The first round of the NBA playoffs is one and done and now it gets more competitive as in the semifinals. There are several storylines that are closely being watched by pundits and fans alike. Here are the top ones:
1) Getting serious for the Dubs —The Golden State Warriors have basically outgunned and outhustled the opposition during the season, posting a franchise and NBA-best 67-15 record. They swept the Pelicans in the first round but it looks like they are finally going to be tested by the Memphis Grizzlies whom they lost to in Game 2, losing home court advantage. The Warriors are still favorites but for the first time in a long time, they need to focus and play all 48 minutes. This is the playoffs after all. Let’s see how newly crowned MVP Steph Curry steps up.
2) The King is Back—Down one game in Eastern Conference semifinals versus old-time nemesis Chicago Bulls, LeBron James led a decimated Cavaliers team to a convincing win and avoid a 0-2 hole. There have been instances during the playoffs that James would defer to fellow star Kyrie Irving but this is one game wherein he made up his mind and reminded everyone that he is still the best player on the planet. The team lost Kevin Love in the first round and will need the more aggressive “King” every game. James’ long-time dream is to finally bring a championship to his hometown and this year, with a weakened East and elimination of the San Antonio Spurs, just might be the year.
3)End of an era—The 2014 champions San Antonio Spurs’ dreams of winning a back-to-back title for the first time in history has come crashing down with a nail-biting Game 7 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. And with that loss, we may also be seeing an end of an era. For a large part of nearly two decades, the Spurs have been contending year-in and year-out winning 5 championships along the way. At the core of this winning tradition is the Gregg Popovich/Tim Duncan partnership. Together, they have showed what a winning culture, teamwork, and a no-nonsense approach can achieve in the sport. 18 straight winning seasons may soon end.
4) Thibodeau’s last dance—Tom Thibodeau will soon leave as the Chicago Bull’s head coach, it’s just a matter of when. Irreconcilable differences with Bulls management make it a certainty. His Bulls are in the semifinals with the Cavaliers and they are hell-bent on pulling an upset. Thibodeau has led the Bulls to winning records and the playoffs the past five years despite the fact that star point guard Derrick Rose was down with injuries the majority of the time. Thibodeau’s defensive mind is legendary and the Bulls won’t be the same without him.
5) Where to Rondo—The Rajon Rondo experiment has all but ended in Dallas. The volatile point guard seemingly disappeared in the first round of the playoffs due to butting heads with coach Rick Carlisle. That may be the last time we see him in a Mavs uniform. Rondo has always been temperamental but was held in check when he was playing with veterans. The question is where to Rajon? Most teams won’t touch him with a ten-foot pole despite the fact he is still a triple double threat despite his recent injury.