NBA: Expect pure ’ball in bubble-wrapped Playoffs

With no ‘home advantage’ in play — all games will be held in the ‘bubble’ — the knockouts will be a true test of skill, ability, tactics and talent.

NBA

The NBA season Playoffs begin on Monday (IST).    -  Getty Images

After a riveting set of seeding games, the NBA moves to the season’s business end — the Playoffs.

And if the seeding games are any indication, the Playoffs, with the intensity ratcheted up, should feature top-quality competition when they begin on Monday (IST). 

With no ‘home advantage’ in play — all games will be held in the ‘bubble’, the sequestered complex in Florida — the knockouts will be a true test of skill, ability, tactics and talent.

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Both Conference top seeds, Milwaukee Bucks (East) and Los Angeles Lakers (West), had a rough time, going 3-5 in the seeding games.

The Bucks, up against Orlando Magic, will have an easier time than the Lakers, matched against a rejuvenated Portland Trail Blazers, boosted by point guard Damian Lillard, who willed the side into the Playoffs with spectacular scoring displays in the seeding games.

But the Lakers have the league’s best duo in LeBron James and Anthony Davis — a match-up nightmare for anybody. Second seed Los Angeles Clippers’ own superstar duo of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will vehemently contest that claim, but the side will need its A-game to nullify the Luka Doncic-led Dallas Mavericks, which has posted historical offensive numbers this season.

Defending champion Toronto Raptors should get past the injury-decimated Brooklyn Nets in the East, but third vs sixth and fourth vs fifth in the East and the West will be far more competitive, perhaps the tightest games in this round.

Boston Celtics has more talent and cohesion than Philadelphia 76ers, but the latter has the match-up’s best player (centre Joel Embiid), which could even things out.

In Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets has the best passing big man ever in the game, but with key guards injured, taking on the Rudy Gobert-led Utah Jazz won’t be easy. Expect rookie Michael Porter Jr. to play a major role for Nuggets in a competitive series.

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In the Miami Heat-Indiana Pacers contest, the former has the best player (forward Jimmy Butler) and is a well-oiled machine, run by coach Erik Spoelstra. But the injury-plagued Pacers, equally well coached by Nate McMillan, will be no pushover, with forward TJ Warren set to carry the scoring load.

The most intriguing match-up pits Houston Rockets, led by MVP candidate James Harden, against Oklahoma City Thunder, led by Harden’s ex-teammate Chris Paul. Rockets play an unorthodox five-out, three-point-dependent ‘small ball’ game, but key guard Russell Westbrook is hobbled by injury. This should provide an opening for Thunder to stage an upset.

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