By Neil Khilwani
After being placed on pause due to the Coronavirus, the NBA is finally back in full playoff mode. The action is taking place down in Orlando, Florida encased in a luxurious bubble under the supervision of Mickey Mouse.
22 teams arrived at the happiest place on earth and played games in front of no live fans. However, thanks to the magic of technology in 2020 with artificial cheers and virtual fans in the stands powered by Zoom, the whole arena experience is as authentic as a mid 2000s Superhero’s CGI.
Round one of the playoffs sliced that number down to 18 teams. In the East, there were a series of absolute sweeps, as the Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, and Brooklyn Nets lost their respective series without a single win. Games in the West were not as merciless, but the LA Lakers were able to terminate the Portland Trail Blazers hot streak. Overall, the first round displayed a fiery fury of what was to come in further rounds. The most noteworthy moment came from the disappointing loss by Oklahoma City Thunder to the Houston Rockets in a full 7 game series. Before the season even started, the Thunder were being treated as toddlers who did not stand a chance of making it to the playoffs. There were even rumors that the point guard and frontman of the team, Chris Paul, would leave. However, these rumors reamined as rumors. Chris Paul stayed with his team. Together, they were able to make it to the playoffs as the fifth seed in the East and brought the Houston Rockets all the way to Game 7, losing by a mere two points. The loss was disappointing, but the Thunder did not yield to the naysayers, showing them that they were in this fight till the very end.
Round two reduced the total number of teams to eight. Once again, Lebron and the Lakers crushed whoever was in their path, this time it being the Houston Rockets. This victory, which secured the Lakers a seed in the Conference finals is huge for many few reasons. For Lebron, it is the first time in two years that he will return to a conference finals. For the Lakers, it is the end of the longest drought in franchise history that has not been the conference championship since its Kobe days.
One interesting thing that occurred was the surprising loss of Giannis and the Milwaukee Bucks against the Miami Heat. Speaking of Giannis, congratulations on earning the MVP. Lebron James is very disappointed that he did not win, which is understandable since he is the best player in the league but appears to fall just short of winning championships and other awards often. Giannis did deserve the title though. His team capped the most wins this season and was even on track to make the all time record. This makes their defeat to the Heat even more surprising and disappointing.
Still, the most exciting round 2 series came from the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers. After being down 3-1 in the series against Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers, the Nuggets were able to push through all the way to a game 7 where they defeated the second seeded team. Many people were expecting the Clippers to make short work of the Nuggets. That would have resulted in a highly anticipated showdown between the two LA teams in the Conference finals. As epic as that would be, the Nuggets have earned their spot in the conference finals. Will they be able to take on the Lakers though? Probably not, but good luck to them.
And now, we are in the beginning of the third round: the Conference finals. Four teams remain and the victors of each series will compete for the trophy. Last night, the Lakers made easy work of the Denver Nuggets in game 1. Dwight Howard and Rajon Rondo even came back into the spotlight and played phenomenally. They had previously been allotted minimal playing time, but last night they were back in full shape, displaying why they are headed for the hall of fame. The Lakers have really figured out their groove. If someone needs to sit out for a game, they will gladly as seen with Dwight Howard and Rajon Rondo in the previous games. This is why they have made it so far and I have no doubt that they will be competing in the championship this year. In the East, the Boston Celtics need to pick themselves up. They have already lost two games in a row. 2 more losses and they can say goodbye to Space Mountain.
Overall, while the games are not being conducted in the most orthodox style, it has certainly been an interesting run. I am excited to see what is in store. Will Lebron add another ring to his collection? Is it time for the Celtics to pack their bags? Only time can reveal the answers, but the road there will certainly be fun to watch unfold.