The NBA Playoffs commence on Saturday, and the basketball world is expecting this postseason to live up to the hype that the regular season created. There are several intriguing matchups in the first round including the Grizzlies-Clippers series, but doesn’t garner as much attention as several others. Here are the top five storylines in round one to look out for.
5. In a battle of up-starts, who advances?
The Nuggets-Warriors series is the casual NBA fans dream. Both teams are exciting, quick and most importantly, put points up on the board. However, even fanatics are going to love when these two tipoff because they are balanced ball clubs. With similar makeups, expect this series to live up to the excitement. The one knock on Golden State is their lack of playoff experience; much of their roster is making their first appearance in the second-season, but has one as well, for they are dealing with the injury bug. Many believe the Warriors can prolong this series and possibly take it all if the Nuggets can’t get healthy, Lawson is battling an injured heel and Faried is hobbled by a bum ankle. If Andrew Bogut can be healthy enough for the Warriors, he has only played in 32 contests—the six may beat the three.
4. Can the Bucks win a game?
Everyone is well aware of how great the Miami Heat have been this season, and it is the consensus that they will win in four against the Bucks. Don’t be surprised to see the underdogs take one against the Heat, though. Milwaukee is one of the few teams this season to play competitively against the defending champs, losing in overtime battle to them, but then knocking them off in December. The backcourt Milwaukee has, consisting of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings, is known to get on some serious hot streak at points and could very well carry their team to the finish line. If the Heat go into game three or four looking ahead to the second round, either of Milwaukee’s guards can come out and surprise them for one night. It is unlikely, but there have been crazier events in the postseason.
3. Is this the end of the Celtics, as we know it?
After a slow start out of the gate, and the loss of Rajon Rondo, the Celtics have fallen into the bottom of the lowly East, and now face a red-hot Knick squad in the opening round. Father time may have caught up with the C’s, as Kevin Garnett has been out for the past several weeks, while Paul Pierce has been banged up all season long, and of course the loss of Rajon Rondo in January. However, this Celtic squad has proven they are as dangerous as anyone in the postseason, being one game away from the NBA Finals last season, before LeBron James went into terminator mode. The Celtics took the first game of their regular season series before losing the next three. Each are trending in opposite directions, but the Celtics are going into this postseason with a different mentality, being true underdogs, which may lead to the Knicks crumpling under pressure that Boston puts them under if they can keep the series alive.
2. How will James Harden perform against his former team?
Everyone knows about James Harden’s departure from the Oklahoma City Thunder and his ascent to superstar status. Now, after a late surge by his former club, and a season finale loss to the Lakers, the Rockets take on the Thunder as the number eight seed. Of course OKC is the heavy favorite, but this will not be a one-sided series. Harden is going to play this series with a chip on his shoulder, as he did during their three meetings throughout the year, scoring nearly 30 points on 44-percent shooting in their three contests against each other. We will see typical Harden on display, consisting of hard drives to the rim and converting from the line, he gets there on average 10 times a night. This will be one of the most entertaining series’ this year with Harden’s return headlining it.
1. What is in store for the Lakers?
As if the drama wasn’t enough during the regular season, the Los Angeles Lakers have snuck into the playoffs and get a nice matchup against the San Antonio Spurs, a team they beat last Sunday. The question is, can the Lakers play as well as they have over the past two weeks in a seven-game series? Kobe Bryant has led the team throughout the year, but he is now out of commission with a torn Achilles, so the burden falls on Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol. It seems that head coach Mike D’Antoni has figured out that these two can both play together, as showcased in their win against the Rockets Wednesday—Gasol posted a triple double and Howard scored 16 while grabbing 18 rebounds. Steve Nash returning is key for LA, for the Lakers need an offensive playmaker to match Tony Parker’s. If the Lakers play to their potential, they can certainly take down the injury-riddled Spurs, but if they play like they have for the majority of their campaign, they’ll be sent home packing before you know it.