive, not their defense, which makes for an amazing game to watch for those who are more interested in the 80s-90s style games where teams would score only 90 points in a game. However, this does not detract from the fact that the Heat’s Jimmy Butler has been amazing in clutch possessions and has led them to a second consecutive Conference Final. On the other side, the Knicks’ Jalen Brunson did absolutely everything he could to ensure that the Knicks did not fall, even putting up 40 points in game six. Unfortunately, it was not enough, as the Knicks were eliminated. 

Lastly, in the East, there was a hard-fought battle for the last Eastern Conference Final spots. The 76ers and Celtics were tied 2-2 after four games, with the two 76ers wins coming from 40-point games from their point guard, James Harden. Harden seems to be the x-factor in this matchup, as when he plays great the 76ers win. However, when he does not play well — which can sometimes be an understatement — they lose convincingly. The other “what if” in this series has been Boston’s duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. When these two are playing great basketball, the Celtics look unstoppable and poised to win another Conference Final. After losing game five, the Celtics were down 2-3 in the series and were on the brink of elimination. They responded by winning game six on the road, and then winning game seven at home, 112-88, which was a game that saw Tatum drop 51 points and Harden score a dismal nine points. The Celtics will now face the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. 

This year’s Conference Semifinals have been nothing short of amazing, and with a lot of basketball left to play, any one of these four teams can go on to win it all. For the first time in many years the NBA has had real parity, with the defending champions — the GSW Warriors — crashing out in the second round to a team that started off the year 2-10 and an eight seed making the Eastern Conference Finals for only the second time in history. Regardless of whomever is crowned champion, this year’s NBA Playoffs will certainly be one for the record books.