OK, we still have 8 teams theoretically in the mix, but at least three of them have no shot -- NONE -- of winning the championship. Consider the series' match-ups right now....
Cleveland and Toronto.
Lebron and the Cavs have shown vulnerability this year, but the Raptors beating them? Not a chance.
Golden State and Utah.
The Jazz bounced the always overrated Clippers, but they might -- MIGHT -- salvage a single win in this series. At most, it goes 5 games. The Warriors roll on. Easily.
Boston and Washington.
A bit more interesting, but not that much. Like every other Washington team, the Capitals, Nats, and even (especially) Congress, you just know the Wiz are going to choke when the pressure is on. The Celtics may not win it all this year, but make no mistake. They will be a force to be reckoned with in the future, and quite likely for some time to come. GM Danny Ainge has done a masterful job of rebuilding the Beaners, and has a brilliant young head coach in Brad Stevens. The newest diminutive version of Isaiah Thomas is the real deal. Look out for these guys in a year or two. I'm just saying.....
That's three in and three out for the semis.
The last match-up is quite intriguing.
San Antonio and Houston.
Though the Spurs have long been a model of excellence and class under Coach Pop, it could be fairly said they ain't what they used to be. Tim Duncan is gone. Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker are getting old. The latter just went down with what could be a serious leg injury. Lamarcus Aldridge was a great free-agent signing, but hasn't torn it up like many thought he might. Kawhi Leonard is arguably the best all-around player in the league. Yet despite their usual impressive regular season record, the Spurs appear to be a bit wobbly.
In two home games against Houston, they were blown out in the first and returned the favor in the second. The series stands tied at 1-1.
The Rockets are a bit like the Celtics in the East. They're really good and are coming on strong. It would be a mistake to underestimate the enormous capabilities and talents of James Hardin. How and why Oklahoma City ever let him get away in free agency remains a baffling question.
This series could swing either way. If Houston holds serve during the next two games at home, color the Spurs good-bye. But if San Antonio, road warriors themselves, can steal at least one game at Houston to even the series -- well..... If they win them both, unlikely, then color the Rockets good-bye. We'll see. But this is the most competitive series of the bunch.
Cleveland and Boston are almost no-brainers to meet for the East title. The Celtics will have home court advantage. Is Boston ready to take the next step? Probably not. It's mighty tough to bet against Lebon, Kyrie, Kevin, and that bunch in the playoffs, home court or not.
Golden State is a shoo-in. Whether it's San Antonio or Houston to face them in the Western finals remains to be seen. But given the heartbreak of blowing a 3-1 lead in the Finals last year, and also given the Warriors are healthy, who would dare bet against them getting back to the Big Dance one more time? True, head coach Steve Kerr is still out with back problems, and interim coach Mike Brown might be clueless -- but these guys can run on auto-pilot as long as they stay healthy.
Though anything can happen, see injuries to key players, it sure looks to be shaping up to be a Golden State/Cleveland III Finals. A rubber match, if you will.
If either of them were to get knocked off in the interim, it would be big news indeed.
But that's why they play the games -- right? Ya just never know how it might turn out.....