We at BlogDailyHerald have been enthralled by the first round of the NBA playoffs. Here is why you should be watching too.
(1) Golden State Warriors vs (8) New Orleans Pelicans
Tucker Iverson: Anthony Davis isn’t human. At the very least, he is a demigod in the vein of Hercules or Percy Jackson: capable of towering over mere mortals and dominating anything in his path, blocking everything and ruining players’ nights with his dunks. Perhaps he is even a minor god, like a Pan or a Nike–achieving feats most demigods couldn’t.
But Steph Curry is Zeus. Sorry Anthony Davis…
Steven Dowd: I’ll come clean and say that I’ve been a Warriors fan since I started watching the NBA semi-consistently two or three years ago. It used to be fun to tune in to Golden State and watch them not bother with defense, preferring to simply zero in on shooting. Maybe they’d lose, but if you see a team lose a game 130-125, you sure as hell have a good time. The Warriors showed great promise last season, but this season has been a thing of sublime beauty. This team is somehow disgustingly good and just as fun to watch as the old Warriors. They play elite defense now, and the offense has only gotten better. Curry is on the road to being possibly the best shooter in NBA history, and he and Klay Thompson put the fear of God into defenders on every possession. “How can I defend Steph without ending up on his highlight reel?” a defender asks himself. You can’t. There are a certain number of absurd 3-pointers that you must accept that Steph Curry will drain over your outstretched hands, and there is not a damn thing you can do about it.
Credit where credit is due: Anthony Davis is an incredible talent, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him become the NBA’s best player in the future. He is remarkable in all facets of the game. But the Pelicans don’t have enough depth to hang with the Warriors. No one man can beat Golden State in a 7-game series. Davis can’t do it. The maniac cyborg Russell Westbrook couldn’t have done it. I don’t know if any roster in the NBA can do it (though I’ll never, ever, count out the Spurs, and the Cavs look fearsome). Who’s next on the list to have Curry rain fire on them like Mt. Vesuvius? Watch the Warriors to find out.
(2) Houston Rockets vs (7) Dallas Mavericks
Steven: James Harden’s beard is an inspiration to all facial hair aficionados. The blow-up with Rajon Rondo on the Mavericks is a damn shame, and they seem to have little apart from Dirk Nowitzki to rely on. I don’t think they can overcome this deficit and beat the Rockets, so the Texas showdown goes to Houston this time.
Tucker: Poor Mark Cuban. After “stealing” Chandler Parsons for too much money this summer in a petty fight with Rockets’ GM Daryl Morey, and trading for former playoff wünderkind Rajon Rondo, pride of Boston, his Mavericks look pretty horrible. They were my favorite team in the beginning of the season, and I only got more excited when they got Rondo, but they haven’t delivered. Rondo played 11 minutes in the last game before he was pulled out with some bogus injury; coach Rick Carlisle said point blank that he doesn’t think Rondo will be back with the team next year. Bummer. At least Mark Cuban has “Shark Tank”…
(3) LA Clippers vs (6) San Antonio Spurs
Tucker: Damn. Now this is a series.
Steven: Without question, this is the most exciting series in the first round, and the only one that’s tied up at the moment of writing. The seeding favors the Clippers, but up until the last game of the season, the Spurs were in the running for the two seed, so don’t think the numbers mean anything. As I said above, the West is a brutal affair, stacked with talent from top to bottom, a league in which you can win 45 games and still miss the playoffs. (By comparison, the Brooklyn Nets got in in the East with 38 wins.) The Clippers have an offense that’s tons of fun to watch, with spectacular dunks from Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, clutch outside shooting from J.J. Redick, and all of it tied together by the wizardry of Chris Paul. I guarantee that at least once a game you’ll see a play that leaves your jaw on the floor.
Make sure you watch closely, though, because if you look away from Paul, you’ll miss something spectacular. Just ask anyone who’s had to defend him. LA’s defense is also nothing to sneeze at, with Jordan’s excellent defense proving an adequate foil to Tim Duncan’s well-documented abilities thus far, and Paul matching up well with Tony Parker.
And yet, for all of LA’s talent and flair, they are playing the five-time champion Spurs. Every year, someone says that the Spurs’ core players are too old to carry them through the playoffs. Every year, they’re wrong. Tim Duncan is a man immune to the concept of aging. At 38 (39 on April 25th), every turn-around shot he makes over a defender in the post lands with all the weight and authority of Father Time himself. Fellow longtime Spurs Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili continue to impress with their speed and ball-handling acumen.
But don’t think the Spurs are a team of old men. In fact, their old men are so effective because they can rely on the rising stars on the rest of the roster. Kawhi Leonard, last year’s Finals MVP, is an incredible defender, his ridiculous wingspan capped off with enormous hands, making even the best shooters struggle to find space and rhythm. He is also a dangerous threat on offense, and the difficulty in defending him is magnified by the Spurs beautiful offensive ball movement. Danny Green and Patty Mills are always threatening to get hot and bury the opponent in 3-pointers.
Lastly, the Spurs’ coach, Gregg Popovich, is one of the greatest in the game’s history. Like Dr. Doom, he stalks the sidelines, finding the gaps, however miniscule, in his foes’ armor and adjusting accordingly. His team’s spectacular passing and composure make them dangerous to any opponent, and Popovich’s ability to incorporate the bench and rest his starters serve as a potent inversion of the Clippers’ system, which relies heavily on their best six players. The Spurs fans can be occasionally irritating, blowing smoke about how beautifully and unselfishly the team plays. However frustrating this hot-take-local-sports-column elitism can be, though, the Spurs are definitely a joy to watch. Never count them out for any reason. The chance for a repeat is very real.
