So the second round of the NBA playoffs have begun. In fact, the Western conference semifinals—the Golden State Warriors versus the New Orleans Pelicans—got rolling a day before the Eastern matchups were set. So impatient! But now that we know all of the eight teams that have advanced to this round, we can take a look at them and see what us basketball fans have in store!
The Thunder was not okay, see?
Despite some scares in the East, the top-seeded teams all got through. Indiana in particular came thiiiiiiiis close to taking out LeBron and Cavaliers—and that was after trading away some of their best players over the summer.
However in the West, one of the teams Indiana traded to has to be considered the one big upset of the playoffs. That's the Oklahoma City Thunder. Sure, they and the Utah Jazz had absolutely identical records going into their series, but OKC had home advantage and a team built for the playoffs, including superstars Carmelo Anthony, Paul George (the player from Indiana), and last year's MVP Russell Westbrook. The Thunder is going to have to figure out just what went wrong after so many moves to improve their team.
Who wants seconds?
But hey, sorry Thunder and everything, but it's all about who's left...
- Golden State Warriors vs. New Orleans Pelicans (GS leads 1–0)
- Houston Rockets vs. Utah Jazz (Houston leads 1–0)
- Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers (Game 1 tonight)
- Toronto Raptors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (Game 1 Tuesday)
Those are some primo teams left in the mix, for sure. Golden State has appeared in the last three finals and won two of them. The other year, they had the best regular season in NBA history. Then there's Houston and likely MVP James "The Beard" Harden, who are looking to knock the Warriors from their perch. (Harden has already given the Jazz a night to forget so far...)
Exceptional young stars like Anthony Davis, Donovan Mitchell, and Joel Embid are looking to turn New Orleans, Utah, and Philadelphia from weak teams to powerhouses. And despite losing star Kyrie Irving to injury (never mind Gordon Hayward on the first game of the year!), the Boston Celtics continue to roll on.
But it's likely that no second round matchup has the drama of this one. Raps Cavs. And that's where we're going to finish up.
Continue the dream or smash the curse?
Let's face it. Between his time in Miami and Cleveland, LeBron James has had a lot of people's number. He has appeared in seven straight NBA finals, winning three championships there. He is still probably the best player alive and one of the greatest of all time. But few recent teams have had to take as deep a sigh in the face of King James as the Raptors.
In 2016, despite pushing their conference finals matchup to six games, Cleveland made a mockery of Toronto's efforts. 2017 was even worse—the Cavs swept the Raptors in four ugly games. So, here we are in 2018. More of the same, right? Well...
This year, Toronto had the second best record in the whole league. Yep, even better than Golden State's. Their bench players—the 'Bench Mob' to you, thank you—made them arguably the most complete team in the NBA. And after years of fading in the playoffs, their best players—Demar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry—are staying their best players when it matters most.
Every player on the Raptors says that this is the moment they want: the chance to finally prove that they can beat Cleveland on their way to their first-ever finals. They'll have home court advantage, and they'll face an exhausted LeBron, who truly had to do it all himself against Indiana. Is this really the year??
Raps Cavs. Let's do this!