Although the NBA 2015-2016 season is long over, we thought we would do a 2 part write up to refresh your memory on what happened last season and also present my personal views on how the playoffs went down.
The NBA basketball season consists of 82 regular season matches for the 30 competing teams in the 2 conferences (East and West). After which the top 8 from the 15 teams from each conference advance to a Conference playoffs which will ultimately result in the Top contender from both the Western and Eastern conference locking horns at the NBA finals.
The Playoffs consist of 7 games a series with the team with the better regular season record getting Home court advantage in Game 7.
Eastern Conference Playoffs 2016
The teams that qualified for the Eastern conference playoffs from the recently concluded season were the Cleveland Cavaliers (1) , Toronto Raptors (2) , Miami Heat (3), Atlanta Hawks (4), Boston Celtics (5), Charlotte Hornets (6), Indiana Pacers (7) and Detroit Pistons (8) in that order.
Eastern Conference 1st Round
Cleveland being the Top Dog from the East with a 57-25 regular season swept the Detroit Pistons 4-0 although all 4 matches were quite closely contested. Atlanta Hawks had a dominant outing against the Boston Celtics beating them 4-2. However the other 2 playoff series went all the way to Game 7. The Toronto Raptors vs Indiana Pacers series saw the former pulling 1 game ahead and the latter responding right back all the way to game 6. However the 2nd seed Raptors had the home court advantage over the Pacers in Game 7 and took full advantage of it, beating Paul George’s team 89 points to 84 thanks to a 4th quarter rally of 20 points to 11. The Miami Heat vs Charlotte Hornets had a different storyline. The Heat looked untouchable in the first 2 games beating the Hornets by 2 digit margins, but when the venue shifted to Charlotte the series turned upside down with the Hornets coming in all guns blazing to take the next 3 games, putting them 3-2 up in the series. With the chips down the Heat responded in game 6 with a big yet unsurprising 25 point game from their franchise player Dwayne Wade to force a Game 7 at the American Airlines Arena, Miami. Goran Dragic with 25 points, Hassan Whiteside with 12 rebounds and the rest of the Heat put up an all-out performance which turned out to be too much for Kemba Walker and his Hornets to handle with the final scorecard reading 106-73.
Eastern conference Semi- finals
The 4 teams that advanced to the Semi-Finals were the Cavs, Hawks, Raptors and Heat. The Cavs vs Hawks encounter was a very 1 sided affair with LeBron James and company completely dominating the Hawks in the games except for the 4th one which was played at the Philips Arena, Atlanta which saw only a 1 point difference between the 2 teams (100-99 Cavs W). Cavs had their 2nd sweep 4-0. The Toronto Raptors vs Miami Heat Semi-Finals on the contrary consisted of 3 games decided on overtime and went all the way to Game 7! Heat stole game 1 in OT playing away at the Air Canada Centre, Toronto. The Raptors came back strong in Game 2 beating he Heat in another OT game. In Game 3 it was the Raptors’ turn to steal an away victory and the Heat responded successfully in Game 4 to tie the series 2-2. Raptors beat the Heat 99-91 in Game 5 and the Heat beat the Raptors 103-91 in Game 6 forcing a Game 7 at Toronto. Game 7 went neck and neck until the last quarter where the Raptors went berserk, thrashing the Heat by putting on a 30-11 Run. Toronto beat Maimi 116-89 and won the series 4-3. The stage was set for a Cleveland Cavaliers vs Toronto Raptors Eastern conference Final.
Most NBA fans and experts were expecting a completely one sided affair in the EC finals but that turned out not to be the case. Although the Cavs registered 2 double digit lead to open the series 2-0, the Raptors responded sternly beating the Cavs in the next 2 games to tie the series at 2-2 with monster performances from Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Bismack Biyombo. Game 5 was crucial for the Cavs and playing at their home they gave the visiting team a total beat down 116-78 to secure Game 5 and gave them another beat down in Game 6 at the Raptors’ own backyard 113-87. Cavs rapped the series 4-2 and advanced to the NBA Finals 2016.
