The NBA Playoff Preview Guide for People Who Don't Follow the NBA
The NBA playoffs are about to commence, which means we're in store for roughly 18 months of post-season basketball. SI has put together a comprehensive playoff preview guide for seasoned NBA fans, but you aren't a seasoned NBA fan -- you're just a person who will likely be in the vicinity of a television showing basketball at some point in the next few months and would prefer to make that time not miserable. To help you out, we here at Extra Mustard have compiled a simple post-season guide that should hopefully enlighten even the most reluctant basketball watchers.
Indiana Pacers vs. Atlanta Hawks
The least you need to know: According to Vegas Insider, The Indiana Pacers currently sit at 8/1 odds to win the NBA championship. The Atlanta Hawks odds sit at 900/1. So suffice to say, the smart money is betting on Indiana to win this series.
Who to root for: Generally just cheering on an underdog is a very generic way to go about watching games, but this is a case where the fans in Indiana are so confident that their team will win that, as of Thursday, tickets to the first game of the series were selling for less than $10. The Pacers are superior to the Hawks at more or less every position and won 18 more games during the regular season, so if you were looking for one underdog to pull for, Atlanta is your team.
Smart-sounding phrase to memorize: "The Hawks beat the Pacers twice this season, including their most recent matchup. Could be another Golden State over Dallas... just saying."
Miami Heat vs. Charlotte Bobcats
The least you need to know: Miami played the Bobcats four times this season and won all four games. But it should be noted that the games played on the Bobcats home court were pretty close, with the Heat winning the first contest in Charlotte by only one point and the second meeting in overtime.
But none of that truly matters. As a non-basketball fan, all you need to know about this series is that Miami has LeBron James and Charlotte does not. In fact, here's a good guide for picking winners of sporting contests that involve LeBron James:
Who to root for: Cheer for the Bobcats season to end as soon as possible so they can dump their awfully lame name and get back to their roots as the Charlotte Hornets.
Smart-sounding phrase to memorize: "The Bobcats ranked 6th in the league in defensive efficiency this season, but most of those games weren't against the Heat."
Toronto Raptors vs. Brooklyn Nets
The least you need to know: The Raptors are excited to be in the playoffs. Like "cheapest ticket to Game 1 in Toronto costs $155" excited. But that being said, the Brooklyn Nets are represented by Russian billionaire/reserve center Mikhail Prokhorov and nightmare inspiration Kevin Garnett. These men are many things, but intimidated by the Toronto Raptors is not one of them.
The Raptors are the young whippersnappers hoping to make a name for themselves, while the Nets are the old guard yelling at Toronto to stay off their lawn. Because of this dynamic, most would probably agree that this is the most interesting first round series in the Eastern Conference.
Who to root for: Do you prefer Jay-Z or Drake? If you picked Jay-Z over Drake, you should pull for the Nets. If you picked Drake over Jay-Z, you should probably re-evaluate your taste in music.
Smart-sounding phrase to memorize: "The Nets probably aren't title contenders without Brook Lopez, but Brooklyn's experience will still probably trump the Raptors youth in a seven game series."
Chicago Bulls vs. Washington Wizards
The least you need to know: The closest thing either team has to a star is Chicago center Joakim Noah. He’s worth watching because he’s kind of a weirdo and no one really understands his free throws.
The Wizards have two really good young players named John Wall and Bradley Beal who you will probably hear more about in coming years (if you make the decision to follow the NBA in any capacity). It's possible that they could carry the Wizards to a victory, but the Bulls are known for their tight defense, meaning they'll probably eek out the series in six games that will be mostly unwatchable.
Who to root for: Root for the Bulls, if only because Derrick Rose needs something to smile about.
Smart-sounding phrase to memorize: “This is the series that could turn boys into men. A lot of people think the Wizards could be a future powerhouse in the Eastern conference, a victory here could set them on that path.”
San Antonio Spurs vs. Dallas Mavericks
The least you need to know: These two Texas teams know each other well, but that familiarity doesn’t even the playing field. The San Antonio Spurs are the No. 1 seed in the West and they’ve beaten Dallas 9 times in a row. In addition, the Spurs big three of Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili recently became the second winningest trio in NBA history, so that's fun.
The Mavericks have Dirk Nowitzki, who is also one of the best players in NBA history and had a brief cameo in the 2002 movie Like Mike.
Who to root for: The camera man filming Tim Duncan whenever he drinks Gatorade.
Smart-sounding phrase to memorize: “No matter how good Nowitzki is, Marion and Dalembert need to play out of their minds defensively or the Spurs will sweep the series.”
Series preview GIF:
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Memphis Grizzlies
The least you need to know: Last season was supposed to be the Thunder’s year. They were the No. 1 seed in the West and their team had a combination of youth and maturity that's generally a staple among championship-level squads. Then the tides turned: After Russell Westbrook suffered a knee injury in the first round against the Rockets, the Grizzlies made short work of Oklahoma City in the semifinals. This is the Thunder's chance for redemption.
For the Grizzlies, pay attention to Marc Gasol, who will be difficult to miss because he looks like a lumberjack who eats other lumberjacks.
Who to root for: If you like movies like Gladiator and want to see the heroes come of age, root for the Thunder. If you like movies like The Straight Story, where an older, wiser man takes a very slow route to success, root for the Grizzlies. If you just like movies in general, go see Captain America, because apparently it's not bad.
Smart-sounding phrase to memorize: "Kendrick Perkins will have his hands full with Gasol and Randolph, but Memphis' most important asset in this series might be Tony Allen's defense."
Series preview GIF:
L.A. Clippers vs. Golden State Warriors
The least you need to know: Forgive me if I sound like Chris Farley on SNL, but most of what you need to know is that this series will be exciting. These are two of the most fun teams to watch in the league, and their loose style of play should probably even appeal to you, a non-basketball fan. Both of these squads play at a fast-pace and possess remarkable athleticism… oh, and they hate each other.
Clippers forward Blake Griffin been absolutely dominant this year, and between him and State Farm Agent Chris Paul, the Warriors should have plenty of struggles on the defensive end. But whether the Warriors play defense or not probably won't matter if Steph Curry gets hot and scores 60 points a game, which isn't a completely unreasonable thing for him to pull off.
Who to root for: If you don't have a dog in this fight, just root for a Game 7 because this is probably the best first round playoff series.
Smart-sounding phrase to memorize: “The Warriors are going to have to get creative with their lineups if they want to match the Clippers defensively. They might have to just play small ball and hope they can outscore them.”
Series preview GIF:
Houston Rockets vs. Portland Trailblazers
The least you need to know: Statistically, this is probably the closest match up of the playoffs. With strikingly similar stats and lineups, these teams are truly on even footing. They’ve both won 54 games this season, with Houston winning their contests by an average of 4.6 points, and Portland not far behind, winning by an average of 4 points. Moreover they're both fast teams that shoot it well from long range.
But if the series was determined by quality TV cameos, the Blazers have the edge:
Who to root for: James Harden’s luscious beard.
Smart-sounding phrase to memorize: “They're both offensive-minded teams, but Daryl Morey built the Rockets to succeed in the playoffs. It'll be interesting to see how his calculations pan out.” Series preview GIF: