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Previewing the 2018 NBA playoffs

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Luis Lopez

Luis Lopez

Luis Lopez

Luis Lopez, Senior staff member

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Over the past several NBA seasons, the playoffs were mainly looked at as a four-round formality for superteams like the Miami Heat and Golden State Warriors.

While the San Antiono Spurs and Clevland Cavaliers made sure every year didn’t go down like that, the non-superteams were just looked at as a pedestal for the contenders.

The 2018 NBA playoffs won’t allow that.

This year’s superteams have taken quite a hit, and the certainty of another Golden State versus Cleveland matchup in the NBA Finals seems like it was years ago.

The playoff race for both conferences has seen an unprecedented level of competitiveness.

Perhaps the biggest shift in power revolves around Golden State following their mountain of injuries.

The loss of star point guard Stephen Curry for a portion of the playoffs has the Warriors looking vulnerable for the first time in a while.

This year, the real title contender is looking like Houston.

The Rockets have overcome all odds and managed to get the number one seed in the West, and after beating a healthy Warriors squad multiple times this season, they are primed to contend.

Houston has torn through the competition this year, being the number one ranked team in both offensive and defensive efficiency.

The Warriors will likely give the Rockets all they can handle in the Western Conference Finals, but after seeing a lack of urgency from Golden State, along with their pile of injuries, Houston should take that matchup in seven games.

In the East, the Cavaliers’ dominance of their conference doesn’t look to be the same as years past, even with LeBron James at the helm.

With teams like the Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers playing so well, James’ streak of seven straight NBA Finals appearances may be in jeopardy this year.

Toronto has worked their way up to the third-ranked offense in the league, while holding opponents to 104.2 points per game, good for ninth in the NBA.

The Raptors have come close to the finals in recent years, including a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals against Cleveland in 2016.

Toronto will need to look to their star backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan to finally push them over the edge.

As of April 7th, the duo is averaging a combined 39.3 points a game, a number that should only improve come playoff time.

The Raptors have always been considered a dark horse in the East, but the 76ers are a particularly intriguing team this year.

The Sixers’ duo of Joel Embiid and Rookie of the Year candidate Ben Simmons has led Philadelphia to the fifth best defensive ranking in the NBA and ninth in offensive ranking in the league.

Simmons is averaging 15.8 points per game, along with 8.1 assists per game, good for third in the league.

Along with fellow emerging rookie and number one overall pick Markelle Fultz, “The Process” could finally be coming to fruition.

Last year’s lopsided playoffs were an absolute bore, consisting of a clear discrepancy between the Warriors and everybody else.

This year, however, there are plenty of storylines to follow, so the playoffs are set to be one of the most entertaining ever.

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Previewing the 2018 NBA playoffs