By Mucteba Gokcek
This year’s NBA playoffs have been incredible. With several game winning buzzer beaters and several game Sevens, these playoffs have not been short on excitement. Nearly every series in the Western Conference has been competitive and exciting to watch. The Eastern Conference also had several great series, however, it was not as exciting as the West.
Starting with the Thunder and Rockets series… it was simply amazing. Although the James Harden led Rockets were not able to destroy Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led Thunder as expected, they still played very well. The Thunder had to put up one heck of a fight in order to take the series to game 7. Lu Dort from the Thunder was able to contain James Harden incredibly well, which was one of the main reasons the Thunder was able to take the series to game 7. Another big reason the Rockets lost so many games in the first place was because Russel Westbrook was out injured for 4 out of the 7 games in the series. As a result, the series went to game 7. However, in game 7, both teams played well leading the game to be very close up to the closing seconds. The Rockets were up two points and the Thunder had the ball, however, Shai and Paul were unable to find an opening so Lu Dort, who has had a polar experience shooting the three point shot, had to shoot a three. However, before Lu was even able to get the shot off James Harden was able to block the shot and seal the series up. Therefore, the Rockets moved on to round 2.
Another incredible series was the Jazz vs. Nuggets. This series also went to game 7. However, this was a historic series in that the points scored by Donovon Mitchell (Jazz) combined with the points scored by Jamal Murray (Nuggets) resulted in the most points scored by a pair of players in a series. This series also had a crazy ending: the Nuggets were up two points and the Jazz had to take the ball up the court and take a shot in just a few seconds. The game had a crazy ending because Mike Conley was, in fact, able to bring the ball up the court and take a good shot. However, it rimmed out by such a close measurement that it probably drove Jazz fans crazy. Therefore, the Nuggets moved to round 2.
Another good series in the first from the Western Conference was the Mavericks versus Clippers. The Mavericks played extremely well against the Clippers who were supposed to be the best team offensively and defensively in the NBA. A reason why the Mavericks lost was that Kristaps Porzingus tore his lateral meniscus of his right knee. Although Paul George absolutely choked considering what was expected of him and the amount of minutes he played, Kawki Leonard, Lou Williams, and Montrezl Harrell were able to carry their team to the 4 wins, even though they did lose twice.
The Lakers had one of the weirdest playoff runs in NBA history. For their first two series against the Rockets and the Blazers they lost badly in both of the series’ first games, but they bounced back and won 4 games in a row against both teams. Then again in the Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets, they were able to beat them 4-1.
In the Eastern Conference, nearly every first round series resulted in 4-0 wins by one team. The Bucks beat the Magic 4-1, the Celtics shockingly beat the 76ers by 4-0, and the Raptors beat the Nets 4-0.
In the second rounds, however, things got very interesting. First, the Miami Heat shockingly beat Milwaukee Bucks 4-1. The one game the Heat lost was because of a lucky game winner by Khris Middleton. This series is shocking because the Milwaukee Bucks have a MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in Giannis Antetokounmpo, an all star in Khris Middleton, and a very good supporting cast who were able to clinch the best record in the regular season. Meanwhile, the Miami Heat have only one all star in Jimmy Butler. The Milwaukee Bucks overall played very bad while the Heat were able to grit and grind their way to the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Toronto Raptors versus the Boston Celtics series was also very interesting. From the incredible game winner by OG Anunoby to the dominant performance by the Celtics in Game 5, the series was full of excitement. Other than the Game 5 win by the Celtics, every game was very close. Both teams played very well against each other, however, the Celtics were able to pull away the win in the final seconds of Game 7. One factor for the Raptors loss was that Pascal Siakam was unable to play at the level he was expected to play. He was expected to play like a superstar but played more like a role player who got a lot of minutes.
The Eastern Conference Finals between the Heat and Celtics was also very intriguing. Although everyone expected the series to be very tight, the Heat absolutely dominated on defense and on the offensive boards. Since the Celtics don’t have a good defender at the center position, Bam Adebayo was able to take over and boost the offense. A weird part of this series was that Gordon Hayward came back for the first time since his injury. However, I realized that the Celtics were very reluctant to pass him the ball. They consistently fake passed towards him and then drove towards the basket. Although Hayward did play a large amount of minutes, he rarely got the ball and when he did get the ball he was very inefficient.
As a result of all of these series, these playoffs may have been one of the best playoffs in the history of the NBA. Especially considering that there are no fans, and that this year’s players had to play with their own motivation.