After Indiana’s loss at the hands of LeBron James and Tristan Thompson exclusively, the first round is over (RIP my surrogate playoff team, the Indiana Pacers). After last year’s playoffs left a bad taste in the mouths of NBA fans, what made this first round so much better? Here’s a storyline from each series that I loved.
- Manu Ginobili
GINOBILI! GINOBILI! GI-NO-BI-LI! Everyone loves a good underdog story, and the Spurs winning 1 game out of 5 was good enough for me. Manu had a very Manu game in San Antonio to avoid a sweep, scoring 10 points in the 4th quarter and doing a lot of fun Manu things. In what could have been Manu’s last game in San Antonio, he played the hero. Even as tragedy, the passing of Gregg Popovich’s wife, hung over San Antonio as a whole, Manu brought passion and excitement to the floor. He’s so amazing, and if he doesn’t continue to play, he will sorely be missed (even by a lifelong Suns fan with a Spurs grudge).
- Joel Embeef (I’m sorry I typed that)
If we all take a look back to this year’s preseason, which seems like a lifetime ago, we may remember a pivotal Embiid moment. Hassan Whiteside picks up three quick fouls, and Joel Embiid says the only thing you would expect Joel Embiid to say. “Go to the bench, you can’t guard me.” Harsh, but true. Twitter beef ensues, Joel puts up the best social media post of all time, and everyone moves on. Fast forward to this year’s 3-6 matchup, and we see Embiid back it up: Whiteside cannot guard him. Whiteside couldn’t do much of anything in that series, and did a lot of talking about it. But this isn’t about Hassan. It’s about Joel. And Joel is good, and Hassan is not.
- Donovan Mitchell is very good at basketball
Let me paint a picture. A super team assembles in OKC. Last year’s MVP, an aging superstar spurned by New York City, and a man destined to leave Indiana for further greatness all get together to hunt for a ring. They then lose in the first round to the 13th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Ricky Rubio, and a French guy. But mostly the draft pick. Jeez. Donovan Mitchell’s 38 points in game 6, headlined by 22(!) in the 3rd quarter, came on 14-of-26(!) shooting. That guy is a rookie, and he singlehandedly topped the 4 seed in the West. The Rockets are clearly going to be a better challenge, as perennial All-NBA Defender Chris Paul will be tasked with guarding Mitchell, and Ricky Rubio (RIP) will be sitting out for at least 4 games. But, even if the Jazz don’t win, fans of the NBA win, because we get to keep watching Donovan Mitchell.
- The Celtics have 0 bad players
None! Absolutely none! Except maybe Aaron Baynes, but he was good during stretches of the year so I’m gonna say none! Brad Stevens even manages to make GREG MONROE look good! How? After Semi Ojeleye (I had to look up how to spell that like 3 times) made a eurostep layup in the second quarter, I was sold. The Celtics are so good. Are they good enough to beat the Sixers without one of the NBA’s best point guards and Gordon Hayward? Probably not. But, their depth is astounding. And Brad Stevens is a basketball wizard, and I will always enjoy watching Stevens-coached teams play amazing defense and pass the ball extremely well.
- I Love the Indiana Pacers
I love them. So so much. And I am so sad they don’t get to keep playing. That series was absolutely the best series, partially because of LeBron being Basketball God, and partially because I didn’t expect it to happen at all. After game 1, I was hooked on Pacers basketball. The gritty defense, their ability to dig themselves out of 15 and 20 point holes, Victor Oladipo just in general, it all just had me enraptured with this team. Everyone counted them out from the first game of the season, and they proved everyone wrong and I love it. Domontas Sabonis, Thaddeus Young, and Myles Turner were fantastic at different times down the stretch of the series, and the entire city of Cleveland now has a hatred of Lance Stevenson only rivaled by the city of Miami. I love the Pacers. Bring them back. Make the series 9 games. I don’t care. I want more.
- Anthony Davis doesn’t get the memo
Hey, Anthony, your second best player is out. Your team isn’t supposed to upset the 3 seed in a sweep. You’re not supposed to just shut down Jusuf Nurkic like that. Jrue Holiday doesn’t seem to realize that you’re not supposed to outscore Damian Lillard. Nobody on the Pelicans is listening to common sense, and nobody on the Blazers is doing anything to stop them. What a series, what a sweep, what a triumph for one of the NBA’s top 10, maybe even top 5 players in Anthony Davis. One can only hope DeMarcus Cousins returns strong and ready to play, but New Orleans is clearly in competent hands with or without him. The second round is obviously a big test for Davis, and Draymond is ready to play, but that first round series will always be fun to look back on as time goes by.
- The Raptors did it this time!
After securing the #1 seed, everyone said what everyone was thinking. The Raptors choke every. single. time. So, why should anyone care? They’re clearly different from the last few years, yeah, but their two superstars are the same, and they can’t just rely on their bench, can they? Can they? In game 6, they did. The bench unit rode out the fourth quarter and secured a 102-92 win, and a second round birth for the Raptors. They also won game 1 of their opening series. For the first time, like, ever. That’s pretty big. Good for Toronto. They’ll face Cleveland (yikes) in round 2, so let’s hope some of that bench magic can kick in. Also, second round Fred VanVleet! Excellent.
- Karl Anthony-Towns watching James Harden’s airball sail out of bounds
Yep. There’s not much else to say about that. Congrats to the Wolves for making it to the playoffs for the first time since 2004, and also not getting swept. Here’s hoping for next year.
There are plenty of fantastic things about the NBA playoffs. Player-celeb beefs like Wade and Kevin Hart, the cheesy playoff shirts that teams give out to fans attending the games, and the refs choking on their whistles to give a more intense feel to the games. Even though last year’s playoffs kind of sucked unless your name was the Warriors, this year promises to deliver even more exciting action. In conclusion, bring back Pacers basketball. That is all. Watch basketball, you guys. It’s really great.