This is it, folks! It’s down to the Final Four!!! In a week or 2, we will find out who will step forward to the grand arena to contend for the crown as the Kings of the Cage Kingdom. It is crunch-time once again in the NBA, it is now-or-never, it is win-or-die! Who will the cage gods favor? Who will be left to dry?
In the battle for the wild, wild West, two posses get ready for a ‘Gunfight at the OK Corral’. Featuring heralded gunslingers who have sacked, savaged and slain many a saddle-bound shooter in the far west, the Golden State Warriors – proud Lords with the Rings – go eyeball-to-eyeball against the Houston Rockets – this year’s regular season Lords with the Wins – in an epic battle of star-studded proportions.
Imagine if you will, Golden State’s sheriffs, starring Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green galloping into town with all guns blazing. The names alone will put shivers down the spines of the meanest, baddest bullies in town. The Warriors’ ‘Death Line-up’ carries a balanced load of elegant offense and stringent defense, leading the pack in net ratings. The Warriors are comfortably ahead in defensive stats, while coming in a respectable 4th in offensive ratings.
But los hombres del Houston are unfazed. Featuring this year’s most probable MVP, James Harden, plus a crew of equally unabashed snipers and playmakers, the Rockets have brought along a menacing gatling gun far better than that their compadres from the Bay Area have. It is no secret that the Rockets have made more 3-pointers than the Warriors over the past 2 years. And with new recruit, Chris Paul, capable of creating ungodly offensive situations for the Rockets, this trend is not bound to change anytime soon. The Warriors may have the court smarts, the experience, the swag; but the Rockets have the hunger and the firepower to go for the jugular this time.
This will be a huge gunfight, folks, with no quarters given, no quarters asked. And whosoever gets his sights on the cross-hairs first, whosoever fires that six-shooter first, whosoever wins Game number 1, will eventually win the Gunfight at the OK Corral.
My take? I’d still go for the Warriors. The Rockets may have more W’s in the regular season, but all that goes down the drain come the playoffs. The guard match-ups may even up with the Curry-Thompson duo squaring off with Harden and Paul. So with the center slot. But can the Rockets’ Trevor Ariza and Ryan Anderson match-up with Durant and Green at the forward positions? Can their reserves hold up against the likes of Andre Igoudala, Shaun Livingston et al? Undoubtedly, the Warriors still have the best line-up for the playoffs, with Steph back in peak form.
Over in the east, we see visions of a proud king pestered by a bunch of irreverent kids. Lebron James, the beast of the east and today’s most revered cage demigod, has put the entire Cleveland Cavalier team on his back, willing the team to a gutsy series win against an overachieving Indiana Pacers team in the first round of the playoffs; before totally dominating an underachieving Toronto Raptor quintet in the 2nd round.
This time though, King James will be jousting against young Celtic knights who have nothing to lose and nothing to fear. Despite missing their head honchos in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, House Celtics is oozing with confidence and aching to exact revenge on this very same Cav team that had vanquished them in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals.
The surging House Cavaliers will have Kevin Love and Kyle Korver providing reinforcement to the tireless King James. If this back-up crew can shoot their arrows straight, then Boston will find their work cut out for them.
But these supposedly green kids don’t seem to understand the meaning of respect for elders, nor do they think about going through a process. They refuse to understand that maturity is supposed to come with age, with years of active service. Or that they’re supposed to play possum with their main men Kyrie and Gordon injured. Guys like 20-year old Jayson Tatum, 21-year old Jaylen Brown, 24-year old Marcus Smart and 24-year old Terry Rozier have been displaying playoff smarts seen only amongst grizzled veterans of the game. Credit that Merlin-the-Magician-of-a-coach, Brad Stevens, for conjuring a magic potion, making these skinny brats believe they’re the invincible Avengers. Perhaps, Coach Brad can create yet another enchanted drink that can make them crush that Cavalier they call a king.
These Celtic wunderkids have created so much excitement and awe, and a glimmer hope for all those who root for the underdog. I lost a bet when I predicted the 76ers to join the Warriors, the Cavs and the Rockets in the Final Four. My head tells me it’s still the Cavaliers, with their experience, and with that Bron up and center. But in this classic battle between wisdom and experience against youthful exuberance, my heart is betting on the energized Celtics. With confidence oozing in this pesky crew, with a coach who has them believing there’s nothing they cannot do, I can see them finally taking down the Cavaliers and their juggernaut-of-a-king. (Just imagine how they’ll be when Kyrie and Gordon come back next year. But that’s another story.)
So who will it be come the Finals? Will it be the Best of the West against the Beast of the East once again?
No matter. I still see the Kings of the West owning the Lords of the East. Any takers?
For more on the Golden State – Cleveland dance marathon, read:
Sixteen teams stepped forward at the start of the 2018 playoffs…
Round 1 saw 2 upsets as the New Orleans Pelicans showed no mercy in demolishing the Portland Trailblazers, and the Utah Jazz nipped out the Oklahoma Thunder. The Cleveland Cavaliers survived a surprising Indiana Pacer assault to move on to the 2nd round.
There was less drama in the 2nd round as the Cavs made short work of the Eastern Division leading Raptors, the Celtics defeated the Sixers, the Rockets upended a visibly tired Jazz team, and the Warriors showing the Pelicans the door.
It’s now down to the last four. In the Eastern Conference finals, it is a rematch of last year’s encounter between the Cleveland Cavs and the Boston Celtics.
In the Western Conference Finals, the defending champs Golden State Warriors go up against regular season leading Houston Rockets.