The play-offs

Like millions all over the planet, I’ve been following the NBA finals series with rapt attention. By and large, it’s been a pretty good series to watch with some great contents and fantastic moments – come on down LBJ.

There are a lot of NBA fans in Oz, but greater interest than ever this year with the emergence and star power of Simmons. He’s going to be a big name for a lot of years, one of the greats potentially, especially if he can get his jump shot going – and I’m sure he will. He’s earned a lot of comparisons with Magic Johnson. Totally different personalities, but otherwise a lot of similarities – both of a size they could play as a permanent forward, both with great athleticism, both great passers of the ball with a touch of wizardry, both smart with the ball in hand, and both superior defenders. Long way to go, but a great start for Simmons.

Unfortunately for his Aussie fans, he’s out of it now, as are the Phillies. That came as a bit of a surprise. Simmons more or less bombed against the Celtics, who ended up winning the series 4-1.

They’re my two favourite teams – the Celtics and the Sixers, but I probably lean towards the Celtics. With Hayward out and Irving more recently I didn’t expect them to beat the Sixers so convincingly. What they have is a great coach though in Brad Stevens. He put a team on the floor and a game plan that blunted the Sixers strengths, on top of which players like Terry Rozier really stepped up. Throw in Tatum (another star in the making), and Horford making some big plays, and they did it easy.

With Hayward and Irving back next year they’ll be really formidable and just about favourites going in. This year they have to get by the Cavs first.

The Cavs are pretty much a one-man team – but what a man! LeBron James has been the best player in the league for many years, but some of his performances in the play-off have been out of this world. He has single-handedly carried a pretty ordinary team into the semis and pulled off some unbelievable clutch baskets to win games that looked lost.

The Cavs are taking on the Celtics and trail 0-1. A lot are touting the Cavs, but even with LBJ, I reckon the Celtics will progress. These play-offs, minus key players, has really steeled them. They’ve got better as they’ve gone along and have a roster in which someone like Brown or Morris or Smart, or even Baynes, will step-up to get the job done. They’re playing with belief, and a lot of that is down to Brad Stevens, their coach.

One of the questions arising out of the series has been suggestions that perhaps LeBron is now ahead of Jordan as the GOAT. I love LBJ, both as a player and as an individual. He is immense. I grew up watching Jordan though when the league was a bit tougher, I think, and he was next level then and has been ever since. No-one has ever been more athletic than Jordan, no-one more competitive – though James rivals him. He’s one of the greatest offensive players ever, if not the greatest, and he was fantastic on the defensive end too. Great as LBJ is, I’m pretty comfortable believing Jordan is still GOAT.

I tipped Houston to win the whole thing before the play-offs begun, but I reckon the Warriors might get them first. I watched Steph Curry practice his 3 point shooting the other day, and I reckon 15-20 shots in a row went swoosh. He’s not great defensively, but he’s as big an offensive threat in the league. He’s now back from an injury lay-off just in time to take on the Rockets. Add in Kevin Durant, and they’re scary.

Against them is James Harden, scary in himself, but I wonder if the team has the hard-edged play-off experience to get past the Warriors. Harden fired big time in game one, at home, and they still lost.

I’m tipping a Warriors-Celtics final, and can’t see the Warriors losing that. Next year though…

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