LOOKING PAST THE ROCKETS AND WARRIORS FOR PLAYOFF DRAMA

It’s the last full week of the NBA and of course, there is a climax to be had, and surprisingly but not so unsurprisingly it will involve neither the Golden State Warriors nor the Cleveland Cavaliers…

The Houston Rockets shot themselves to the top, never looking back in a campaign that saw them get to 60 regular season wins for the first time in their history, a supernova season for the team carried by this season’s undeniable MVP, James Harden. Few would have imagined the Rockets would gel so well after adding Chris Paul to their roster in the off-season and signing the out-of-favor Gerald Green, but both players, alongside the whole of the team showed a margin of progress that outclassed the whole of the NBA, even the otherworldly Golden State Warriors.

Injuries, injuries, bad luck and more injuries, such has been the campaign of the reigning champs, and whatever black cat they must have passed by must be appeased in full if they are going to have any chance of defending the title come the playoffs. The Cavs were also out of sorts this season, after trading Kyrie Irving to the Celtics, then changing their whole roster in the midseason, but the Cavs are the team to beat in the East after downing the Raptors and Wizards convincingly, the last two games.

Week 25 of the NBA, however, is far from boring. The Rockets are number one in the West, followed by the inevitable Dubs. Behind them, the Jazz and Spurs still have a chance to catch the Trailblazers who sit in third place, while Oklahoma lies in ambush for whoever falls from those spots above them.

It’ll have to be the wild East this year, with the number one seed still up for grabs, after the Raptors slumped to a two-game losing streak and a 5-5 record in their last 10 games. The second-placed Celtics with three games back have a chance to catch the Raptors and clinch both the number seed and the division title but lost to Toronto on Thursday, forfeiting head-to-head advantage. The young Sixers and Victor Oladipo’s Pacers are hot on Cleveland’s heels for the third seed, while the dogfight between the Heat, Wizards, and Bucks will definitely go down to the wire, with the already out of the picture after losing to the Sixers on Thursday.

The Clippers may have their destiny in their hands, but the New Orleans Pelicans (44-34) are our pick for red-hot intrigue; with the ninth place Nuggets and tenth place Clippers still in contention for a playoff spot, the Pelicans have arguably the toughest schedule, playing a back-to-back against Phoenix and Golden State, before facing the challenging Clippers, and will end their season against the resurgent San Antonio Spurs. The matchup between against the Clippers (4/10 @ Staples Centre) has the makings of a win-or-go-home game for both teams.
If you expected nothing short of drama, then you are served.