We’re two weeks away from the 2021/22 season NBA play-offs. Time to take a look at the biggest surprises, disappointments, and who are the favorites to win it all.
Miami Heat put on a strong performance already during last season, yet they were defeated in the play-off first round against none other than Milwaukee Bucks. The now defending champs managed to breeze past the Heat quite effortlessly, sweeping the series 4-0.
Things are looking a bit different this time around, as Miami sits on top of the Eastern Conference, with many potential title candidates trailing them. You could say that the Heat is “bringing the Heat” (pun very much intended) – they have a roster full of athletic and blood-thirsty hounds, who aren’t afraid of anyone. Even when matching up against taller and more skilled teams.
Just think about P.J. Tucker, who wrestled with giants already during his time in Houston. Or Kyle Lowry, Markieff Morris, or Mr. Confidence himself – Jimmy Butler. Like it or not, the Heat has put on an impressive season thus far.
Look no further than Kristaps Porziņģis. All hopes were on his February trade from the Dallas Mavericks to the Washington Wizards. The Latvian Power-forward’s fans expected him to regain his former confidence and superstardom, witnessed during Porziņģis’ time in the Knicks. But no. You can’t rebound from behind the 3-point line.
He has all the potential to have a double-double every other game. But for that, he has to play in the first place. Something that’s proven to be difficult as well. The Latvian has the consistency of a 3-year-old – 3 days on the court, followed by 3 weeks sick or on the bench.
From the rest, we need to take a look at the injury list. Anthony Davis has been ridden with injuries throughout the season with the most recent one being a mid-foot sprain, from Feb 15. Davis has played only 37 games this season, which has left LeBron – who has played 55 – to pick up the pieces. The duo has played together only on 21 occasions this season. With Davis expected to return soon, James has picked up an ankle injury just recently.
Two major let-downs have also been Kawhi Leonard and Zion Williamson as both have yet to take the floor this season. The former has been out with an ACL tear for what seems to be ages now. If the Clippers survive the play-in tournament, there’s a small chance we could see Kawhi rejoining the team. Pelicans’ Williamson has been trying to bounce back from off-season surgery to his right foot but has yet to do so and will likely be out for the season.
Potential champs and MVPs
Who will win the title and who will win the fans’ hearts? Many bet on Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid to clinch the regular season’s MVP title, even if his stats aren’t on par with two former MVPs – Antetokounpo Giannis and Nikola Jokic. Embiid has formed an enjoyable duo with James Harden and has won our hearts with fierce performances on the floor.
The same applies to Luka Dončić, who proves time and time again that basketball is a rather easy game. DeMar Rozan and Ja Morant are also having their best seasons yet. So while the field for potential MVPs is large, our votes go to the 76ers. But only until Chris Paul returns to Phoenix.
The 2022 NBA playoffs are set to take off on April 16 and many places are still up for grabs.
In the Eastern Conference, the Cavs (42W-34L), Hornets (40W-37L), and the Nets (40W-36L) are battling it out for 7th place. Atlanta Hawks (10th) are also in contention for the 8th place, currently sitting 10th, with 39 wins and 37 losses. The first team to be left out of the play-ins is the New York Knicks (34W-43L).
In the Western Conference, things are a bit more clear. The Suns are dominating the table with 62 wins and 14 losses. The Dallas Mavericks (3rd, 48W-29L) are jostling for playoff position with the Golden State Warriors (4th, 48W-29L) and the Nuggets (5th, 46W-31L) are doing the same against the Jazz (6th, 45W-31L).
The critical 7th and 8th places are held by the Timberwolves (43W-34L) and the Clippers (37W-39L), respectively – both quite comfortably clear of the 9th place Pelicans (33W-43L) and 10th place Lakers (31W-44L) who need to look out for the Spurs, sitting at 31 wins and 45 losses.