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NBA Finals Hopefuls

Cameron McHugh and Li Chen

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April 11 marked the end of the NBA regular season as the Timberwolves beat the Nuggets to clinch the final playoff seed. Out of a total of 30 teams in the league, only 16 teams manage to make the playoffs, and the other 14 teams are entered into the NBA Draft Lottery that occurs on May 15. All seedings had been set and the playoffs began on April 14. With the opening rounds in progress, the favorites to win the Finals are becoming more and more clear.  

Western Conference 

  1. Rockets (65-17): Houston finished the season with the best record in the NBA as they only lost 17 games. Most of their success can be attributed to MVP favorite James Harden as he has averaged 30 points, 9 assists, and 5 rebounds. Harden has essentially put the team on his back and carried them into the postseason where they have become a heavy favorite to win the NBA Finals. Harden has also been able to raise the talent levels of his teammates including Clint Capela and Trevor Ariza. Pairing Harden with Chris Paul who is arguably one of the best playmakers in NBA History creates a deadly combination. 
  2. Warriors (58-24): The reigning champs have a long road ahead of them as they have to try and get back into the Finals without their star Point Guard Stephen Curry. The Warriors have struggled with injury problems all year and they have also lost their temper at times as well. Kevin Durant has been ejected 5 times this season and has hurt Golden State when he comes off the court. Seeking their 3rd championship in 4 years, the Warriors will need to find a way to get past the Rockets if they want a chance to win again. 
  3. Jazz (48-34): The Jazz have also been one of the biggest surprises of the NBA Season as Rookie of the Year Candidate Donovan Mitchell and Defensive Player of the Year Candidate Rudy Gobert have combined to become a dynamic duo. Mitchell has the flash and big plays while Gobert plays stellar defense and rebounds the ball very well. The Jazz are a very underrated talent team that could be an underdog team to make it into the Western Conference Finals. 

Eastern Conference 

  1. Raptors (59-23): Toronto comes into the 2018 playoff leading as the Number 1 seed in the Eastern conference with their star starters Demar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, and Serge Ibaka. The first team they played in the playoffs are the Washington Wizards. They won the series 4-2. Now they have to face LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round. This will be a great challenge for Toronto as they will have to have stellar bench play throughout the series. 
  2. Celtics (55-27): Boston with the help of their star player Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, and Jayson Tatum were able to grab the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference. Kyrie averaged 24.4 pts per game, and 5.1 assist per game which is excellent stats for an All-Star like him. The Celtics will sadly not have the help from Irving throughout the rest of the playoffs, but they will hopefully have him back and healthy for next season. Jayson Tatum, a rookie coming from Duke University who averaged 5 rebounds, and 13.9 pts per game, had a very large impact on the success of the Celtics throughout the entire season.  
  3. Cavaliers (50-32): As of now, the “King” aka Lebron James has lead his team with massive amount of points and rebounds every single game, even when they went up against the Pacers he didn’t let the stress get to him and carried the team to a Game 7 win on 4/29 with 45 points 9 rebounds and 7 assists which concluded the series. Next up the Cavs are going up against the Raptors the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference which will be a hard team for the Cavs to beat but they have a chance to beat them with all their all-stars on the team. 

While there is still a lot of time until the NBA Finals begin on May 31, the clear-cut favorites are still the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers as they try to meet in a fourth straight time. However, there will definitely be surprises and unexpected performances throughout the rest of the playoff season.  

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NBA Finals Hopefuls