40 games in 40 nights. That's what the first round of the NBA playoffs amounts to, and it's amazing. The NBA has taken over my life this week to the point where I haven't seen any TV shows, movies, read any books, and almost every podcast that I've listened to this week has been about the playoffs. While watching The Warriors and Rockets is fun there's been three matchups in particular that have gotten 100% of my attention and I've seen all the minutes to their games so far.
First up comes the fight the undisputed king of the East finds himself in, Cleveland vs Indiana. LeBron James has willed his team to the finals for so long now that it seemed inevitable at the beginning of the year that the same thing would happen this year but instead LeBron finds himself with perhaps the 2nd worst team he's ever been in going up against a completely capable young Indiana Team that wasn't even supposed to be here. Indiana lost their superstar Paul George in a trade to OKC for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis and it's pretty much impossible to be a contender without a superstar so Indiana was written off. Except Victor Oladipo happened. Over the summer the 25 year old shooting guard transformed his body got in the best shape of his life and after a year under the baddest point guard in the game, reigning MVP Russell Westbrook, transformed his attitude as well. He's had the best year of his career, ending up on the all star team and leading his team to the playoffs. He's good. His team is good, and this series is very exciting.
The second matchup is one that features two very different teams, Oklahoma and Utah. OKC has the aforementioned baddest man in the game, a Dokthraki center, and Paul George who is a super star in his own right. Utah is led by a rookie sensation, a towering defensive center, and an Australian with a sneaky awesome shot. For the entirety of the season we've been waiting to see if OKC can make something happen with 2 superstars and a really good center....and Melo, while on the other side Utah has adapted to THEIR super start leaving for Boston by leaning on their system. The series is currently tied and is another one well worth watching.
The last matchup is maybe the most exciting and I wish it would never end, Philadelphia vs Miami. Philadelphia has the most talented young team in the league. Joel Embiid is a once in a life time player, over 7 feet tall with a wingspan as wide as the atlantic ocean and able to competently shoot 3s. Ben Simmons at times looks like a 6'10 Magic Johnson and then drives the ball like LeBron. Robert Covington is so long he makes Kevin Durant look normal. Throw in a trio of savvy veterans in Ilyasova and Belinelli along with deadeye shooter JJ Redick and they're trouble. On the other side of the matchup the Miami Heat are like a Leatherman Supertool of players that can create matchup nightmares for any team and they're well coached and potentially the most physically fit franchise in the NBA. 3 games into the series and each game has been amazing. The Heat in particular have come out and played the most stifling defense any of these young guys have seen and Justice Winslow (himself only 22 years old) in particular has taken it to both Embiid and Simmons and guarded both of them ferociously. The Heat are also offensively gifted featuring All star Slovenian point guard Goran Dragic and a bevy of talented outside shooters, and one living legend in Dwayne Wade. History suggests talent always wins out and that may well be the case but The Heat won't go gently into the night.