Tucker: Tim Duncan is immortal. Gregg Popovich is a wizard. Long live the Spurs.
(4) Portland Trail Blazers vs (5) Memphis Grizzlies
Tucker: This series isn’t that fun to watch. All I can think about is how much fun it would have been if the Blazers were healthy (guards Wesley Matthews and Arron Afflalo, among others, are hurt). Maybe they can turn it around, but poor Portland, right? Like, they literally could have had Michael Jordan and Durant… But instead they have no championships and the very real possibility that Aldridge leaves this summer.
I hope Aldridge leaves this straight-up cursed city and comes to the Knicks. But the Knicks might be more hapless than the Blazers… Never mind. Go to the Spurs, LaMarcus.
Steven: I haven’t seen much of these two teams, and have watched none of the series so far. However, the Grizzly is a bear, so as a Brown student, I endorse Memphis. But wait, as a liberal arts major, should I support Portland? It’s a toss-up.
(1) Atlanta Hawks vs (8) Brooklyn Nets
Steven: Casual Appeal: if you watch a game in Brooklyn, you’ll probably see Jay-Z and Beyonce at some point. No one seems to think the Hawks will get past the Cavaliers in the conference finals, but I haven’t watched them all year, so I couldn’t say.
Tucker: With the horrible Nets down 2-0 to the Coach of the Year-led Hawks, would you put down a dollar on the 1250-1 odds for the Brooklyn Nets to win the championship? Me neither. [Ed.: the Nets won Saturday afternoon; the odds have not been adjusted yet, however.]
(2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs (7) Boston Celtics
Steven: LeBron James’ numbers this year have placed him near MVP level, though he has no chance of winning it over the other contenders. Yet we all seem to forget this: LeBron can throw down 30 points in a game, and we all shrug, like it was nothing. The reason for this is Playoff LeBron. If you occasionally wonder whether James is still the best in the world, tune into the Playoffs to dispel your doubts. Playoff LeBron is still the most unreal player in the game. Watch this series so you can see him do things that ought to be impossible. The Cavs had a rough start to the season, but pulled together and made the two seed after being 19-20 halfway through the season. James only cares about championship rings at this point, so he’s sure to make the games worth watching.
Tucker: This series is pretty fun to watch and I would definitely be willing to bet that Boston conjures a win from the next game using the craftiness of Loki the Trickster Coach, Brad Stevens. Other than that, LeBron looks great and Kyrie looks great and Kevin Love looks less unhappy to be in Cleveland than he was midseason. I’m still trying to figure out whether or not it was douchey of LeBron to say his MVP pick was “Kevin Love.” Signs point to yes.
(3) Chicago Bulls vs (6) Milwaukee Bucks
Tucker: There’s good news and bad news for the Milwaukee Bucks.
First, the good news. Giannis Antetokounmpo is a Shiva-type destroyer who can take a mere two steps from the foul line and dunk right through the hearts of the enemy. Khris Middleton is the best role player Jason Kidd could have asked for. Bucks co-owner Wes Edens should be a BOLT leader and injured first-round pick Jabari Parker is waiting in the wings to be the next superstar.
The bad news is that Bulls point guard Derrick Rose looks like MVP Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler looks like a Paul George reincarnate, and Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol exist too. Down 3-0, despite Jason Kidd’s best efforts, the Bucks will go into next year with some playoff experience and a great, young core.
I’m looking forward immensely to Bulls-Cavs. Given the Bulls’ lack of depth, and the Cavs seemingly insurmountable firepower, it’s going to be a 300-esque battle. In my opinion, Tom Thibodeau should be played by Gerard Butler in the film adaptation of the Bulls season.
Steven: Derrick Rose is a captivating player, and, given his recent performances, may be back to his full, dazzling capacity after a series of career-threatening injuries. Rose, Chicago’s golden boy, has a story that’s easy to get behind. I second the above notion that the Bucks likely can’t make up the deficit, so Bulls-Cavs is the series to watch out for. The Eastern Conference has taken a lot of (deserved) trash-talk for being much softer than the meat-grinder that is the West, but Bulls-Cavs should be electric.
(4) Toronto Raptors vs (5) Washington Wizards
Steven: The team from the U.S. capital squares off against the NBA’s only Canadian team (though I’d give partial credit if you told me the Canadian team had been Steve Nash). John Wall is incredible, and you may remember a brief period a few years ago when he had his own dance. Watch him wheel and deal his way through the higher-seeded Toronto and be amazed. In addition, the more Wall proves himself as a leader, the less correct ESPN talking head Skip Bayless becomes, which is always a goal worth supporting.
Tucker: Watching this series is like watching the killer hippo fight from the movie Congo.
Hear me out. The hippo (the Wizards) has the upper hand and is devouring the gun-toting humans (Raptors) who would seem to have an advantage (such as Drake in the stands, a passionate GM, and the sixth man of the year). The humans have a couple enigmatic leaders (Lowry and DeRozan for the Raptors, Tim Curry and Ernie Hudson for the humans) and you can’t help root for them. But the hippo has lots of experience with killing humans (Old Man Paul Pierce) and you wonder how much better the hippo could have been if it had a real coach (anyone but Wizards coach Randy Wittman). The hippo wins in the end, and the humans will never be the same after this fight.
Okay, yes, this was a weak analogy, but I just wanted you to watch the killer hippo fight from the movie Congo because I love it.
From everyone at Blog, enjoy the NBA Playoffs! They only happen once a year!