NBA Playoffs Begin Two Month Journey to Basketball Glory

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By: Joel Neuschwander

From April 16th to mid-June, 16 teams will battle it out on the court for basketball supremacy and the chance to be called NBA (National Basketball Association) champions.

The NBA will crown a new victor as the field of 16 will be whittled down to 8, 4, and 2. The remaining squad will get to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy and add their name to basketball history. Who has that chance this year?

Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James, top, dunks the ball against Detroit Pistons' Reggie Bullock in the first half in Game 2 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series, Wednesday, April 20, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James, top, dunks the ball against Detroit Pistons’ Reggie Bullock in the first half in Game 2 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series, Wednesday, April 20, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

(All statistics and information provided by ESPN)

Eastern Conference

The Matchups:

#1 seed Cleveland Cavaliers vs. #8 seed Detroit Pistons

#2 seed Toronto Raptors vs. #7 seed Indiana Pacers

#3 seed Miami Heat vs. #6 seed Charlotte Hornets

#4 seed Atlanta Hawks vs. #5 seed Boston Celtics

Cleveland is home to superstar Lebron James, who is looking to end a 50+ year championship drought for his city. He and the Cavaliers will face a tough matchup in round one. The Pistons won three out of four games against Cleveland during the regular season, but may suffer from a lack of playoff experience as this is their first postseason appearance since 2009.

The Raptors have steadily improved in the last several years and this may be their best shot to advance far in the playoffs. Toronto has a major edge in depth led by Kyle Lowry and Demar Derozan who were both named to the All-Star game. Indiana is relying on a huge performance from forward Paul George, who has averaged a career high 23.1 points per game.

Both the Heat and Hawks will try to avoid an upset against two feisty underdogs. Charlotte and Boston have quietly played solid basketball over the last month. The Celtics took down the powerhouse Warriors and the Hornets beat several teams who are in the playoffs.

Western Conference

The Matchups:

#1 seed Golden State Warriors vs. #8 seed Houston Rockets

#2 seed San Antonio Spurs vs. #7 Memphis Grizzlies

#3 seed Oklahoma City Thunder vs. #6 seed Dallas Mavericks

#4 seed Los Angeles Clippers vs. #5 seed Portland Trail Blazers

After the Warriors broke the all-time NBA wins record, they are the overwhelming favorite to win it all. The San Antonio Spurs pose the biggest threat to Golden State’s quest for a second consecutive championship. The Spurs’ forward, Kawhi Leonard, finished in the top 15 for the most points per game and the most steals per game. Leonard also took home the Defensive Player of the Year award.

In Oklahoma City, the dynamic duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook has a chance to lead the Thunder to an upset of either of the top two teams. Westbrook was in the top five for the most assists per game and the most steals per game.

Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Paul, center, passes the ball under pressure by Portland Trail Blazers' Gerald Henderson, right, and Maurice Harkless in the second half in Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series, on Sunday, April 17, 2016, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 115-95. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul, center, passes the ball under pressure by Portland Trail Blazers’ Gerald Henderson, right, and Maurice Harkless in the second half in Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series, on Sunday, April 17, 2016, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 115-95. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Either Los Angeles or Portland could go far, as they are home to several young stars. Clippers guard Chris Paul found himself in the top five for the most assists per game with 10, and is looking to make a big impact in the playoffs.

The Bottom Line

Many experts, including Slate Magazine’s Jack Hamilton, believe the road to the NBA championship goes through the Golden State Warriors. In an article on slate.com, Hamilton proclaims them as “the best NBA team ever.” To find out if this is true, you’ll have to tune in and see if any of the aforementioned challengers can knock the Warriors off their throne.