Joe Paige | Sports Editor
It’s finally playoff time, most of the bracket is set, and the players are preparing to begin their quest to reach the finals. As we ramp up this postseason, here are some of the top storylines and narratives to watch out for in the first-round.
Phoenix Suns vs Los Angeles Clippers
Familiar faces unite in this series as the first challenge for the early favorites to win the west are the LA Clippers. These two teams throughout the season have both been considered to be two of the league’s most elite teams in the west. LA may be without the services of Paul George for this entire series, as he’s been rehabilitating from a sprained right knee injury he suffered in a game against Oklahoma City on March 21st. Although this will be a serious blow for LA, this team has some of the best bench depth in the league, players like Terrance Mann and Bones Hyland will have to step up in his absence. The Clippers will have to rely even more heavily on their franchise star Kawhi Leonard, who appears in playoff form as he’s been one of the league’s most efficient players during the tail end of the season. Their most recent acquisition, Russell Westbrook, needs to make an impressionable post season run as he’s on a minimum contract and is set to be a free agent this summer. There is a lot at stake right now for this Clippers team who made their first western conference finals appearance in franchise history just two seasons ago. This series is shaping out to go the distance as both teams have some of the highest expectations out of everybody in the west, neither can afford to get embarrassed in the first round.
Sacramento Kings vs Golden State Warriors
This could be the best series in the first round, featuring a Warriors team struggling to defend the title on the road as they head down the road to face a Kings team who just broke their 15-year playoff drought. This Sacramento fan base feels like a mento dropped into a Coke bottle, the energy of this Kings home crowd will be impossible for Golden State to ignore, which is concerning as they finished the regular season with an 11-30 road record. Fortunately, Andrew Wiggins will be returning to the rotation after missing half of the season due to personal reasons, he can certainly provide this team with a much-needed offensive boost. Wiggins was to be an essential part of Golden State’s championship run last year, his rebounding and athleticism are going to be necessary to keep up with the Kings’ fast paced play. Sacramento is surging with momentum heading into the playoffs, if the defending champs aren’t careful and get knocked out early, it makes the race to win the western conference even more wide open.
Memphis Grizzlies vs Los Angeles Lakers
The second half of the season for the Los Angeles Lakers has been one gigantic sigh of relief. The Lakers’ ride to the playoffs was even bumpier than expected but somehow, someway they made it. Now where do they go from here? How far can they go? How far can LeBron and AD take them? Now that they’re at the end of the season with a decent rotation, is it all enough to get past this young, fast, and gritty Memphis squad? Lakers guard Austin Reeves has had a very impressive sophomore season, at the end of the season he was averaging around 25 points and 6 assists per game. Their big mid-season acquisition D’Angelo Russell has also been great for Los Angeles, since the trade he’s averaged 15 points and has provided the team with another playmaker in transition. Although they aren’t favorited the Lakers do have the potential to upset Memphis, but it’s going to come down to whether Anthony Davis can remain healthy throughout the series, and if the supporting cast can continue playing at the high level they’ve been playing at.