The NBA Playoffs are wide open


Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images/TNS

The Golden State Warriors will play the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center in Los Angeles on May 19, 2021, for the NBA’s inaugural play-in tournament.

Jared Knobloch, Sports Editor

   With the NBA’s regular season over, the playoffs ahead look extremely interesting. The battle for the Larry O’Brien trophy begins and for the first time in a long time, it seems like the title is genuinely up for grabs.

   The addition of the Play-In Tournament this year provides lower seeded teams — who in the past would normally miss the playoffs — an actual chance of making it. The way it works is simple. In each conference, the 7-10 seeded teams play two games, first with the 7 and 8 seeds playing, and then 9 and 10. The winner of the 7v8 game gets the 7 seed, while the loser plays the winner of the 9v10 game. The winner of that game then receives the 8 seed, and then the playoffs can begin. 

   The standings themselves really prove why this year is different from others. Although both Utah and Philadelphia clinched the number 1 seed, neither team has deep playoff experience. Donovan Mitchell and the Jazz have been knocked out of the second or first round for the last four years, with Joel Embiid and the 76ers having the same problem. That being said, they aren’t the 1 seed for nothing, and that is what makes things interesting. With both teams holding the number one position, they could be vulnerable. A lower-seed that may see these teams later in the playoffs could do some damage. For example, a team like the Los Angeles Lakers, is more than likely to make it into the tournament as a 7 or 8 seed, regardless if they lose to the Warriors in the 7v8 play-in game.

   The Brooklyn Nets are favorites to come out of the East, with help from their big three of Kyrie Irving, James Harden and Kevin Durant, who are all considered top players in the league. The doubters have pointed out that they have only shared the court a couple times this season, as injuries and health and safety protocols plagued a smooth season and sidelined players. And it’s not just the Nets, the Boston Celtics are a good example of that. Falling in at the 7 seed, much like their longtime rival Lakers, this is a playoff team that got unlucky and happened to fall into the tournament. 

   Predictions are going to be pretty easy to make, with the exception of one seed. Coming out of the play-ins from the West are most definitely the Warriors and the Lakers. While in the East,the Celtics will make it, but that last spot is definitely up for grabs. Charlotte, Indiana or Washington all could win in a one game winner-take-all scenario.

  The most surprising addition to this year’s playoffs is definitely the New York Knicks. A team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2013, they came into this year looking the same as ever. Their best player, Julius Randle, absolutely exploded this season, making his NBA All-Star debut as well as leading them to the 4 seed. No one saw that coming, and Randle is pretty much a lock for the Most Improved Player award. The Warriors surprised people as well, even though they were a dynasty last decade. Klay Thompson was ruled out for the season due to injury, and people questioned whether Stephen Curry could lead a young team. Here’s a fact: Warriors are the 8 seed thanks to him. Curry won the scoring title at 32 points per game, as well as tearing up every team in his path, possibly leading to a third MVP trophy, unless Denver’s Nikola Jokic has something to say.

   Wherever this postseason goes, one thing is bound to happen: lots of upsets and lots of great NBA basketball. The field hasn’t been this deep in a long time, and each team has something to prove. Each team is ready to compete for a title, and while statistics and predictions are great, even they can be wildly wrong sometimes. That’s what makes the magic of the NBA playoffs so great.