Even if clashing with second semester examinations, the Playoffs season has finally come: basketball fans rejoice!
This year the sixteen teams that made it to this final stage of the season were, for the West: Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers, Los Angeles Clipper, Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets. And for the East: Indiana Pacers, Toronto Raptors, Charlotte Hornets, Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons and Cleveland Cavaliers.
With the first two rounds rapidly winding up, however, we quickly got to the conference finals where the last four teams on stage were: the Golden State Warriors, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Toronto Raptors.
These conference finals (NBA semi-finals) witnessed a staggering high level of competition that, on the western side, brought the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Golden State Warriors to a win-or-lose-it-all game 7 after an impressive run by Curry’s team on Durant’s Thunders who were boasting an early 3-1 lead. On the eastern side, despite the clear supremacy of the Cleveland Cavaliers, guided by superstar LeBron James, the Toronto Raptors still managed to lose honourably by winning 2 games and to write their franchise history by reaching, for their first time ever, the playoffs conference finals.
However, as popular wisdom and facts suggest, history is cyclical and this ultimate stage of the NBA Playoffs, the ‘Finals’, will see, just like the past year, the Golden State Warriors facing off the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Although many would arguably consider the Golden State Warriors as the favourite team to ultimately win these finals, so far their performance in the Playoffs has not been comparable to that of the Cavaliers which have closed their first two rounds with two resounding 4-0 streaks. Unlike last year when, due to injuries, the “Cavs” were sent out because they could not count on the key presence of all-stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love - thus ending by losing to the very same Warriors led by the current NBA season MVP Stephen Curry -this year’s outcome will most probably be different because their two formidable cornerstones are back in full swing.
On the other hand, it is also true that the Warriors have shown how they can significantly turn the tables in a series as important as the one with the Oklahoma City Thunder, and this should be taken in serious consideration when making predictions on a possible Finals winner.
As I have already argued, Cleveland is stronger than ever and superbly equipped…but can they really compete with a team of half-court “sharpshooters” (and scorers) such as Klay Thompson and Steph Curry?
This last round will officially kick off on 2nd June (at 9 pm U.S. time) with game 1 taking place in Golden State’s arena, where also game 2 will be played. The Finals will then move to Cleveland for game 3 and 4. However, it is highly unlikely that the series will be over by game 4, and just like the 2015 Finals the probability of games 5 and 6 can be easily foreseen.
Now it’s just up to this unpredictably amazing League to show what it has in store for us, and who will eventually stand on the podium and lift that magic golden trophy.
Riccardo Scroppo is a first-year Politics and International Relations student at the University of Manchester