With the conclusion of a thrilling 82-game regular season, the competition is getting even hotter as the 2015 NBA Playoffs get under way. All sixteen spots in the playoffs were up for grabs for the majority of the season and as the regular season play began to wind down, one final night of play would decide the two number eight seeds for the postseason. Facing a tie in both conferences, the New Orleans Pelicans and Brooklyn Nets just barely clinched a postseason berth to set the stage for another thrilling postseason.
For the eight seed in the Eastern Conference, the regular season came to a close with a showdown between the Indiana Pacers and Brooklyn Nets. Before a Pacers loss that eliminated Indiana from the postseason, both teams had 38-44 records, but only the Nets earned the chance to continue their season for what’ll likely be just four more games against the Atlanta Hawks. Cruising to the top seed, Atlanta is seven games ahead in the East and will coast through the first round, and maybe even the second. Regardless of the Hawk’s dominant lead, LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers are quickly emerging as the favorite to take the Conference Championship and advance to the NBA Finals. While the Cavs look to assert their dominance in the first series and will likely defeat the seventh seeded Celtics in a blown out, Boston has a bright future ahead considering their seven additional first round picks. The third seeded Chicago Bulls defeated the Hawks in the last game of the season to jump ahead of the Toronto Raptors, but may have been better off losing and ranking fourth rather than eventually facing the dangerous Cavaliers for a chance to compete for the conference title. Beneath the East’s big three players, the rest of the conference is fairly weak. In the fourth spot, the Raptors barely kept their home court advantage against the Washington Wizards, who would benefit from a first round exit and replacing their coach. Then there is a Milwaukee Bucks team that is using their trip to the postseason to integrate the hopeful new face of the franchise, Michael Carter-Williams.
The eighth postseason team to compete in the West Conference also came down to a tiebreaker between the New Orleans Pelicans and Oklahoma State Thunder. After both teams finished the regular season with 45 wins and 37 losses, the Thunder made a surprising exit from the postseason and the Pelicans advanced to the playoffs for a rough first round beating from the dominant Golden State Warriors. Even with future NBA great leading the Pelicans into the postseason, Anthony Davis is not quite talented enough to take down the the number one seeded Warriors and the Splash Brothers. Closing out the regular season with a ten game advantage in the West, it’s going to be tough for any team in the conference to stop Golden State. Regardless, the two and three seeded, the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers will look to emerge as contenders. The Rockets and the Clippers are sure to move onto the second round with a depleting San Antonio Spurs teams and the mediocre Dallas Mavericks, standing in their way. After dropping from the second seed to the sixth seed due to a loss to the Pelicans, the defending champion Spurs will have to play exceptionally well on the road for the duration of their postseason run and fight their way back to the top for a shot at another trip to the finals. In a first round match-up between the Portland Trail Blazers and Memphis Grizzlies, a fourth seed with a worse record than the six seed will face an injury ridden roster for a series that could fall in favor of either team.
Although the postseason is almost a week in and the first round is reaching Game 3, the NBA is still as the beginning of a very lengthy road to the 2015 NBA Finals. Basketball fans should gear up for a month of play that will keep them at the edge of their seats, because each of these sixteen teams wont let the crown slip through their fingers easily. With plenty of epic plays and shocking upsets to come, even a minute of the 2015 NBA Playoffs should not be missed.