Basketball’s ‘real’ season begins, 16 teams vying for championship

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Acting Editor

One of my favorite times of year is finally here—the NBA playoffs. While I love watching the long grind of an 82-game season, there’s nothing like the playoffs.

The NBA playoffs began Saturday and I must say I wasn’t let down. Although I didn’t spend the whole weekend glued to the TV, I did have an opportunity to watch a few games.

One of the better games was actually
in the Eastern Conference. I was surprised because I’m biased toward Western Conference teams. I decided to watch the Toronto Raptors versus the Milwaukee Bucks to past the time away until another team played. But I was pleasantly surprised by the play of the Bucks. I haven’t had too many chances to watch Milwaukee play this season so I had no idea that they actually play defense. Their defense is anchored by Thon Maker. While Maker only had four points and three rebounds, he blocked three shots and altered more.
He made the the Raptors think twice about taking the ball to the basket.

Giannis “The
Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 28 points. As I sat watching that game it became apparent I was watching the future of the NBA. The Greek Freak is offensively sound and he was quite efficient from the floor Saturday night shooting 13-18 with eight rebounds.

The Bucks versus Raptors’ was a game of two halves because Toronto fell apart in the second half, and their star players couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn. I know the same held true last year when the Raptors dropped the opening game to the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers but ended up winning both of those seven-game series.

Two of the most puzzling games to me was the Cleveland Cavaliers versus the Pacers. The Cavs had a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter but barely won the game. I know a win is a win, but to win by one point to a team you basically had on the ropes is unacceptable. I know some will probably blame LeBron James because he is after all the leader of the team. But you can’t blame James because his stat line was solid with 32 points, six rebounds and 13 assists. I’m not going to say he needs help because he has plenty, but I will say his teammates need to be more efficient. While Kyrie Irving scored 23 points he can’t shoot 11-27 again. You can’t shoot 27 shots to score 23 points and 1-9 from the three-point line won’t cut it for a star player, especially one who is somewhat of a ballhog.

The other head scratcher was the Los Angeles Clippers versus the Utah Jazz. While I didn’t watch this game I saw the highlights and I was confused. I’m not sure how the Clippers’ defense falls apart by basically letting Joe Johnson shoot an almost uncontested layup to win the game at the buzzer. Johnson has been in the NBA for 16 years and has the most game-winning shots in the past 10 years—eight. I’m sure Clippers’ head coach Doc Rivers didn’t know this tidbit while he was drawing up the defensive scheme, but he had to know the last shot had to be made from someone other than Johnson.
He’s the player with the most experience on the Jazz and finished the game with 21 points while shooting 9-14 from the floor. He also shot 3-4 from the three-point line. Johnson’s efficient shooting night was enough for Doc to tell his players to double team him and make sure he doesn’t take the last shot. Johnson not only led the bench in scoring he also led the team.

I think one of the better match-up will be the Houston Rockets versus the Oklahoma City Thunder. I think the Thunder are overmatched but it’s going to be fun watching Russell Westbrook. Sunday’s game proved he can’t beat a team by himself. Although he led the team with 22 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists, he was 6-23 from the field and that won’t win any games. I know he’s averaged a triple double this season, but your point guard can’t lead the team in rebounding, especially when you have 7-foot center on your team. Steven Adams is a capable center but he has to score more than six points and grab five rebounds.

Even though most didn’t give the Thunder a shot at making the playoffs after Kevin Durant’s exit and eventual signing to the Golden State Warriors, rebounding has been the Thunder’s staple all season and they just didn’t get the job done Sunday.

While there were only a few surprise endings to the opening of this year’s playoff games, I’m still excited because we might see a new champion hoisting the trophy if the Cavs don’t get it together. I know it’s nice to see other teams battling to be named champs, but I want another Warrior versus Cavs match-up to see who is actually the best.
Time will only tell if
that match-up comes to fruition.