Eastern Conference Championship Playoffs
Sports Commentary by: Seth Rainey
The 2017 NBA Playoffs are just around the corner, with less than a week remaining until the tip-off this Saturday.
Some familiar faces are back again this year as the Cavaliers, Celtics, Raptors, Pacers and Hawks return following playoff appearances last year.
The Boston Celtics have claimed the number one seed and will be taking on the Chicago Bulls in the first round. Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas enters looking to continue his play after finishing third in scoring by averaging 28.9 PPG during the regular season.
The Bulls, however, just snuck into the playoffs by capturing the eight seed. Their charge is led by two-way star Jimmy Butler and veteran leadership provided by Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade. The Bulls finished second in the league in offensive rebounds per game, which could be extremely key if they cannot get shots to fall.
LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and the rest of the Cavaliers captured the number two seed following an exciting race with the Celtics. Per usual, the Cavs are an enormous threat, and widely accepted favorite to advance to the NBA Finals with an Eastern Conference title in hand. First, they must advance past the Indiana Pacers.
The Pacers finished the year at 42-40 and avoided the eight seed by just one game. Their superstar forward Paul George finished the year averaging 23.7 PPG and 6.6 RPG and will need to continue putting up those numbers if the Pacers want to have any hope of dismantling the Cavaliers.
Coming in as the number three seed, the Toronto Raptors finished the year at 51-31. The squad is revamped following the return of a healthy Kyle Lowry to pair with the already dangerous Demar Derozan to form a fearsome backcourt. They aren’t just facing any six seed though, as the Milwaukee Bucks enter looking to make a splash in this year’s playoffs.
Up-and-coming superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo leads the charge as a do it all “Greek Freak.” His versatility paired with his unbelievable athleticism makes him the most dangerous player on the court. Jabari Parker mans the small forward spot still trying to solidify his status as a star in the league, and this is the stage to do it.
The Washington Wizards host the Atlanta Hawks in a playoff rematch for the ages following Paul Pierce’s outspoken antics in their previous meeting. John Wall and Bradley Beal form arguably the most athletic backcourt in the league and will provide an almost unguardable aspect to the Wizards play.
The Atlanta Hawks finished the year at 43-39 following a confusing season to say the least. The frontcourt of Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard provides a tough matchup for any team, much less the Wizards, whose frontcourt is nowhere near their caliber. Young guard Dennis Schroeder looks to make a name for himself, while Tim Hardaway Jr. hopes to continue surprising others with his comeback year.
Western Conference Championship Playoffs
Sports Commentary by: Thomas Touchstone
The 2017 NBA Playoffs are set to start this weekend and the Western Conference standings are looking to produce some fierce matchups.
Undoubtedly the best team in the West this season, the Golden State Warriors locked up the number one seed and will play the Portland Trail Blazers, who beat the Spurs in a close game to clinch a playoff berth.
The Spurs have been one of the most consistent teams of the season, and they have the best road record in the NBA.
Look for Kawhi Leonard to continue his MVP-worthy season into the playoffs as they hope to challenge the Warriors, the reigning Western Conference champions.
The Spurs are locked to play the seventh seeded Memphis Grizzlies in the first round.
The Rockets will play the Thunder in a three and six seed matchup. The two leading MVP candidates, James Harden and Russell Westbrook, look to guide their teams to the Western Conference Semifinals through what should be an extremely close series.
The final matchup is locked in as the Los Angeles Clippers will play the Utah Jazz. Both teams finished with the same record, but the Clippers clinched the home court advantage with sealing the fourth seed.
Gordon Hayward has lead the Jazz to their first playoff berth in five years as the Jazz hope to reach the second round in the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
Many experts have the results of the Western Conference Finals already set in stone; however, there are a few teams that are more than capable of making a playoff run.
The Rockets and the Thunder both have stars that have the ability to score at will, so look for them to compete with the Spurs and the Warriors to hoist the Western Conference trophy.