One thing to be noted here is this was the best ever performance by the Toronto Raptors in their NBA history, and the support they had from the whole of the Canada with the #WeTheNorth campaign was very inspiring for all Basketball fans around the World.
Western Conference Playoffs 2016
The Western conference which is considered to be more competitive than the Eastern conference saw the following teams advancing into the playoffs. Leading the entire league was the defending NBA Champions Golden State Warriors (1) with a record breaking 73W-9L regular season. They were followed by the San Antonio Spurs (2) with a 67-15 regular season, Oklahoma City Thunder (3). Los Angeles Clippers (4), Portland Trailblazers (5), Dallas Mavericks (6), Memphis Grizzlies (7) and the Houston Rockets (8).
Western Conference 1st Round
The Golden state Warriors gave the Houston Rockets quite a thrashing in the 1st round of the playoffs except for game 3 where they lost by 1 point and took the series 4-1. The 2nd seed of the Western conference San Antonio Spurs swept the series against the injury hit Memphis Grizzlies clean 4-0. In the OKC vs Dallas Maverick series it was the Thunder who turned the lightning on the latter beating them by a margin of 38 points in game 1 (108-70) but falling short in Game 2 (84-85) after which the series was tied and the venue shifted to the Texas home of the Mavs. However, the home team completely failed to seize home court advantage as the visiting Thunder ran through them, taking both games and followed it up with a 4th and series clinching win at home at the Chesapeake Energy arena. The final of the encounters was between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Portland Trail Blazers and had the most drama. The Clippers won the 1st 2 home games but the Trail Blazers responded with a win of their own back home. In a crucial game 4 with the game proceeding neck and neck, Chris Paul the star Point guard for the Clippers injured his wrist while trying to strip the ball off Gerald Henderson and got ruled out of the rest of the play-offs deemed fit only to return for the NBA Finals. But hopes of reaching the final vanished very fast as Blake Griffin their Star Power Forward joined him soon with a re-aggravated Quadriceps injury and the Trail Blazers ran through the depleted Clippers lineup taking the rest of the games 4 in a row (4-2).
Western Conference Semi-finals
At the Semi-finals of the playoffs we saw the Golden State taking on the Portland Trail Blazers. It was highly promoted as a faceoff between the league MVP Steph Curry and the very underrated point guard Damian Lillard, who could be a match winner on any given day. Although Lillard was more than up to the task in the Duel, the Warriors had a far superior supporting cast which didn’t help the Blazers who had just lost their star Power forward DeMarcus Aldridge in a Mid-season trade to the San Antonio Spurs forcing them to their knees in a 1-4 series defeat.
The other matchup was between the team with the 2nd best regular season record, San Antonio Spurs and the star studded powerhouse Oklahoma City Thunder who had Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka in their lineup. History suggested that the Spurs had the upper hand and that proved to be right in game 1 where the Spurs won in a 32-point blowout. Russell Westbrook led an Oklahoma response with a 1 point win to take an away game in game 2. The stage now shifted to Oklahoma where Kwahi Leonard the rising Forward for the Spurs helped them take game 3 away. Down 1-2 KD dropped 41 points in the next game to take the game for the home team 2-2. Both Russell and KD turned up to take Games 5 and 6 played away and home respectively to take the series 4-2 and progress to the Conference finals.
Golden State Warriors took on the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Conference Finals where the favourites were the former but game 1 turned out be quite the surprise as the defending champions fell in their own backyard 102-108. But the expected response was seen from them in game 2 where they thrashed the visitors 118-91. But further surprise was awaiting the Warriors in the Thunder home Chesapeake arena where they got blown out in both games 3 and 4 by huge double digit margins. Experts started spelling doom and gloom for the Warriors but the Warriors proved all their doubters wrong as they lit the fire they had during their splendid, record breaking 73-9 run, as they beat OKC in the next 3 games 120-111, 108-101, 96-88 advancing to the finals.
The stage was all set for a Cleveland Cavaliers vs Golden State Warriors NBA Finals Part 2
Catch us soon on ‘The Swishing the Nets’ thepapare.com to see where the story takes us from here as we will be revisiting the NBA finals and finding out what happened. Until then, keep balling!