It is now down to the conference finals in the NBA, with a resurging crowd of basketball fans rooting for their respective teams.
And look who are missing.
No LeBron James and Anthony Davis from the Los Angeles Lakers, Damian Lillard from Portland and no NBA MVP in Nikolai Jokic. Same with Mitchell Donovan and Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert from Utah, Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid and the Nets’ Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving as their teams were booted out in conference quarterfinals and semifinals.
Ironically, superstars Kawhi Leonard from the Clippers and the Suns’ Chris Paul, whose teams Los Angeles, the other LA team, and Phoenix, respectively, are duking it out for the Western Conference title, will also be missing.
Leonard is out because of injury, while Paul tested positive for COVID-19 and nothing is definite about their return.
Unfortunately for the Clippers, the Suns seem to have adjusted earlier and took Game 1 in their best-of-7 series with their remaining All-Star Devin Booker posting his very first triple-double. This is what I mean by adjustment, knowing he will be playing without Paul, Booker raised his game to the next level
But with both teams missing key players, then the first team to be complete will simply have the edge in the duel. Personally though, I would like to see the Suns go all the way to their next sunrise.
At the Eastern side, the Atlanta Hawks continued to surprise everyone, except themselves maybe, by reaching the conference finals, where they will engage with the mighty Milwaukee Bucks (not the Sucks anymore) in the conference finals.
Ironically, again the player who has been carrying the Hawks throughout the playoffs is the very same player who was ignored by fans and coaches in the NBA All-Stars, Trae Young. But now, no more, not after what he showed in the playoffs.
I am sure though that the Hawks will be the underdogs against the Bucks, but I really am not sure if that is necessarily how the series will end.
The Bucks are a different team from last year, their acquisition of Jrue Holliday was their best move and with Khris Middleton stepping up his game to support main man Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee looks at least for some poise to win and reach the NBA finals after a very very long wait. I remember when a young Lew Alcindor before he became Kareem Abdul Jabbar, led the team to the title in the early 70s.
Now if I were to bet, my money will be on the Bucks, but if I were to wish, I say again, I would like to see the Hawks upend the Bucks and set up a Phoenix vs Atlanta NBA finals. And what a match up that would be, starring Young against Booker.
But even as the NBA season has not ended yet, talks of player trades have already started.
Teams have seen what they need and what they don’t, while big name players will express their wish to be traded, at least for some.