After spending 40 hours binging all the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies and finally watching “Avengers: Endgame” three times during the first weekend of its release, all my attention is now on the NBA playoffs.
Although some think the first round is boring, this playoffs’ first act was no disappointment. We witnessed one of the best teams ever lose a 31 point lead, a No. 7 seed take their series to seven games, hilarious beef between Ben Simmons and Jared Dudley (of all people), and of course, Dame Dolla made Westbrook look no better than Ramon Sessions.
That being said, we’re now in the conference semifinals and glimpsing over the matchups gives me no doubt that this round will be as great, if not better, than the first. To help you know what to expect the rest of the round, here are my NBA Playoff power rankings.
8. Denver Nuggets
The Denver Nuggets entered the playoffs with a lot to prove concerning their readiness to succeed in the national spotlight. Denver barely escaped the San Antonio Spurs in a seven game series and is currently tied 2-2 to the Portland Trail Blazers with the series heading back to Denver. Despite their offensive struggles this postseason, the Nuggets still have time to ramp up their play to make it to their first conference finals in 10 years. Nikola Jokic, the powerhouse behind Denver’s success, has been the main contributor for the Nuggets, leading the team’s per game stats in points, assists, rebounds, steals, and blocks.
7. Philadelphia 76ers
The Philadelphia 76ers scared me at first when they lost to the Brooklyn Nets in their first playoff game, but have since shown the league they are ready for playoff basketball. Philly’s big four of Embiid, Butler, Simmons, and Harris have bolstered the 76ers offense with all of them averaging 15 or more ppg. Against the Toronto Raptors, they’ve been able to even the series 2-2 as the series heads back to Toronto. Although I don’t think they’ll win another game this series, I’d keep an eye on this 76ers team.
6. Houston Rockets
Houston, we have a problem. Well actually, Houston’s got a problem. Already down 2-1 to the Golden State Warriors, the Houston Rockets needed a huge home crowd boost to even the series and so far, home court advantage has helped after a game three win. Regardless of their early deficit, the Rockets will go only as far as James Harden will take them. Going up against a team with multiple All-Stars, you’re going to need your own stars to shine and Harden’s been doing exactly that. If Harden can ramp up his play even more against the Warriors, Houston could complete the job they almost did last year and take down the defending champs.
5. Toronto Raptors
Forget everything you knew about Kawhi Leonard in the regular season because playoff Kawhi is no joke. Averaging 31 ppg and a 32.9 player efficiency rating, Leonard has been one of the stars of the playoffs and has made Toronto look like a serious finals contender. Despite Kyle Lowry’s playoff struggles, Pascal Siakam has stepped up and contributed on both ends to the Raptors’ early playoff success. Running through the Orlando Magic and dominating game one against Philly, Toronto’s playoff experience and bench play will surely be enough for them to reach the conference finals despite being tied 2-2.
4. Portland Trail Blazers
Speaking about playoff Kawhi, have y’all seen playoff Lillard and his 31 ppg? He’s not only proven himself as one of the best point guards in the league, but he single handedly carried Portland in game five against the Oklahoma City Thunder, scoring 50 points and hitting one of the meanest game winners the league has ever seen. Paired with star guard C.J. Mccollum, Lillard has the leadership and skill to take these playoffs by storm and bring Portland to the conference finals. Currently tied 2-2 with Denver, the Trail Blazers need to catch fire in game five if they want a chance at closing the series in Portland.
3. Boston Celtics
No other way to put it: Boston has been dominating this postseason. Sweeping the No. 5 seed Pacers in the first round, the Boston Celtics have only lost two games this whole playoff after smashing the No. 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks by 22 points in game one and then losing game two and three due to Giannis being Giannis. Although being down 3-1, the series is heading back to Milwaukee, but Boston will still prove to be a force to reckon with in the East. A deep bench, a star studded starting lineup, and playoff experience are all bound to help Kyrie and the Celtics cause the Bucks some trouble.
2. Milwaukee Bucks
After they got routed in game one against Boston, some doubt crept into my mind about whether or not the Bucks were legit, but then Giannis decided to go beast mode. The top MVP contender has surely stepped up in the playoffs, recently posting a 32-13-8 statline in Milwaukee’s game three win to go up 3-1 in the series. The Bucks are really looking like a complete team in the playoffs and are definitely Golden State’s biggest roadblock in their path to another championship. Plus, Brook Lopez is still hitting three’s as I’m writing this.
1. Golden State Warriors
I mean, who else? Despite Boogie Cousins going down with a quad injury, Golden State remains the top team in the NBA. Kevin Durant has exploded this postseason, averaging 36 ppg and carrying the Warriors to a early 2-1 lead against Houston. Alongside Curry’s shooting and Draymond’s versatility, the Warriors are looking as great as last year, averaging 120 ppg, and that shouldn’t be a suprise or bring a smile to anyone’s face.
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