The NBA playoffs is the postseason tournament of the National Basketball Association (NBA) held to determine the league’s champion. An annual best-of-seven elimination tournament, the NBA playoffs are held after the league’s regular season and its preliminary postseason tournament, the NBA Play-in Tournament.
The top-ranking teams at the end of each season engage in a playoff to determine the NBA champion, which claims the title of world champion. According to Britannica, probably the most dominant team in NBA history was the Boston Celtics, which, led by center Bill Russel, won 11 of 13 titles from 1956–57 to 1968– 69. However, the league in those years contained only 8 to 14 teams, and team owners widely avoided signing African American players at the time. Other outstanding clubs were the Minneapolis (later Los Angeles) Lakers in the 1950s, the Los Angeles Lakers in the ’80s, and the Chicago Bulls in the ’90s.
Aside from the most dominant teams, popular players with career playoff records for player efficiency rating are also worth mentioning. Michael Jordan, George Mikan, Lebron James, Nikola Jokic, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Stephen Curry and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are among the listed NBA players with high efficiency rating during the playoffs.
Today, as of this writing, eight teams are still standing and battling to reach the conference finals. In the Western Conference, Phoenix is leading 3-2 over Dallas and Golden State is controlling the phase with 3-1 record over Memphis.
Meanwhile, in the Eastern Conference, Miami and Milwaukee have identical record of 3-2 against Philadelphia and Boston, respectively.
Now, let’s have a quick look at top 8 teams – their storylines, stats and stars, as listed by ESPN as of May 12, 2022:
1. Phoenix Suns – The Point God is Fending Off Father Time
If Phoenix Suns can make it to the Finals, Chris Paul will be one of seven players age 37 or older to start a Finals game since the NBA officially started tracking lineups in 1970-71. Other players are Kareem Abdul-Jabar, Tim Duncan, Ray Allen, Jason Kidd, Karl Malone and David Robinson.
2. Memphis Grizzlies are Young and Out to Make History
This team’s average age is 24.4 years old. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, they’re the youngest team to finish with top-two record since minutes became official in 1951-52. Should they reach the finals even without Ja Morant who is injured, the Grizzlies could become the youngest team ever to make the NBA Finals, a distinction currently held by the 1976-77 Trail Blazers (24.99).
3. Golden State Warriors – The Splash Brothers Might Have a Few cousins
Over the past 10 years, the Warriors and 3-pointers have become synonymous. This season, they added even more shooting to the roster. The combination of Thompson, Poole and Curry will present a defensive conundrum for defenses, especially with Looney and Green as threats down low. And Nemanja Bjelica and Otto Porter Jr have been reliable bigs who can spread the floor, while Wiggins has also provided some timely buckets.
Golden State is averaging 14.3 made 3s per game – third in the NBA – and the Warriors are one of just four teams to have four players (Curry, Thompson, Poole and Wiggins) making at least two 3s per game and shooting 35% or better from long range.
4. The Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic Hit Another Level in Big Games
The name Luka Doncic is almost synonymous to Mavs the past years. He had a long track record of performing when the stakes were high when he arrived in the NBA.
He had won multiple championships with Real Madrid, earning MVP of the Euro League's Final Four in his last act before making the leap to the NBA, and starred for Slovenia during its Cinderella run to a EuroBasket title. This is the first time that Mavs advance past round 1 and we’re going to find out how dominant he is, not only during the regular season but more importantly, the postseason.
5. Tyler Herro, the NBA 6th Man of the Year 2022 and Miami Heat’s Hero
In his third NBA season, Herro averaged 20.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists in 32.6 minutes in 66 games (10 starts). His scoring average of 20.8 points as a reserve was the highest in the NBA. He became the fifth player to average at least 20.0 points off the bench (minimum 50 games as a reserve) since starts began being tracked in the 1970-71 season, joining Thurl Bailey (1987-88), Eddie Johnson (1988-89), Ricky Pierce (1989-90, 1990-91) and Lou Williams (2017-18, 2018-19).
But he is listed as questionable for Game 6 between the Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers. Though as reported by SI, he has been on the injury report multiple times during the series due to ankle injury but has yet to miss a game. So, let’s wait and see and hope for the best!
6. The Boston Celtics Have Been a New Team Since Late January
Prior to going to Washington on Jan. 23, Boston was a .500 team barely outscoring its opponents. Since then, the Celtics have clearly been the best team in the East, outscoring teams by more than 14 points per 100 possessions while rocketing up the standings from the bottom of the play-in tournament then eventually claiming home-court advantage in the first round and establishing themselves as legitimate title contenders.
But can they overcome the 3-2 lead of reigning champ Bucks? We’re going to find out soon!
7. Antetokounmpo, the Milwaukee Bucks’ Clutch Player
When the game is on the line, Giannis Antetokounmpo has been at his best. He has scored 528 points in 526 fourthquarter minutes, one of only five players in the play-byplay era (since 1996-97) to average at least one point per fourth-quarter minute. He also became the first player in the past 25 years to average at least eight points on 55% shooting in the fourth quarter during a single season.
How far can the Bucks go at this year’s playoffs might depend on this Greek Freak!
8. The Philadelphia 76ers Can’t Be Stopped When Harden and Embiid Share the Court
Since pairing Harden and Embiid at the trade deadline, Philadelphia has seen the new superstar duo dominate. Philadelphia outscored teams by 15.9 points per 100 possessions with their two All-Stars sharing the court, the second-best mark among NBA duos with at least 600 minutes playing together.
And from time to time, we’re seeing vintage Harden. Thus, a very hopeful sign for 76ers despite the 2-3 standing against Miami Heat.
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