The regular season of the NBA 2021 has come to an end. The Playoffs are coming and there are some things that you should pay attention to. But first, it is important to clarify a few things before getting straight to the point.
Last season, the league implemented the play-in tournament to give teams outside the playoff picture a fairer chance to win a postseason berth. This new model was carried out during the restart in the bubble due to the pandemic crisis.
Boston Celtics, Washington Wizards, Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies have just sealed their spots in the postseason after getting past the Play-In Tournament.
The NBA Playoffs will start on Saturday, May 22 and conclude no later than July 22. Here’s everything you need to know:
PLAYOFFS NBA 2021 - How does it work?
The league uses a best-of-seven elimination format - two teams play each other up to seven times. The first to win four games advances to the next round.
In the first round, the 1st placed team from each conference faces the 8th placed team. The 2nd plays against the 7th, the 3rd against the 6th, and the 4th against the 5th.
The following round is known as the Conference Semifinals and the third is the Conference Final.
The two teams that win the conference title will then meet in the NBA Finals to determine the champion.
- Brooklyn Nets
Candidates to win the NBA 2021, the Nets have strengthened their squad with talented names. They became one of the favorites to win the NBA title after acquiring Kevin Durant and James Harden, but the physical condition of their stars shook these expectations a little. Still, they remained efficient and ended 2nd in the Eastern Conference, with a 48-24 campaign and 66% of games won throughout the season, even though Durant played only 35 of the 71 games (49%) and Harden only 44 (62%).
When Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden are healthy, it’s hard to believe that any other team could top them in a seven-game series. The only thing to watch out for is the lack of chemistry, because of the few minutes on the court together. The big three came to bring aggressiveness to the offense.
- Utah Jazz
After Donovan Mitchell injured his ankle, everyone thought that the team's performance would decline, which did not happen. What helped them keep the good results and finish the regular season at the top of the Western Conference was the strong presence of Rudy Gobert and Mike Conley, as well as the return of Bogdanovic to the court this season.
Even though the roster is versatile and authentic, the only team that could cause worry for Jazz is the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers, which just made it to the 7th seed in the playoffs. With their victory over Golden State, they actually avoided playing against Utah in the very first round, so they would only meet in the Conference Finals - which is very good for both teams. But it’s still something to keep an eye on.
- Phoenix Suns
Chris Paul’s arrival at the Phoenix Suns Arena revolutionized the mentality of the franchise. He joined forces with Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton, had a great regular season - averaging 16.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 8.9 assists per game - and, at the age of 36, led the Suns to their first postseason appearance since 2011.
It's hard to know how far they can go in the playoffs due to the lack of depth in their roster and the unpredictability of the games, but Phoenix have already shown time and again that they can be competitive.
- Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets' 2021 season started with Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic making an excellent duo. That was until Murray tore his ACL in april, which forced him to step aside for the rest of the season.
Still, Jokic managed to maintain his aggressiveness and good reading of the game on offense. He is currently the favorite to win the MVP award, with 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game (playing all 72 of them), as well as 61 double-doubles and 16 triple doubles.
Michael Porter Jr. is having the best season of his short career and covers up for the absence of Murray in the team, leading the offense with Jokic while averaging 19.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game.
Other than that, 30-year-old Facundo Campazzo arrived from Real Madrid for his first season in the NBA and turned out to be a great addition, exceeding expectations.
- Philadelphia 76ers
The 76ers deserve to be highlighted for the excellent regular season they had in 2021. Doc Rivers took over the coach position in October and made a huge impact right from the start, leading them to the Eastern Conference lead with an impressive 49-23 campaign.
Pay attention to Joel Embiid - he has been one of the best players of the 2021 NBA season and is Philadelphia's leading scorer and rebounder, with 28.5 and 10.6 per game, respectively.
Ben Simmons also brought great results for the franchise during the regular season and posted solid numbers, averaging 14.3 points per game, 7.2 rebounds and leading the team with 6.9 assists. He’s also the favorite to win the Defensive Player of the Year award
- New York Knicks
The Knicks are the big surprise of the 2021 season, as they return to the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
Their new head coach Tom Thibodeau changed the course of the team, becoming a very strong candidate to win Coach Of The Year because of the great season he had in charge of New York. They have one of the best defenses and are tied-second on 3-point shooting efficiency (39.2%).
Julius Randle has established himself in the Knicks and gave them the spark and leadership figure they needed to get back into contention. He also formed a brilliant partnership with 20-year old RJ Barrett, who had a great 2nd season in the NBA: 17.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game.
Despite losing contests against the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers, the Knicks are aiming high for a spot in the semifinals.
- Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers have had a somewhat irregular season. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George had spells off the team due to injuries in different moments, with both having played about 70% of the games.
With Leonard and George healthy, the Clippers are going to be trouble to the opponents during the playoffs. Kawhi averaged 24.8 points per game, 6.5 rebounds and 5.2 assists, while “PG13” averaged 23.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.2 assists.
Tyronn Lue's team is 3rd in the average age ranking, and even though their roster isn’t as deep as other teams’, experience can be a useful weapon for the Clippers in the playoffs.
- Los Angeles Lakers
The defending champions made it through the Play-In and clinched a spot in the playoffs.
The temporary absence of Lebron James, Anthony Davis and Dennis Schroder impacted the team, and their form dipped brutally: between the first injury (AD out vs Minnesota, in February) and the last comeback (LeBron and Schröder out vs Indiana, in May), they had a 17-24 record, which made them go from 2nd to 7th in the Western Conference.
Los Angeles was really unlucky to have all three of their stars injured at the same time, as they were the reason behind their strong start: LeBron ended the regular season with 25.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 7.8 assists, Davis averaged 21.8 points, 7.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists, while Schroder had 15.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists.
In the final stretch of the regular season, the team got back on their feet and won every single one of the last six games. If the trio can stay healthy, the Lakers are sure to be in contention for another title.
The article above was edited by Giulia Gianolla
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