This year’s NBA Playoffs are bringing a return of normalcy to sports that we haven’t seen since March 2020, when the world was shut down by the COVID pandemic. Arenas are getting fuller and fuller, with screaming crowds chanting in support for their team and relentlessly taunting the opposition. It makes for an entertaining spectacle filled with excitement. Even before the pandemic, though, excitement was something that seemed to be missing from the NBA, but it is for sure back this year with a vengeance.
Only four teams are left in contention and are all currently competing in the Conference Finals. Out West, the Phoenix Suns are up 2-0 against the Los Angeles Clippers after a jaw-dropping buzzer beater by Deandre Ayton in Game Two Tuesday. Meanwhile, in the East, the Milwaukee Bucks and the Atlanta Hawks begin their series Wednesday in Wisconsin. You can read my predictions for how I think each series will break down here. These playoffs have been extremely exciting, with heart stopping shots, game winners, and down-to-the-wire matchups. The electrifying, unpredictable postseason is a great thing for the NBA and makes for must watch television every night.
The NBA in recent years was falling into a deep rut, with only a few teams in real contention to make any noise in the playoffs. Whether it was the Steph Curry-Klay Thompson-Kevin Durant Warriors or the Lebron James-Anthony Davis Lakers, super teams have dominated the game of basketball and have made it less exciting to watch. For four years in a row, the Warriors, led by Stephen Curry, and the Cavaliers, led by Lebron James, faced off in the NBA Finals, with little competition around them to contend. The Finals got gradually less exciting the more superstars were added to the Warriors and it was almost a given that they were going to go all the way from the years 2016-2019.
These playoffs, however, are way different. The Warriors lost Kevin Durant to the Brooklyn Nets in free agency and Klay Thompson to back-to-back season-ending injuries, and they have missed the playoffs ever since 2019. The Los Angeles Lakers built a team around two of the best in the game in Lebron James and Anthony Davis, but they were both plagued by injury and were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. Durant’s Nets faced a surprising second round exit as well, after an injury kept Kyrie Irving out and James Harden debilitated. Now the four teams that remain are very unexpected, and it’s really anyone’s best guess as to who will win the 2021 NBA Championship.
I have loved every second of these playoffs. The resilience and tenacity that each of these teams have shown has been quite impressive. They’ve all beaten the best to get here, including the Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Denver Nuggets, and the Utah Jazz, most of whom were favored to go all the way. This year’s playoffs are great for the NBA, which has seen struggling ratings in recent years. The game of basketball is thriving with unpredictability and fierce competition. There is no super team that is going to take it to the end easily, every team left will have to scratch and claw their way to victory. Get your popcorn, folks, because the 2021 NBA Conference Finals, and Finals thereafter, will be some of the best the game has ever seen.