Oracle Arena, the home arena of the Golden State Warriors. (photo via Flickr Creative Commons user Guillaume Meunier)
The NBA playoffs started last weekend, and so far, the league’s postseason has been filled with intriguing matchups.
NBA fans have been following the Philadelphia 76ers, which are seemingly the NBA’s next great team. They have watched the Golden State Warriors show why they’re still the best team in the league, even with Stephen Curry sidelined with an MCL sprain.
As the first round continues, watching elite teams potentially crumble will be part of the intrigue. The playoffs have arrived, and while the postseason is not like the upset-laden March Madness, NBA fans look forward to this time of year every season.
No. 4 Cleveland Cavaliers vs No. 5 Indiana Pacers
Who is leading the series: The Pacers lead 1-0.
Game 1 score: The Pacers defeated the Cavaliers 98-80.
Game 2 date and time: The Cavs will play the Pacers at home Wednesday at 7 p.m.
The rundown: The Pacers have given the Cavs fits all season. Indiana won the regular season series 3-1, and the Cavs haven’t been able to keep up with the Pacers’ quickness. The Pacers are a fast, athletic and solid defensive team. And well, the Cavs are not any of those things. They’ve been one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA all season. While better defense will be necessary, the Cavs also were held to 80 points. LeBron James scored 24 points, but coach Tyronn Lue said he needs to be more aggressive at the beginning of the game. James didn’t score his first points until there was under two minutes left in the first quarter. The Cavs succeed because of James’ ability to find open teammates for jump shots. Still, for the Cavs to win this series, James will need to be as aggressive on offense as possible from the start of every game.
No. 3 Philadelphia 76ers vs No. 6 Miami Heat
Who is leading the series: The series is tied 1-1.
Game 1 score: The 76ers defeated the Heat 130-103.
Game 2 score: The Heat defeated the 76ers 113-103.
Game 3 date and time: The Heat will play the Sixers at home Thursday at 7 p.m.
The rundown: After a Game 1 win, the Sixers proved why they’re one of the best up-and-coming teams in the NBA. Ben Simmons, a LeBron-like point forward, showed his playmaking skills as he scored 17 points, grabbed nine rebounds and had 14 assists. Simmons, along with Joel Embiid and Markelle Fultz, is one of the Sixers’ best players. Embiid is currently sidelined with a facial injury, and Fultz has shown his potential after being out for most of the season because of a shoulder injury. But after the Sixers showed the NBA what they’re capable of, Dwyane Wade showed the league he can still hoop. Wade scored 28 points off the bench Monday night in the Heat’s 113-103 win. With the series tied 1-1, both teams have showed why they’re capable of moving on to the next round. Overall, this series is probably going to be one of the best in the first round.
No. 1 Houston Rockets vs No. 8 Minnesota Timberwolves
Who is leading the series: The Rockets lead the series 1-0.
Game 1 score: The Rockets defeated the Timberwolves 104-101.
Game 2 date and time: The Rockets will play the Timberwolves at home Wednesday at 9:30 p.m.
The rundown: The Rockets have the league’s best regular season record, but whether they’re the best team is debatable. After starting the fourth quarter with a 76-72 lead, the Rockets needed to gain some cushion. They went on a 9-0 run in the fourth quarter and held on for the win. James Harden, one of the NBA’s elite scorers, scored 44 points. The Rockets’ offense is based on quality shooting, but Houston shot 27 percent from the 3-point line. Having bad shooting nights is a reason the Rockets could have more competition in the playoffs. Defenses intensify in the postseason, and easy shots are harder to come by. Still, if the Rockets shoot well enough, they’re going to either sweep the Timberwolves or win this series in five games.
No. 2 Golden State Warriors vs No. 7 San Antonio Spurs
Who is leading the series: The Warriors lead the series 2-0.
Game 1 score: The Warriors defeated the Spurs 113-92.
Game 2 score: The Warriors defeated the Spurs 116-101.
Game 3 date and time: The Spurs will play the Warriors at home Thursday at 9:30 p.m.
The rundown: Look, the Golden State Warriors are the best team in the NBA. Yes, the Houston Rockets had the league’s best record in the regular season. And yes, Steph Curry is currently out with an MCL sprain. But even without Curry, the Warriors are still one of the most dominant teams in this decade. Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, two top-10 players, have led the Warriors so far. Durant has averaged 28 points per game in two games, and Thompson has averaged 20 points per game. Draymond Green allows the Warriors to play as fast as they do. Green can defend in the post, and he can defend guards on the perimeter. The Spurs really don’t have much they can do besides play hard — and they do that. The Warriors are still very talented, even without Curry. A sweep is likely in this one.
No. 4 Oklahoma City Thunder vs No. 5 Utah Jazz
Who is leading the series: The Thunder lead the series 1-0.
Game 1 score: The Thunder defeated the Jazz 116-108.
Game 2 date and time: The Thunder will play the Jazz at home Wednesday at 8 p.m.
The rundown: The Thunder have always had the potential to be a problem for opponents, particularly in the playoffs. They showed why they’re going to continue to be a problem on Sunday in their Game 1 win. Paul George scored 36 points, showing why his self-proclaimed “Playoff P” nickname is legit. Along with George, the scoring ability of Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony only adds to what the Thunder can do on offense. Westbrook scored 29 points, and Anthony had 15. Still, while the Thunder’s offensive potential might finally come to fruition in the playoffs, the Jazz have a chance in this series. Donovan Mitchell, a Rookie of the Year candidate, has had a great year. Mitchell scored 27 points in his playoff debut. Six other players scored in double figures, too, so Mitchell wasn’t carrying a huge load. Mitchell suffered a foot contusion in Game 1, though. Whether Mitchell will play in Game 2 remains to be seen, but for the Jazz to compete in this series, they’ll need Mitchell’s playmaking and scoring prowess.