2021 NBA Playoff – A change of scenery

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

For centuries, football and rugby have been the main attraction in the UK, but they are not the only sports in the world. The Premiership, The World Series, the Superbowl and the National Basketball Association (NBA) Playoffs are some of the sporting world’s biggest and most anticipated events. 

Basketball particularly has been adored by countries all around the world, becoming ingrained into the culture. Historically, the NBA has been a sport that has been loved by the American fanbase, alongside the National Football League (NFL).

In China, they have the CBA, Africa has the BAL, and the EuroLeague has become the most popular basketball association in Europe; and while the UK do have their own league in the British Basketball League (BBL), it is not nearly as recognised as it should be. 

The Biggest Event in Basketball 

The NBA playoffs is the biggest event in basketball. 

Eight teams from each conference play a best of seven game series through three rounds – the quarterfinals, the semi-finals, and the conference finals – eventually reaching the NBA finals, where the best team will face off in an East vs West matchup to claim the championship. 

This 2020-2021 post-season playoffs could potentially be one of the most exciting in recent years for many reasons. 

The first is the fact that this season’s playoffs is the first in the last 10 years that does not feature Stephen Curry or LeBron James. 

The second is that both teams that appeared in last year’s finals –  the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat – are out of title contention after being eliminated in the first round. 

This has allowed new talent to emerge and compete for the trophy. It’s a refreshing sight to see, not just for the NBA but for fans of basketball in general. 

The title is up for grabs, and teams now have a fighting chance at becoming champions and proving their worth to the rest of the league. 

New Kids on the Block?

One of the more surprising teams to dominate the playoffs are the Phoenix Suns, who become the first team since the one formed in 2010 to make the Western Conference Finals. 

This team was able to deliver a gut-wrenching defeat to the defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James, and completed a four-game sweep with this year’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) Nikola Jokić and one of the top Denver Nuggets – who finished 3rd in the Western Conference –  in the second round. This fairly inexperienced team has proven that although they are a young core, they are the team to beat this year. 

The backcourt pairing of 16-year veteran Chris Paul, and rising star Devin Booker has single-handedly brought a team that won just 19 games two years ago, not just to 2nd seed in the competitive Western conference, they now represent the West in the NBA finals, making their run in the playoffs that much more impressive. 

The Los Angeles Clippers have had quite the ascension of their own this year as despite eventually losing to Phoenix in six games, they made a significant impact in this year’s playoffs. After having a 50-year drought of not making it past the second round, they are the first team in the franchise’s history to compete in the conference finals. 

What makes this playoff run that much more awe-inspiring is the fact that they were able to make it this far, without the contributions of one of their key players, Kawhi Leonard, who went down with an injury in game four of the second round. 

They have long been in the shadowcast by the Los Angeles Lakers, but the seven-time All-Star, Paul George, has proved that he is the leader of this team and that the Los Angeles Clippers are the true kings of LA.

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Another team taking the league by storm are the Atlanta Hawks, led by 22-year-old Trae Young, who is carrying the team on his back, hoping to be the first to bring a trophy to the city of Atlanta. 

This team has not only managed to eliminate the top seeded Philadelphia 76’ers in seven games but are currently battling against last year’s MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks.

Unfortunately, they were not able to make it through to the finals, losing to the Bucks in game six, despite the injury to their leader Giannis. 

However, their impressive performance this year – after being one of the worst teams in the league for the past 5 years – has proven to fans that as long as they have their leader in Trae Young, they should expect to see them in the post season for many more years to come. 

How will it all end?

It’s still unclear how the rest of the post season will play out, as there are still plenty of games left.  The NBA finals are set to start on the 6th of July, and all these teams have either yet to win a title or have just one in their franchise history, so fans around the world should be excited for what’s to come.