The Surprising Tumult Of The 2018 NBA Playoffs


Typically, the NBA is the most predictable of leagues. Whereas college basketball culminates with a single elimination free for all, in which Cinderellas are the norm, the NBA playoffs are often free of drama until the finals. We typically know before the season starts that one of perhaps 3 teams will win the title. While the NBA has not caught up to the NCAA (or the NHL) for a dramatic playoffs, this has been a good year full of surprises.

First, we have the Utah Jazz, who surged at the end of the year. Their headliner is rookie of the year favorite, Donovan Mitchell, himself something of an underdog by NBA standards. He fell all the way to the 13th pick where Utah wisely scooped him up and he has gelled with veteran big man Derrick Favors and flashy Spaniard, Ricky Rubio, who has previously lacked in substance. The Oklahoma City Thunder were thought to have a slim shot at an NBA title with the triumvirate of Westbrook, Anthony and George but the Jazz have them on the ropes with a 3-1 lead. It's very hard to imagine Utah taking the title, but perhaps they have one more upset up their sleeve.

The rest of the Western Conference has gone more or less as planned, but chaos reigns in the East, where there is no longer any clear favorite. Number one seed Toronto are perennial playoff disappointments. They are an excellent, well-coached team, but they lack a superstar who can carry them through a series simply by willing it. Still, it is a big surprise to see them struggle with the Washington Wizards, who just scraped into the playoffs. With the series tied 2-2, the top seed could be done in the first round.

The Boston Celtics had star power but were badly depleted by injury. They've struggled with the Bucks but are poised to move on. Still, this is a team limping forward.

One would think that this leaves the door wide open for the Cleveland Cavaliers. While the Raptors lack a superstar, Cleveland has THE superstar, LeBron James, who has demonstrated the ability to win almost single-handedly. His supporting cast is only OK, but they seem to be enough to do some damage. Yet, the Cavs are locked in a back and forth struggle themselves in the first round against a merely above average Pacers team. It's not a certainty that they even advance, let alone perform well going forward.

This leads to the Philadelphia 76ers, a team loaded with a criminal amount of young talent. But, it is very young talent and the team was only a small favorite to even make the playoffs before the season. Perhaps these boys are too naive to know that they have no chance. Their series with Miami wasn't easy, but they locked it up. With the big fish in the East all floundering, perhaps the NBA can have a rare Cinderella run. Though, this team would almost certainly be crushed in the finals by the Rockets or Warriors.

Bet 365 has The Sixers at 2-1 to win the Eastern Conference.

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