2018 NBA Playoffs begin Saturday

Alex Welz

As the 2017-18 NBA regular comes to a close, the playoffs are all set and ready to take off. The Eastern Conference has much more firepower to it this year. Meanwhile the always brutal West is looking intimidating once more. Buckle up for another intriguing NBA playoff season.
Eastern Conference
1. Toronto Raptors vs. 8. Washington Wizards
4. Cleveland Cavaliers vs. 5. Indiana Pacers
3. Philadelphia 76ers vs. 6. Miami Heat
2. Boston Celtics vs. 7. Milwaukee Bucks
The East has drastically improved in a very short amount of time. Last year, all you heard were people complaining about how easy of a road the Cavs had to another championship appearance and the demand for the 16-team playoff bracket which would only take into account record and disregard conference. This year, its a completely different story. Although still not competing at the level the West is, the East has some major contenders this time around.
Toronto has been unstoppable all year. Led by DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, and a whole slew of talented young guys, they have blended perfectly together. Boston doesn’t appear to have the look of a championship team anymore following the loss of Kyrie Irving to his recent knee surgery. The interesting part of the East is looking at seeds 3-8. Each team is extremely talented and has the potential to truly make a push for a championship. Philadelphia is playing at an all-time high right now, and when Joel Embiid returns, look out. Between Ben Simmons, Embiid, Markelle Fultz, and Dario Saric, they easily have the best young core in the game.
The Cavaliers are, of course, at the top of everyone’s list to make it to yet another Finals appearance despite entering as the 4-seed. If the supporting cast can find some consistency, there may be no stopping LeBron James and Cleveland. Milwaukee has an MVP candidate in its own with Giannis Antetokounmpo and a really good core behind him, while Washington is still easing John Wall back into the mix to go along with Bradley Beak and Otto Porter Jr.
Western Conference
1. Houston Rockets vs. 8. Minnesota Timberwolves
4. Oklahoma City Thunder vs. 5. Utah Jazz
3. Portland Trail Blazers vs. 6. New Orleans Pelicans
2. Golden State Warriors vs. 7. San Antonio Spurs
The West looks strong once again. However, people predicting standings at the beginning of the season may be shocked to see how they turned out. All the assumed teams are in, it’s just their seeding may come as a shock to many. The Warriors have been dethroned…from the #1 seed, that is. The Houston Rockets have put together an astonishing season led by MVP frontrunner, James Harden. The addition of Chris Paul and emergence of Clint Capela have helped quite a bit as well. Without Stephen Curry for the first round, Golden State still looks built to contend. Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green are all more than capable of taking Golden State to the promised land. Portland also looks rather intimidating with an imposing backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.
Oklahoma City is a team that no one wants to see come playoff time. With three players capable of taking over the game on the offensive end, they will always be dangerous. Again, consistency is key for them. The Jazz have overachieved all season long. They are led by rookie Donovan Mitchell on offense and are anchored by 7’1” Rudy Gobert on defense. The Spurs have been the most polarizing story all season long. Amid the Kawhi Leonard situation, the Spurs have managed to still make the playoffs but don’t look to have the firepower to compete with those at the top. The Minnesota Timberwolves clinched the playoffs with a closing thriller against the Denver Nuggets and have a roster laden with talent and explosive potential.
The NBA playoffs tipoff this weekend with four games Satrurday and another four on Sunday. The first round will span the next two weeks with Game 7s scheduled to be played at the end of April should the series go the distance.