The Madness Begins

Justin T., Writer

The NBA season has officially come to an end. After a year full of blockbuster trades and teams making surprising jumps, the battle for glory is set to begin. On Saturday, April 16, the NBA playoffs will be underway.

Everything begins with the play-in games as they kick off the start of the NBA playoffs. The first vs eighth-seed matchup in the Western Conference will showcase the Phoenix Suns and New Orleans Pelicans. The Phoenix Suns had the best season in the history of their franchise. The addition of Chris Paul last year has been a huge success. CP3 led the Suns to the NBA Finals last year and yet again seems to be heading toward a deep playoff run once again. On the other hand, the Pelicans have been on a roll. The addition of C.J. McCollum has been amazing for New Orleans. Even in the absence of Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and the Pels’ still made their way into the playoffs. Ingram averaged about 23 points, six rebounds and six assists which helped them stay in contention for a play-in spot. 

“Our guys, they’ve been here before,” he said. “I think that helps us, as opposed to last year we didn’t know. I didn’t know what to expect. I hadn’t even won a playoff round in my coaching career, so now we can at least have an idea. We’re just going to try to be as smart as we can and plan accordingly and try to do what’s best for the team,” said coach Monty Williams. 

The second vs seventh-seeds in the West match the Memphis Grizzlies against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Memphis has been a surprise to almost every single basketball fan. Ja Morant has taken a huge leap and became the star of the team. But, Desmond Bane took the biggest jump of all. The second year wing averaged 18 points per game, shot 46% from the field and 43.5% from downtown. On the other hand, the T-Wolves are coming in hot. After beating the Clippers in the play-in game, Minnesota has some momentum on their side. All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns has had a year to remember. KAT has averaged 24.5 points and 10 rebounds per game. On top of that, the big man has shot 53% from the field and 41% from beyond the arc. Even though Towns is the best player in Minnesota, the key factor for the T-Wolves is guard Patrick Beverley. Pat Bev has the heart of a lion; he will get in your best player’s face no matter what. Also, the defense of Beverly is absurd for a 6’1 player. He will lock up the opposing team’s best player with ease. So Ja Morant will not have it easy throughout the series. 

“I’m just trying to win,” Beverley said. “I’ve made the playoffs every year since I’ve been in the NBA, and I don’t expect that to change.”

In another first round series of the Western Conference playoffs, the Golden State Warriors and Denver Nuggets will face off as the third and sixth seeds. This series could have the potential to be great if Stephen Curry returns. However, in the absence of Curry, Klay Thompson has finished the season off strong, carrying the Warriors. In the last three games of the year, Thompson scored 36, 33 and 41 points, all resulting in a Warriors’ win. On the other hand, the Nuggets have what most people believe to be the 2022 MVP. Nikola Jokic in his last ten games has averaged 33.1 points, seven assists and 14.2 rebounds per game strengthening his case for MVP. However, the biggest blow for Denver is Jamal Murray and Micheal Porter Jr. who have yet to return from injury. Looking at the season series, Denver took three of the four games this year, but can Denver stop a healthy Warriors team?

Unlike during their five Finals runs, the Warriors won’t breeze through the first-round without many hiccups. The Nuggets have beaten the Warriors in three of four regular-season matchups and Jokic can dominate against anyone. Still, the Warriors would only lose this series if something catastrophic happens to one of their three stars. Otherwise, Golden State simply has more talent and depth than Denver,” said Mark Medina.

The other playoff series in the West is the Utah Jazz vs. the Dallas Mavericks. The Jazz have been struggling mightily to end the season. But in Dallas’ season finale, the heart and soul of the team, Luka Doncic suffered a calf strain. While his status for the series is still to be determined, this is a huge blow for Dallas’ hopes of making a run. What makes fans’ hopes of Doncic return even worse are reports of a walking boot at a local hospital. The three-headed monster of Utah is what scares Dallas fans. Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley can be either very hot, or as cold as an iceberg. But, when they’re hot, they are unstoppable. Their secret weapon in the playoffs is the Utah fan base. Jazz fans are ruthless; in the playoffs and big games they are always loud and crazy, making it harder on the opposing team. The Mavs’ hopes all land on the health of Luka.

“There’s a lot of concern about how quickly in this playoff series Luka Doncic will be available against Utah. I’m told if this was the regular season, you wouldn’t even be talking about Luka Doncic playing games this weekend. But this is the postseason,” reported Adrian Wojnarowski

Moving on to the East, the first vs. eighth-seed series will be the Miami Heat taking on the Atlanta Hawks. Throughout the season, Miami had done their best to keep themselves near the top of the East. Despite the injuries to Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler, Kyle Lowry and basically the whole lineup, the Heat have been able to stay in contention for the number one seed in the conference. Aside from the injuries, Miami’s sharpshooting wing Duncan Robinson struggled mightily. In the first couple months of the season, Robinson was inconsistent and was not the player Miami needed. However, other players like Gabe Vincent and Caleb Martin stepped up. Although Miami may be favored to win, the Hawks have been considered an underdog before and still came out on top. All-Star Trae Young has shown fans he is not scared of the big moments. Last year, the Hawks played the higher seed Knicks and still won the series. So while the big lights may not be too big for Young and the Hawks, the Heat can easily beat up on any team they face.

“The depth, the talent, the experience on Miami is better. They have the best bench scoring in the league,” said Colin Cowherd.