(Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports via Reuters/Ken Blaze)
1 The Utah Jazz continue to defy the odds
If you had of said at the start of the season that the Utah Jazz would still be the fifth seed in the Western Conference without Gordan Hayward, people would have mistaken you for a madman.
Yet here we are in the conference semi-finals and the Jazz are locked in a series against the Houston Rockets after claiming the fifth seed for a second consecutive season, defying the odds and all expectations.
In their first round series against the Thunder, the Jazz were absolutely incredible, dominating a stacked Oklahoma City side to take out the series in six games, and continuing their emphatic rise under rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell.
Mitchell has filled the void vacated by Hayward seamlessly. Through Utah's series with the Thunder, he did not have a game where he scored below 20 points, as he averaged an astonishing 28.5 points throughout the series.
That also included a team-high 38 points in Game 6 to see his team home. But it hasn’t just been Mitchell lighting it up for the Jazz, as Rudy Gobert and Joe Ingles have both improved their overall games and contributed to the Jazz’s success. They may have lost their opening semi-final to the Rockets, but Quin Snyder's men have proven they should never be ruled out.
2 More reminders LeBron James is the best in the world
From game-winning 3-pointers to regularly posting 40-plus points, LeBron James single-handedly lifted the Cavs past the Pacers in seven hard-fought games.
He was at his brilliant best again in Game 7 when the series was on the line, posting 45 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and four steals to send his team into the Eastern Conference semi-finals. And with those four steals, James surpassed Chicago Bulls legend Scottie Pippen for the most steals in playoffs history.
James did all of this without any of his teammates scoring more than 20 points in any game of the series. Let that sink in. He regularly played over 40 minutes to keep the Cavaliers’ season alive, and is proving increasingly impossible to stop. Beware, Toronto.
3 If you thought the Warriors needed Steph, think again
Many thought the Warriors would have found things difficult in their first-round series against the San Antonio Spurs with their star player, Stephen Curry, missing through injury.
Nevertheless, without Curry and shrugging off a slow start, the Warriors have the wheels churning as they charge to a fourth consecutive Finals berth after an emphatic 4-1 series win over the Spurs.
Each of Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green really stepped their games up throughout the series, improving out of sight after the dismal way they concluded the regular season.
Thompson is shooting 51.4% from the field and has averaged 23.3 points in these playoffs so far, and was again instrumental as the Warriors took a 1-0 lead in their Western Conference semi-finals series against the Pelicans.
Durant has stepped up his game to average 27.8 points a game, whilst also upping his contribution on the rebounding side of things as he has averaged a whopping 9.3 boards this postseason.
And Green's production has been exceptional as he has almost averaged a triple-double so far these playoffs with 12.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 8.5 assists per game.
The scary thing is that they dominated the Spurs without Curry, and if anything is to go by after their first game demolition job of the Pelicans – who they beat by 22-points – they’ll have a fairly easy road to the Western Conference Finals.
4 Indiana and Victor Oladipo will be back
The Pacers’ season came to a close in Game 7 of their series against the Cavaliers, with a 105-101 loss seeing them bow out of the playoffs after the first round.
But their season exceeded expectations by far, as Victor Oladipo dominated in his breakout season after being traded to the Pacers along with Domantas Sabonis for Paul George at the end of last season.
Their series with the Cavaliers, however, is why they are primed to make another tilt at the playoffs next season, as they took a hungry, LeBron-led side to seven games.
The Pacers took out games they had no right to win, all starting with their shock Game 1 victory where they dominated the game from start to finish to salute by 18 points in Cleveland. Ultimately, they lost the series, but if the experience has taught us one thing about the Pacers, it's that they will be back next season hungrier than ever, and having learned from their mistakes.
5 The Eastern Conference will likely have a new champion
If it wasn’t already established prior to the start of the playoffs, it is common knowledge now – the Cleveland Cavaliers are extreme underdogs to come out of the Eastern Conference and make it to four straight NBA Finals.
The fact they let their series against Indiana – taking nothing away from the Pacers – go to 7 Games proves that the Eastern Conference is no longer LeBron’s house, and that his ageing side are playing and old brand of basketball.
The favourites for the Eastern Conference are either the top-seeded Toronto Raptors, or the young Philadelphia 76ers, who are the most exciting side in the league today. The 76ers are among the favorites in the East because of the way they ended the regular season with a remarkable 16-game win streak. They also only dropped one game to the Heat in their first-round series.
For Toronto, they found the going a bit tougher against Washington, taking out the series 4-2 after a Game 6 win in Washington. They aren’t all that convincing, but will be confident of knocking off the Cavaliers in the next round. Either way, it is more than likely that the Eastern Conference will have a new winner.
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