If you ask me, the NBA regular season can be a bit of a grind. It is 82 games long and goes from mid-October to early April. That’s a bit too much. It also seems to lose its luster at some point when you realize that a number of teams have given up on even making the playoffs and there are others that are so locked into a playoff spot that they give up on the regular season. But you know what isn’t underwhelming? Playoff basketball.
When the clock strikes mid-April and the final 16 teams start duking it out for a chance to win the championship, basketball becomes fun again. This year is especially exciting because there isn’t a clear-cut juggernaut team that is going to dominate the postseason. The Suns are the closest thing to that type of team and they just lost a game to the Pelicans on Tuesday. This year’s version of the playoffs is just 14 games in and has already provided some memorable moments.
The biggest reason why the playoffs have been so enjoyable is that all eight of the opening series have been entertaining. Even the ones that haven’t been close (Philly versus Toronto and Golden State versus Denver) have given us reasons to watch. There isn’t a single series that looks like it is going to be an easy sweep for the favorite. Golden State now has to travel to Denver and the Nuggets still have the reigning (and maybe current) MVP. The Sixers now have to cross the border to play in Toronto where they will be without Matisse Thybulle. Miami also has a 2-0 lead over Atlanta but the games have been scrappy and will probably remain that way for the remainder of the series. Even if those three series end up being sweeps, they won’t be walks in the park by any means.
The series that looked like it would be a cakewalk on paper was Phoenix against New Orleans, but the Pelicans have proved a lot of people wrong already. They stood up to a really good Suns team and handed them a loss on their home court to bring the series even at one apiece. In the end, this will probably be a win for the Suns but if the Pelicans can keep it interesting it would add to the overall excitement of the opening round.
The two most exciting series are the matchups between the two and seven seeds. In the West, that series is Memphis versus Minnesota, which has devolved into a battle of future superstars. Ja Morant versus Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns versus Jaren Jackson Jr. This is a pairing that we may see plenty of times over the next few seasons. Morant and Edwards are two of the most electric young players in the league and they have already played like it in this series.
The Eastern matchup pits the Celtics up against the Nets, and although they have played just once, it was the best game of the postseason so far. This series is all about the established superstars. Kevin Durant is clearly one of the best players in the world and Kyrie Irving is still one of the most talented guards to ever play the game. On the other hand, Jayson Tatum has completed his evolution into a superstar this year and Jaylen Brown is quietly one of the best young players in the league. Throw in 2022 Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart for Boston and the sharpshooting Seth Curry for Brooklyn, and this has the makings of an all-time opening round series.
The final two series may be a little under the radar but that does not mean they aren’t fun. Milwaukee and Chicago is a very intriguing matchup because it puts together the reigning NBA Champions (the Bucks) and one of the surprise teams of the season (the Bulls). Giannis Antetokounmpo should be able to dominate the series and lead his team to victory, but Zach LaVine and DeMar Derozan are no slouches on the other side. The first game of the series was much more competitive than people were predicting, so this could end up being a lot closer than we thought and could provide some tight games the rest of the way.
The matchup between the Jazz and the Mavericks is suffering from the absence of Luka Doncic, but the teams have split the first two games and this series has all the makings of going the distance. I think these are the two most evenly matched teams out of all the eight pairings and those types of series usually end up going to game seven. Hopefully, Doncic can come back for the next game and play the rest of them because he would give the series the jolt of electricity that it desperately needs. Watching him go toe-to-toe with Donovan Mitchell could evoke the same types of performances that we saw from Mitchell and Jamal Murray in the 2020 playoffs when they were scoring at a torrid pace.
In other years it might have taken until the semifinals for the postseason to heat up, but not this year. The 2022 postseason started out hot, even including the play-in games. This is a good sign for the NBA as they try to promote a postseason without LeBron James and the Lakers. But who needs them? We’ve got 16 teams that are playing their asses off and deserve all the eyeballs they get every night. Keep it up guys, we are having a blast watching you hoop.