The National Basketball Association (NBA) playoffs have now reached the conference finals with four deserving teams now left fighting to determine who get to dispute the world championship.
And as has always been the case during this time of the NBA season, I have been a captive audience of the playoff festivities, taking every opportunity possible to watch matches and savor the frenzy and excitement that go with them.
Along the way standout moments creep up, making watching the games more worthwhile.
One such moment is how young NBA stars have made their presence felt in these playoffs.
While definitely the play of old reliables and established superstars in the league is to behold, to see new-generation stars join the mix is much welcome.
Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid and Boston’s Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier III are just some of the young guns who have raised their stock with their spirited and game-altering performances in the postseason.
Mitchell has emerged as a bona fide star with the Jazz as he led them to a West semis appearance before bowing to the top seeds Houston Rockets.
The 13th pick in this season’s rookie draft, Mitchell has all but made Utah forget erstwhile resident star Gordon Hayward with his jacked-up play on both ends of the court and leadership, enough to convince many, including this writer, that Utah’s future is pretty much safe and promising.
The same could be said of the Sixers with Simmons and Embiid in tow.
From far outside the playoff picture in seasons past, Philadelphia went all the way to the Eastern Conference semifinals and was actually poised to go even deeper had breaks went their way in some of the games against Boston.
Despite the abrupt exit though, Simmons and Embiid more than underscored that “The Process” in Sixers-land has taken far bigger root and that the team is all but set to take on bigger challenges moving forward.
The Celtics trio of Tatum, Brown and Rozier, while not “The Big Three” that the Celtics were envisioning at season’s start, has been huge in the postseason.
They have certainly made up for the absence of Hayward and Kyrie Irving and quite interestingly made Boston all the more tough to read collectively.
They are now in the East finals against the Cavaliers.
Another standout moment for me in these playoffs is LeBron James and his growing legend.
Now on his 15th year in the league, he continues to amaze and is still the alpha dog in The Association if you are to ask me.
From buzzer-beaters to triple doubles to clutch plays on both ends, “The King” has done it in the 2018 NBA playoffs with no signs of slowing down.
He has led a Cavaliers crew to each and every adversity this season, making what he has been doing all the more impressive.
Other standout moments from my end are the “upset” of the New Orleans Pelicans of the Portland Trail Blazers in the opening round of the West playoffs, the seamless return from injury of Golden State superstar Stephen Curry, the sweep of East top seed Toronto at the hands of Cleveland and the virtual disappearance of Raptors star DeMar DeRozan in the semifinals.
Indeed the 2018 NBA Playoffs have not been bereft of noteworthy happenings and the good thing about it all is that it is not yet over with the conference finals and NBA finals still to look forward to.
Michael Angelo S. Murillo has been a columnist since 2003. He is a BusinessWorld reporter covering the Sports beat.