Cleveland is Definitely Going To Win The East
This has been assumed since the start of the regular season, but some arguments took form when data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-type="externalLink" data-ordinal="1">Miami and data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-type="externalLink" data-ordinal="2">Toronto kicked into full swing. Complemented by coach turnover and ridiculous headlines protruding from Cleveland, it gave way for rumblings of disorganization and lack of chemistry as the Cavs finished just one game ahead of Toronto for the 1 seed.
While Cleveland has done themselves no favors to assure another finals appearance, they still haven’t been challenged. Atlanta stands no chance down 3-0 leaving just Miami and Toronto. Toronto has proven absolutely nothing these playoffs, barely making it past a 7 seed and fighting to split at home vs Miami.
The Heat on the other hand have shown spurts of great basketball, but long scoring droughts and inconsistencies to give their fans fits. Both these teams were lucky to crawl out of round one and don’t seem to holster the firepower necessary to take down a Cleveland team who doesn’t miss threes and are playing the best they have been all year .
Injuries Are The Ultimate X-Factor
Much like we’ve seen in recent history, Injuries have plagued some of the NBA’s best in the early stages of the postseason. Starting with the golden boy Steph Curry and spreading rapidly to Blake Griffin and CP3, the injury bug is in full effect.
Whether this rivals last years run of Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, Mike Conley, and Patrick Beverley is yet to be seen. What is does mean for certain, is that you can never declare a champion before they are crowned. One little bad landing can shift the odds of the favorite dramatically, and it remains to be seen how this whole Steph Curry situation will play out.
It seems this issue tends to but its head in the playoffs year after year when things matter most. Is this just bad luck, or is the level of play really that much higher in May? There’s no doubt the playoffs take things to another level, but to make this argument assumes that the regular season itself is just exhibition to prep for what really matters. As a fan it worries me to know how true that may be.
The Refs Are The Secondary X-Factors
So the Spurs and their fans can complain all they want about the terrible officiating, horrific whistles and blatant missed calls and cite the league’s report as irrefutable evidence that they were robbed.
Mitch Lawrence, Forbes SportsMoney
Just because you escape injury free, doesn’t mean talent will get you to the finish line. The refs have been doing their best to add another bit of uncertainty for head coaches to game plan. Nearly every significant game this postseason has had shockingly poor officiating late game.
It all started in Miami for game 5 vs the Hornets. In a crucial 2-2 game D-Wade had a last second drive in which he was met at the rim by Cody Zeller. This collision, albeit a relatively straight up collision didn’t yield a whistle but instead a fare share of complaints from Miami supporters.
After this there was the Pacers game 7 in which a shove to the back of Ian Mahinmi, followed by a probable DeRozan travel helped Toronto move on to the next round. Toronto has been the beneficiary of questionable refereeing more than once. In game two of the Miami series there was a clear violation by Jonas Valanciunas in a jump ball situation with Hassan Whiteside in the 4th quarter and a missed shot clock violation in overtime. Toronto may have won both games regardless, but it certainly helped.
Most noteworthy and publicized has no doubt been the game two of San Antonio vs. OKC debacle. With 5 admitted missed calls in the last 13 seconds, any common fan could see the reckless abandonment on display. I’ll never understand how Dion Waiters’ blatant shove and jump throw-in didn’t get a whistle from the official looking directly at him. As Chris Webber made clear during his broadcast, this was inexcusable and has to be called.
There was also the no call on James Harden’s game winner against the Warriors in the first round but I felt that was the correct decision and the series was so lopsided no one cared.
And the Spurs, Thunder series?
The League Is Astoundingly Top Heavy
The teams hailed as contenders all year have proven their reputation. Therefore, half the playoff series that matter have been pointless to watch. The Warriors have dominated even without Steph, we’ve already mentioned the Cavaliers, Spurs vs. Grizzlies isn’t worth talking about, and Dallas must have been thrilled just not to be swept.
Its incredible to think that just a season ago, we were treated to an epic data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-type="externalLink" data-ordinal="5">Spurs, Clippers round one match-up for 7 games. On the bright side, this shows how quick fluctuation can happen, and gives light to potential for next season’s early rounds. At least we got to see Spurs versus OKC for some decent product and salivate in hopeful anticipation for the Warrior and Thunder to come soon.