Favorites, underdogs alike still in contention for NBA crown

Harrison Simon, Staff Reporter

As we near the halfway point of the NBA playoffs, it seems like a good time to recap the biggest storylines we’ve seen so far, as well as what fans can look forward to as this tumultuous and one-of-a-kind season comes to a fascinating close.

As of right now, the biggest shocker of the playoffs has to be the Milwaukee Bucks’ fall from grace after posting the best record during the regular season. After dropping Game 1 of its opening series to the bottom-seeded Orlando Magic, the Bucks quickly quieted any doubters by winning the next four games to send the Magic home. However, the Bucks were rattled by the relentless play of Jimmy Butler and the rest of the Miami Heat. Strong performances by Most Improved Player finalist Bam Adebayo and some stellar sharpshooting from sophomore Tyler Herro in this second round matchup helped propel the Heat to a stunning 4-1 series victory, while Defensive Player of the Year and likely MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo was forced to watch the decisive Game 5 from the sidelines with an ankle injury. 

The Raptors and Celtics will face off for Game 7 tonight at 8pm CST. (Daisy Rymer)

After sweeping their respective opponents in the first round, the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors have been engaged in a thrilling series so far as the series is all tied up 3-3. After Kemba Walker set up Daniel Theis for what appeared to be the game-winning bucket in Game 3, Boston, already up 2-0, seemed to have put a dagger in the hearts of Raptors fans. With just 0.5 seconds on the clock and the season on the line, OG Anuoby drilled a game-winning 3-pointer, replete with a classic Mike Breen “Bang!” call, and Toronto has clawed its way back into this series. A date in the conference finals with the red-hot Heat awaits the winner of tonight’s do-or-die Game 7.

In the Western conference, the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers took care of the Portland Trail Blazers 4-1 while the LA Clippers edged out Luka Dončić and the Dallas Mavericks in six games. The Lakers dropped Game 1 of the conference semifinals to the Houston Rockets but have responded with vigor, winning the next three games. Most experts expect to see a battle for Los Angeles in the conference finals, especially with both teams up 3-1 in their respective series, but both matchups could end up going either way. We did see the Nuggets come back from a 3-1 deficit in the second round against the Utah Jazz, which hadn’t been accomplished since the LeBron James-led Cavaliers overtook the Golden State Warriors in 2016.

Currently, the Clippers are favorites to take home the Larry O’Brien trophy at +175 — bet $100 to win $175. They are followed closely by the Lakers at +200 and the Heat at +350. The Celtics, sitting at +800, are just ahead of the Raptors at +1000, with the Rockets and Nuggets sitting as big-time longshots, with odds of +8000 and +20000, respectively.

The conference finals are slated to start on Sept. 15, and the NBA Finals are planned for Sept. 30, with the last possible day of the season being Oct. 13 before the 2020-21 season tips off on Dec. 1.