NBA playoffs approaching, all eyes on LeBron James

By Joseph Yamulla || Assistant Sports Editor

The 2014-2015 NBA regular season has concluded, and its time to move on to the playoffs. The regular season was filled with storylines and drama, ranging from Lebron James’ exciting homecoming back to Cleveland, blockbuster trades, surprising teams like the first-place Atlanta Hawks, and to devastating injuries for players like Kobe Bryant or Kevin Durant. The NBA playoffs always provides highly competitive matches between talented teams and players. This postseason this year will be no different as every team is hungry to hoist the championship trophy in June.

The Eastern Conference will consist of match-ups between the Atlanta Hawks and Brooklyn Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls and the Milwaukee Bucks, also the Toronto Raptors an the Washington Wizards. If Atlanta is able to maintain a level of play that is even close to the one they maintained in the regular season, Brooklyn should not be much of a problem for them. Atlanta comes into the series with the best record in the Eastern Conference at 60-22. Brooklyn was able to sneak in with a sub .500 record of 38-44. Atlanta is an interesting team to watch this postseason. For years, they’ve been seen as a middle of the road non-contender due to their lack of star power. However, this season, they have shown that they could be dominant without a marquee player like Lebron James. The question that remains is, could the Hawks be dominant in the playoffs as well? They certainly seek to answer that question.

The match up between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics is arguably the most highly anticipated series in the first round. After his four year run in Miami, James’ heroic return to Cleveland has brought the Cavaliers back to the playoffs for the first time since 2010 (the last time he played for Cleveland). His new Cavaliers team is loaded with talented players like Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and J.R. Smith. However, many question if this team has enough experience to make a real run at the championship. Fans will have to wait and see for themselves as the series tips off this week.

In the Chicago Bulls vs. Milwaukee Bucks series, Derrick Rose makes his return after yet another injury to his knee. The Bulls are seen as the team most likely to contend with the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference. However, they will have to get past a young and talented Bucks team that is filled with future stars like Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Michael Carter-Williams. The last matchup in the East is Toronto vs. Washington. Both these teams had strong seasons, as Toronto goes in as the fourth seed and Washington the fifth. Both of these go into this postseason a bit under the radar, but completely capable of making a run in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

In the Western Conference playoffs, the matchup are the Golden State Warriors vs. New Orleans Pelicans, Houston Rockets vs. Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers vs. San Antonio Spurs, and Portland Trail Blazers vs. Memphis Grizzlies.

The Warriors are highly favorited to not only win this series against the Pelicans, but also take the Western Conference and move on to the NBA Championship. They have the best record in all of the NBA at 67-15. Their powerhouse team with players like Steph Curry, Clay Thompson, and Andre Igoudala should be too much for Anthony Davis and the Pelicans. The Rockets and Mavericks are an interesting matchup. Despite Houston being the two seed and Dallas being the seven seed, several analysts expect Dallas to compete and even win this series. The highly competitive Western Conference Playoffs is much more challenging to predict than the East. James Harden and the Rockets will certainly have their hands full with an experienced Mavericks team under their leader, Dirk Nowitzki.

The defending champion San Antonio Spurs series against the Los Angeles Clippers will certainly be filled with the bright lights of Los Angeles Staples Centre, stars like Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, and then the experienced championship mentality of the Spurs. The core Spurs group consisting of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili is attempting to show the world one more time to never count them out, and that they still have a championship run left in them. Finally, the Portland Trailblazers and Memphis Grizzlies series is arguably the most evenly matched of the Western Conference. The Blazers are the fourth seed and the Grizzlies the fifth. Both had strong seasons and look to finally burst through Western Conference and make it to the NBA finals.

The NBA playoffs is always a special time of year. Fans look forward to concluding their long winter with warm weather, and the excitement from playoff basketball. Well, playoff basketball has finally arrived and its time to sit back, and watch the best players in the world battle it out on the hardwood for basketball’s most prestigious award.

First-year Joseph Yamulla is the Assistant Sports Editor. His email is jyamulla@fandm.edu.

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