In the four short years I have been a dad there have been many lessons learned, either by choice or by necessity. Some I remember, others have been vaporized due to a lack of sleep through those first 9 months when you literally walk around like an extra from “Thriller.” The one lesson that sticks out the most, however, is time. There is never enough time in the day to get everything done.
As a sports fan you learn that there’s no way you can keep up with everything that’s happening in the world. So you cram. You scan updates on social media once the kids are asleep. You maybe catch an “SVP SportsCenter” once the kids and your spouse are asleep. It’s never enough, though. Find yourself around people without kids or different priorities and you ultimately end up swaying the conversation towards parenting and children, because what else do you know. [Editor’s note: Wai has a 4-month-old and a 3-year-old, so let’s cut him some slack.]
What I’m trying to get at is sometimes you just need something to get you there as quickly as possible.
So here it is: Your no nonsense, nonsensical NBA playoff cheat sheet to get you through June and make you look sports smart and street smart at the same time.
Golden State Warriors vs. 8) Portland Trailblazers
Golden State swept regular season series 4-0
Golden State comes into the playoffs with the best record in basketball for the third straight year. The Warriors also hold the crown for the most wins in a three-year period, toppling the Un-Beat-a-Bulls from the late 90s. The only difference is, the Bulls have three titles, the best the Warriors can do is two. With its regular season dominance and the fact that Golden State has four of the best players in the league, it would take a miracle for them to not end up back in The Finals.
Before Jusuf Nurkic went down with a non-displaced fibular fracture in his right leg, there was not a more dangerous team than the Portland Trailblazers. The last 16 games before the injury, Portland was 13-3. The Big Nurk (I don’t really know his nickname, but I really like that one I just came up with. Can we make this a thing?) was the best thing to come to Portland since Voodoo Doughnuts. Now they’re saying he might come back which is absolutely ridiculous. I don’t know what a non-displaced fibular fracture is, but it doesn’t sound minor. With him out, Portland and Damian Lillard will have to wait another year or multiple seasons before becoming serious contenders.
Then again, the Dubs won 73 games last year but did not hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy at the end of the year. In the words of Kevin Garnett, “Anything is Possible.”
While the NBA teams are not really rivals, the two cities should have some animosity towards each other or kinship, depending on your life perception.
10 years ago, the lowest seed in the Western Conference beat the top seed. The eight seed who pulled off the upset? Yay Area…
Best possible outcome:
Golden State – NBA Champions
Portland – Western Conference Semifinals
2) San Antonio Spurs vs. 7) Memphis Grizzlies
Regular season series tied 2-2
Death, taxes and the San Antonio Spurs are title contenders. It seems every year, while other teams are attempting to make splashes in free agency and trades, the Spurs fly under the radar and when the regular season ends the Spurs are standing there near the top. This year is no different. San Antonio has MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard who only gets better on both ends of the court year in and year out. He gives the Spurs a chance every game because he has an affect on the outcome of every second he’s on the court.
The Memphis Grizzlies call its home arena The Grindhouse, and for good reason, no team embodies the idea of grinding out a season and victories more than the Grizz. They play old school basketball with big men Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph banging and underrated point guard Mike Conley calling the shots. Memphis is the seven seed but came out even in the season series to the top three seeds in the West. Translation, they are not and never are an easy out.
If you’re a fan of US history, this NBA series will be a…wait for it…historic match-up. While the Alamo in San Antonio was a loss for the Texas army seeking independence, the bravery of those involved encouraged others to enlist in the army ultimately leading to victory in the war for independence.
Memphis, not to be outdone had a couple of battles during the Civil War. None more prominent than the First Battle of Memphis (yes, there were two). The Union and Confederate soldiers took part in a NAVAL battle on the Mississippi River, with many of the residents of Memphis spectating. Take that in for a second, a battle on the Mississippi River between two navies with an audience like it was an action movie. The battle was so serious, the Confederate Navy was deemed obsolete after the battle.
Come with me for a fantastic journey…As mentioned above, the Memphis Grizzlies play in the FedExForum, affectionately referred to as The Grindhouse. That name is also the title of a double feature slasher film co-written, produced and directed by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. In the film, a variety of fake trailers are shown. One of them, Machete was actually turned into a real film with a sequel to boot. The star of that film, Danny Trejo is a San Antonio Spurs fan.
