Culture of Hoops

The best NBA Playoffs in history?

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.

The best NBA Playoffs in history?

The 2013-14 NBA season was, in the eyes of many fans and expert pundits, a war of attrition with the entertainment factor replaced by a workman-like approach from every team in the Eastern and Western Conference who appreciate the value and potential riches of making it to the NBA Playoffs. Amidst relative skepticism, the playoffs provided the perfect stage for the sixteen teams and their superstar players to really turn on the style and bring the spark back to NBA action.

What nobody expected is that the 2014 NBA Playoffs would catch fire in such dramatic fashion, with shocking score-lines, a ground-breaking scandal and top quality basketball taking everyone’s breath away. No fewer than five of the eight first round ties have gone to a decisive Game 7, which illustrates just how close and tense the action has been on the court. Miami Heat’s ominous rout of the Charlotte Bobcats was the only series not to be on a knife-edge, unlike the series opener between Chicago and Washington where the Wizards upset the odds 102-93 and went on to win the series 4-1.

Thunder win series thriller

A series between the second and seventh ranked teams in the Western Conference was likely to end up with only one outcome, but, as is always the case during the NBA Playoffs, the NBA has a habit of providing memorable series. There can be no doubt that the 2014 playoff series between the Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder will live long in the memory, and could be ranked amongst one of the best in NBA history.

Overtime was needed in four consecutive teams to separate the sides in a wonderful battle on the court that produced some magical basketball and plays that left everyone in amazement. Kevin Durant’s miraculous 4-point play in Game 1 was a taste of things to come for the entire series and Durant, who ruthlessly dismissed any notion of going missing in big games and hit a hot scoring streak that will see him add the MVP award to his scoring title. Serge Ibaka was denied what could have been a crucial winner for the Thunder in Game 5, with his rebound effort at the buzzer to end overtime ruled out by fractions of a second to give the Grizzlies a 3-2 series advantage. It required Durant to come into his own in Games 6 and 7 for the Thunder with a 36 and 33 point haul to overturn the deficit in dramatic fashion and win the series 4-3.

Toronto-Brooklyn and San Antonio-Dallas head into Game 7

While six NBA teams have booked their place in the Conference Semifinals, two series have yet to be resolved as the drama and tension enters Game 7. Atlantic Division winners Toronto Raptors are locked in a superb tussle with the Brooklyn Nets, who finished behind them in the table, to follow a continual theme throughout the 2014 NBA Playoffs First Round. The 2-2 tie between the sides during the regular season suggested it would be a tight affair, and the Playoff series has followed suit as the Raptors and Nets have traded blows throughout. A dramatic 115-113 victory on home court in Game 5 put the Raptors in a dominant position, but a commanding 97-83 win for the Nets at the Barclays Center restored parity and takes the series to a decisive Game 7.

2014 could be the year that sees two Division winners exit the Playoffs at the First Round stage, with the San Antonio Spurs also facing a Game 7 match against the Dallas Mavericks who have defied their seed numbers and all expectations by playing their part in a wonderful series. Vince Carter’s memorable last-gasp 3-point winner for the Mavericks in Game 3 is symbolic of the level of quality that has exuded on the court, with Tony Parker and Tim Duncan typically leading from the front for the Spurs. A 4-0 rout during the regular season would suggest the Spurs have the Maverick’s number, but there is every chance that a major shock could take place.

LA Clippers advance amidst controversy

On the court should be where the NBA action and focus remains, with the Los Angeles Clippers advancing to the Conference Semi-Finals following a dramatic 4-3 series win over the Golden State Warriors. A wonderful 4-point play from Stephen Curry in Game 7 symbolized the Warriors’ quality throughout the series, but they ultimately fell short as the Clippers found scorers all over the court which make the ultimate difference. Unfortunately for the Clippers, their series win came amidst huge controversy off the court following recorded comments from owner Donald Sterling which shocked the NBA world. In conversation with his girlfriend V.Stiviano, Sterling told her not to associate with black people in public or bring them to Clippers games; such racist remarks have no place in the sport, and were instantly condemned by players, coaches and other owners who called for serious sanctions. The National Basketball Association have issued a lifetime ban from the sport and the maximum $2.5 million fine to Sterling, with NBA commissioner Adam Silver adding that the disgraced owner would be forced to sell his interest in the Los Angeles Clippers.

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