The NBA Finals are drawing nearer every day. After eight teams were eliminated in the first round, just eight teams remain vying for the opportunity to cement their names into the NBA record books. Considering each team varies greatly, every matchup is unique, and they all produce dramatic storylines. Here are the five biggest storylines of the NBA Playoffs so far:
- The Oklahoma City Thunder collapse: The Thunder may be the most disappointing NBA franchise. The Thunder, at one point in time, had James Harden, Kevin Durant, and Russell Westbrook; however, this team never captured a ring. I understand the playing styles didn’t mesh, and that each player has vastly changed since then, but it’s still dumbfounding to me. The Thunder dropped off greatly at the end of the regular season. They fell all the way to a 6 seed, and they were promptly disposed of by the Portland Trailblazers in five games. Westbrook’s shooting was abysmal. Paul George wasn’t “Playoff P”, and he didn’t transcend the series. The Thunder have a lot of self-reflection to do this offseason. They need to utilize their talent much more efficiently, and I believe that dramatic changes will occur.
- Jared Dudley vs. Ben Simmons: Why is this a storyline? Ben Simmons is leaps and bounds better than Jared Dudley. While Dudley does have some valid points, Simmons is still a dynamic player, and he is a game-changing player. Simmons does need to work on his shooting desperately; Dudley was correct. I don’t understand why this became a story? Dudley was foolish for picking a fight with a much better player. Simmons and the 76ers paid way too much attention to it. The Brooklyn Nets poked some holes in the 76ers armor, but ultimately it wasn’t enough. After a weird back and forth, Simmons and the 76ers emerged victorious over the Nets.
- Patrick Beverley vs. Kevin Durant: Kevin Durant is the best offensive player in the league. He transcends the game with his footwork, jump shot, and driving ability. Patrick Beverley was able to disrupt Durant’s rhythm slightly, but ultimately Durant grew as the series went on and outplayed him. Beverley handled his assignment well, but the better player won in the end. The back-and-forth was unique, and I believe both players have tremendous respect for the heart and tenacity that they each play with. It will be interesting to see if any team is able to eliminate or contain Durant’s offensive skillset like Beverley attempted to do.
- Green on Green Basketball: The Celtics and the Bucks both made quick work of their first-round opponents. The Pistons were without Blake Griffin for most of the series, and Giannis continued to elevate his game to lead the Bucks onward. The Celtics handled the Pacers smoothly, although the Pacers were without their star Victor Oladipo. Will this series winner control the Eastern Conference? Both teams seem electric, and both have the star power to achieve that feat. The Bucks roared back to steal game two, and the series is knotted at 1-1. The favorite of the Eastern Conference looks to be donned in green.
- Pascal Siakam takes over: Pascal Siakam has emerged as the second option on the Raptors. He is scoring at a high rate, and he is able to galvanize the offense. Siakam’s scoring opens up the entire floor for players like Kyle Lowry, Kawhi Leonard, and plenty of others. He may be the most vital piece to the Toronto Raptors. He has my vote for MIP, and if his play continues, he may just become the NBA Finals MVP.