The Quest for the NBA 2023 Title Continues!!!

Sixteen magnificent teams remained after the NBA’s long 2023 regular season. Another 8 were to fall after the first round of the brutal it’s-you-or-me killer playoffs. And the eight survivors – bloodied all, but alive nonetheless – move on to do battle yet again for the right to make the Final Four. Like the gladiators of old, eight teams prepare with their weapons of choice, to meet yet another team, in a duel to the death. It is kill-or-be-killed time, it is lose and begone!

East #5 New York Knicks vs #8 Miami Heat. The Battle of the JBs

In the biggest upset in the playoffs ever, the 8th-seed Heat outlasted the top-seeds Bucks 4-1 to move forward to the next round. The Knicks, on the other hand, also stepped forward on account of a mild upset over the Cleveland Cavaliers. This match-up will pit 2 old rivals in the late 90s who faced each other in the playoffs 4 consecutive times, with the encounters marked by sporadic brawls and suspensions and clear enmity between players. It was Patrick Ewing and Larry Johnson of the Knicks versus Alonzo Mourning and his Heat cohorts then, and that fierce rivalry was the NBA’s finest at the time.

This time, it will primarily be a battle of the JBs, with the wily Jalen Brunson leading the Knicks to their first-time-in-a-long-time playoff appearance, against the tough-as-nails Jimmy Butler, who has a right mix of vets and support pieces in the Heat roster. If Julius Randle returns in fighting form, the Knicks should have a distinct advantage over the Heat, who have lost Tyler Herro and Vincent Oladipo for the rest of the season. Without Randle, the teams are just about even.

(The Heat took Game 1, but their chances are not looking good with Butler suffering a sprained ankle with just 3 minutes left to play . Without Butler, it will be curtains for the Heat.)

East #2 Boston Celtics vs #3 Philadelphia 76ers. Boston’s J and J Poised to Return to the Eastern Conference Championship

The biggest story here is to be found outside the basketball arena. The Sixers’ all-star center, Joel Embiid, is presently suffering from a knee sprain, and has been declared unsure to play against the Celtics. Without Embiid, the Celtics are clear favorites to move on to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Celtics will be powerd by their dynamic duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, with steady support from former Defensive Player awardee Marcus Smart, 6th Man of the Year Awardee Malcolm Brogdon, and former All-Star All Horford. The Celtics were last year’s Eastern Conference champs, and are poised to return to the NBA Finals. The 76ers will have former MVP James Harden leading the pack. He will have his hands full, with only Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris holding the fort with him, in the absence of their MVP-candidate, Embiid.

The Celts are a solid crew which will have no problems against an Embiid-less Sixers team. With Embiid, it should be an interesting match-up. Without him, this series will be a walk in the park for the Celtics.

West #1 Denver Nuggets vs #4 Phoenix Suns. It’s Now or Never for 2 Title-Hungry Teams

A healthy and well-rested Nuggets team faces a newly-reconstructed Suns team. The Nuggets took pole position in the West with Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr returning from injuries that haunted the team the previous years. With perennial MVP candidate, Nikola Jokic, leading the pack, and Aaron Gordon and Kentavius Caldwell-Pope providing able support, this team is ready to finally hit the big time. This team may have faltered a bit in the homestretch, but this was mostly on account of such a big lead. With the insurmountable lead, they could afford to provide their reserves more exposure with more playing time.

The Suns have the most feared starting five in the league, with the arrival of Kevin Durant during the mid-season. With Chris Paul, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, this fearsome foursome could be the team that raises the 2023 NBA trophy. But only if they can stay fit and well-conditioned for the rest of the killer playoffs. The team’s Achilles’ Heel is its shallow bench, having lost much of their bench strength from the trade that brought Durant to the Suns. This will mean major minutes for the Big 4, which in turn could be detrimental to their campaign.

(The Nuggets took Game 1 of the series. They had 6 players – led by Murray’s 34 points – scoring in double digits. The Suns responded with only KD and Devin alternating on the firing end. Without an adequate 2nd team, the Suns will be hard-pressed to match-up against the Nuggets.)

West #6 Golden Stae Warriors vs #7 Los Angeles Lakers. Lebron and Steph Renew Their Rivalry.

If the Nuggets vs the Suns series features 2 title-less teams, this match-up pits the champion against a former champion. Steph Curry powered the defending Warriors over a now-contending Sacramento Kings team in a thrilling 7-game slugfest-of-a-cage match. They are rewarded with another epic series against a resurgent LA Lakers team led by that superhuman, Lebron James.

The Warriors have the championship pedigree and the champions’ experience going for them. With the quartet of Steph, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins, plus Jordan Poole and Kevon Looney, and solid support down the roster, the Warriors are favored to return to the Western Conference Championship over the Lakers.

But the Lakers cannot be taken for granted either. With Lebron and a healthy Anthony Davis Jr now reinforced by quality pieces in Rui Hachimura, Jared Vanderbilt, Dennis Shroder and Austin Reeves, they have bcome a force to reckon with after the trade deadline. This compelling match-up – between the Warriors and the Lakers, Steph vs Lebron, 2022 champs vs 2020 champs – will be this round’s marquee crowd-drawer.

We are now down to the Final 8. From hereon, the going gets even tougher. Who you got?

Cover photo courtesy of NBC Sports. Other pics courtesy of Sporting News, The Globe and Mail, Sportsnaught, Draft king Nations, NBC Sports, The Press Democrat, Action Network, Celtics Blog and SportsNet. For a closer look, just click on the picks.


    1. Wild, wild ride it will be. But a truly great one, it surely will be. noonehas a clear advantage over the others. And this can be seen in the playoff win-loss records.😊👍🏼

      Liked by 1 person

    1. That was a strong team that Purefoods had then, with Alvin, Mon Fernandez, Jerry Codinera, Jojo Lastimosa and Wily Willie Generalao at point guard. A super team it was!😊👍🏼

      Liked by 1 person

  1. i gotta tell you, I love the Heat but a big reason they got out of that first round was because Giannis was hobbled.

    I look for this series to be a real dogfight especially with their history.

    the lakers have become a must-see tv. it’s a great nba playoff year

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And now, it’s Butler who’s hobbled. Embiid is not in the pink of health either. Which makes the Celtics a big fave to make it back to the Finals.
      Over in the west, there is just so much parity in the western frontier right now. Chris Paul is once again hurt. That should make the Suns’ chances slim. It looks like the west will be a toss-up between the Warriors and the Nuggets then.
      Could it be a Warriiors-Celtics rematch then?

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Luv that great fan attitude. And the Knicks certainly could use that great fanaticism in MSG, especially now with the team slowly building a team of great pieces. With Brunson on board this year, the team has gotten much better both physically and mentally. Good luck on their campaign. Looks like they could be on their way to the next round, my friend!

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I thought the Knicks would have the upperhand with Butler getting injured. but with him back for Game 3, and Brunson now having his own health issues, it looks like the other way around. The wheels of fortune just seems to roll merrily – and unpredictably – along.

          Liked by 1 person

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