Playoff Basketball is Back!

We’ve finally made it through a tough, gruelling 82 game season. The NBA Playoffs are here this weekend!

What a regular season it was.

Philly, now seemingly Australia’s team, won an incredible 52 games this season, on the back of our own Aussie superstar Ben Simmons. Philly has us all trusting the process by locking up the 3 seed in the East.

Toronto were brilliant all season long to lock up the 1 seed. How Boston managed to hold onto the 2nd seed is anyone’s guess, they’re literally limping into the playoffs. You just can’t look past the incredible coaching by one of the brightest young coaches in the game, Brad Stevens.

Out West, the Houston Rockets look unstoppable. They won 65 games this season. The addition of Chris Paul has clearly brought a winning culture to the team, along with the additions of great role players like PJ Tucker and Mbah a Moute. They look almost destined to make the NBA Finals this season.

The Golden State Warriors may have something to say about that. Could you call it boredom? Their finish to the season was quite lacklustre. If Steph Curry isn’t healthy, this team will not have what it takes to beat Houston, no matter how good Kevin Durant plays.

Another great 2018 story is the Portland Trailblazers. What a season and what a pleasure it was to watch Damian Lillard this season. I was lucky enough to sit 3 rows from the court back in March, watching him go head to head with James Harden and the Rockets. An incredible game and an atmosphere I’ll never forget. Harden won the battle on the night but Lillard’s drive that night to bring them back from the brink to almost steal one at the death, was incredible to witness.

OKC managed to steal the 4 seed from a streaking Utah Jazz with a last game win. That series has game 7 written all over it. It’ll be an absolute grind. Both teams defend very well (especially Utah). This will be one for the purist of hoops fans!

It can’t go without saying but Russell Westbrook averaging a triple double in back to back seasons is absolutely phenomenal. It’s almost gone unnoticed. With all the hype of Harden and LeBron this season putting up the numbers they have, Russ has gone about his business and done something that’s never been done.

People may call him a stat hunter, but doing that for 82 games is insane. We can’t jump on him for chasing stats and not jump on LeBron for having a streak of 10+ points per game (how that is even a stat is beyond me). Let’s just appreciate what we are all watching, it’s a golden era for hoops with superstars all over the league!

New Orleans making the playoffs also deserves a mention. Anthony Davis put that team on his back after the injury to Boogie Cousins. He went to another level, one that put him in the MVP discussion. Credit to him, it’s deserved, this team could’ve easily folded once Cousins went down.

Finally, the Minnesota Timberwolves. Breathe easy Minnesota fans you’re here now! In what was an absolute thriller against the Nuggets, winner takes all, the game went into OT and the Jimmy Butler led Twolves ended their playoff drought (14 years). Scenes in Minnesota!

Which brings us to some playoff predictions.

Toronto will break their playoff curse, knock off the Cavs in round 2 and move onto play the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference Finals. It’ll be refreshing to see 2 new teams fight out for a spot in the NBA Finals. This will be a series that will go 7 games.

With all due respect to LeBron James, who’s had arguably his best season, the help won’t be there for him in the playoffs this season. He’s always had Kyrie to get him buckets. Where does that come from this year? The inconsistencies of Clarkson, Hill and Hood won’t be good enough to help the King.

Houston will take over the reins from Golden State and be crowned Western Conference Champions. The injury to Steph Curry has put a question mark on the Warriors, unless he’s completely healthy, they’re every chance of getting knocked off by Portland in the 2nd round.

So yes, Houston will face off with the Portland Trailblazers for the right to play in the NBA Finals. It’s a bold prediction on both sides this season but let’s be real, seeing something different will actually be refreshing for the league and make this year’s NBA Playoffs one to remember!

Hope everyone enjoys it as much as I will.

Dave Bauk

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