The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Sidelines: NBA Playoff Preview
The Celtics lead the East as the one-seed in the NBA Playoffs. (Photo courtesy of

After a chaotic conclusion to the 2023-2024 NBA season, including multiple playoff seeds coming down to the last day of regular season play, the NBA playoffs are nearly set with dramatic storylines.

The Los Angeles Clippers take on the Dallas Mavericks in a first-round rematch from 2020 and 2021. Dallas is red hot, having won 16 of their last 20 games as MVP candidate Luka Dončić looks for revenge from the 2020 and 2021 series losses, now with a stronger supporting cast alongside him including star guard Kyrie Irving.

Meanwhile, the Clippers have faltered with a mediocre 15-14 record since the All-Star Break, a knee injury for star forward Kawhi Leonard that leaves his playoff status unknown and the recent offensive struggles of star guard James Harden. Still, the star power of the big three of Leonard, Harden and Paul George creates nightmares when healthy.

A calf injury to two-time MVP Giannis Antentokounmpo is a significant story for the Bucks-Pacers series. Although the Bucks have had issues throughout the season, including an underwhelming 17-19 record since hiring Doc Rivers as head coach and the struggles of all-star Damian Lillard, nothing matters more to Milwaukee than the health of Antentokounmpo, who is expected to at least miss the start of the series.

On the other side is a young Pacers team led by Tyrese Haliburton and Pascal Siakam. Indiana won the season series 4-1, including a crucial In-Season Tournament win, and seeks to do much of the same in a playoff setting with Antentokounmpo’s status up in the air.

In the Western Conference’s frantic finish for the first seed, the Oklahoma City Thunder came out on top, knocking the Denver Nuggets down to second and the Minnesota Timberwolves to third. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has led the charge for the first-seeded Thunder, earning the team’s first playoff appearance since 2020.

Reigning champion Denver Nuggets host a rematch of last season’s Western Conference Finals against the LeBron James and Anthony Davis-led L.A. Lakers. While the Nuggets have lost depth since their championship run with the offseason departures of Bruce Brown and Jeff Green, they maintain one of the most efficient starting fives led by two-time MVP Nikola Jokić.

Minnesota’s unenviable task of taking on the sixth-seeded Phoenix Suns’ big three of Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal. Although Phoenix’s rotational regulars are questionable outside of their big three, the Suns swept the season series against Minnesota 3-0 and pose a significant threat to one of the NBA’s top defenses.

The first-seeded Boston Celtics finished their season with a dominant 64-18 record, appearing leaps and bounds above the rest of the Eastern Conference with the additions of Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porziņģis bolstering a perennial threat in the east.

In second place, the New York Knicks lost all-star Julius Randle to a shoulder injury, but remain strong with Jalen Brunson at the helm and a dominant defense, as the Knicks allowed the second-fewest opposing points per game this season with 108.2.

The Cleveland Cavaliers take on the Orlando Magic in the 4-5 Eastern Conference matchup. Cleveland had an up-and-down season, including a 17-3 start to the calendar year despite injuries to starters Darius Garland and Evan Mobley and a recent lull of 8-12 in their last 20 games.

For Orlando, the team has surged into the playoffs led by second-year sensation Paolo Banchero. The Magic boast one of the NBA’s best half-court defenses with the third-best defensive rating this season at 110.8, which poses a challenge for the Donovan Mitchell-led Cavaliers offense. However, Orlando has its own challenges offensively, with a bottom 10 offensive rating that the Cleveland frontcourt of Mobley and Jarrett Allen looks to shut down.

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About the Contributor
Benjamin White
Benjamin White, Staff Sports Writer

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