Best possible outcome:
San Antonio: NBA Champions
Memphis: Western Conference Finals
3) Houston Rockets vs. 6) Oklahoma City Thunder
Houston won season series 3-1
Expect a bajillion points in this one as the two top MVP contenders face off in a head to head match up that will resemble Rocky Balboa vs. Apollo Creed II rather than an NBA basketball game. The only downside is we will not know the outcome of the MVP race, thus denying us all a chance to watch James Harden and Russell Westbrook trying to literally (not figuratively) trying to decapitate the other on the basketball court wth vengeance as a motive.
Mike D’Antoni has reinvented the Rockets in his image with Harden becoming almost unstoppable averaging 29 points, 8 rebounds and 11 assists.
For the Thunder, it is Russell Westbrook and everyone else. If we were to rank the collection of talent on this team it would be somewhere between Allen Iverson and the 2001 76ers and the high school team Teen Wolf led to the championship. What did “Brodie” do this year? Messed around and averaged a triple-double for the entire season, breaking Oscar Robertson’s record for most triple-doubles in a season—that’s all.
Like I said, a knock-down, drag-out, heavyweight battle is about to commence.
Both Westbrook and Harden not only make moves on the court, but are fashion-forward as well. Harden’s beard would rival any hipster in Silverlake on the West Coast or Brooklyn on the East Coast. The California native said he started growing it thanks to puberty and grew to like it as it got longer and longer. Now he owns the nickname “The Beard” and probably can never shave ever again. Although based on recent conversations, it seems like a shave is nowhere on the horizon as the only one allowed to touch the beard is his barber. “The Beard” doesn’t even mess with his own beard!
Westbrook’s fashion sense is second-to-none. He has never regretted an outfit. Never. Recently he said, ”I think that’s the most important thing about fashion is to be able to express yourself, but also be yourself and be confident in what you’re wearing.’‘
If there’s one thing Westbrook does not have a deficiency of is confidence, both on the court and off.
Both the Thunder and Rockets have very unorthodox free throw shooters. OKC’s Steven Adams shot 55.1 percent from the free throw line in his first three seasons. So what did the coaching staff do?
Punch him in the stomach during practice before he shoots.
I’m not sure of the legality of it all, but it has been working.
For Houston, power forward Chinanu Onuaku shoots underhanded, or as we used to call it on the playground “Granny Style.” For his efforts, Onuaku has never missed a free throw. In full disclosure, he’s only shot four, but still, zero misses.
Best Possible Outcome:
Houston: Western Conference Finals
OKC: Western Conference Semifinals
4) Los Angeles Clippers vs. 5) Utah Jazz
Los Angeles won regular season series 3-1
Many think this may be the last year of the Los Angeles Clippers in their current state. After years of 50-win seasons but never making it past the second round, it may be time to put up or blow it up. From front office mismanagement to key injuries in the post-season, nothing has gone right for the Clippers once the playoffs come around. This year, like any other, they have the firepower to compete with anyone both inside and outside. Chris Paul is still one of the best point guards in the league and DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin provide a formidable duo down low. Its just a matter of whether they can do it on a consistent basis and with a healthy team. If so, there’s no reason this team can’t beat anyone in the league, outside of Golden State who has owned them the past three years.
For Utah, after missing the playoffs five out of the last six years, the Jazz may be playing for experience more than anything. They have a great young nucleus of George Hill, Rudy Gobert and Gordon Hayward but this is Gobert and Hayward’s first foray into the postseason and usually that comes with some growing pains. If the Jazz can keep the essence of their roster in check, there’s no reason this team can’t continue an upward swing in the highly competitive west.
Utah is most known from outsiders for its snowy slopes, Sundance Film Festival and The Church of Latter Day Saints. While the church is headquartered in Salt Lake City, its branches stretch as far as the eye can see thanks to its missionary work. Ryan Gosling grew up in the mormon church, dancing and singing in multiple talent shows hosted by his local LDS. That would all come in handy when Gosling starred in La La Land, a film about a pianist and an actress falling in love in Los Angeles.
Both the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers have nicknames whose inspiration comes from other cities. You may not know this but jazz is not a huge export of Utah, but stems from the NBA team’s originations in New Orleans.
The Clippers used to be the Braves when they played in Buffalo before taking on the sailboat nickname when they moved to San Diego.
We could take it a step further and include the Los Angeles Lakers and Dodgers as teams who’s nickname do not originate in La La Land.
Best Possible Outcome:
Los Angeles: NBA Champions
Utah: Western Conference Semifinals
Photo credit: Getty Images