This year’s NBA playoffs will go down in history as the year the NBA goes to the hospital. With a big number of stars decommissioned or barely able to play due to injuries as well as COVID restrictions, the playoffs now resemble a medical ward where the wounded are tended; and sent back to the frontlines immediately. The battle is raging and at its most critical stages. And the skills, the stamina, and the spirit of every warrior/player is needed. And the lack of fresh troops, and the failure to bring in reinforcements could spell the difference between life or death.
The arrival of new stars and new alignments usher in a new dawn for the NBA. Traditional contenders such as the Boston Celtics, the San Antonio Spurs, the Houston Rockets and the Toronto Raptors are now back in the rebuilding mode. Upstarts such as the Brooklyn Nets, the Phoenix Suns, the Memphis Grizzlies, Atlanta Hawks and the New York Knicks – non-playoff contenders or borderline contenders last year – are now back in contention. Gentlemen, welcome to the ‘New Norm’ of Basketball.
Vilified no end for having lost a sure-win 3-1 lead against the Denver Nuggets in the Bubble Playoffs last year, the Clippers bounced back not once, but twice against the vastly-improved Mavericks. The team simply refused to give up in the face of extreme adversity. It was a character win that certainly won the hearts of many.
Today, the Clippers and the Mavs square off for the final time this season. Whoever wins advances to the next round, the loser goes home for a long vacation. How this show will end will depend much on the enigma that is the Clippers.
No one would have imagined how this season – and these playoff games – would go. In a big way, injuries have influenced how the match-ups would shape up. But it is the arrival of young guys who have been in the league barely 6 years and under who are making their presence felt. There’s Doncic, Young, Mitchell, Booker, the Nuggets’ Jokic and Michael Porter Jr, and the Sixers’ Embiid and Ben Simmons. Not to mention the likes of Jayson Tatum, Ja Morant, Zion Williamson and LaMelo Ball. The assault on the elder citizens in the hardcourt is unfolding right before our eyes. The NBA is getting younger, stronger and more intelligent. The sport itself is evolving. Indeed, the changing of the guards is now at hand.
A rousing start for the NBA 2021 playoffs as 5 of the 8 series openers go to the underdogs.