At the start of the 2017-2018 regular season, most thought the Warriors and Cavaliers would have no problem returning to the Finals for the fourth year in a row. But the regular season had enough surprises to make us believe that their reign over their conferences could actually end.
The standings looked quite different than in years past. The Raptors and Trail Blazers were perhaps the biggest surprises, exceeding expectations with their successful regular seasons. The Rockets took the first seed over the Warriors, while the Cavs fell to the fourth seed, even behind the Sixers.
Moreover, the Warriors and the Cavs looked like they were in decline. The Warriors were injured and looked out of sorts all year, while the Cavs had some of their most dysfunctional play since LeBron’s return. Some were even predicting a Finals matchup without either of the two!
But once the playoffs began, we were rudely reminded that regular season success doesn’t guarantee postseason victory. Both the Blazers and Raptors were ignominiously swept, the young Sixers are on the brink of defeat to a strangely solid Celtics squad, and the Cavaliers and Warriors look better than they’ve ever looked in the regular season.
It’s like we’re stuck in a time loop. The Cavaliers have a good chance of facing the Pacers, the Raptors, the Celtics, and the Warriors this year, the same order of opponents as they did last year. The Warriors have to beat the Rockets to advance to the Finals, and although it will probably be tough, they have the upper hand.
Seeing peak Warriors and peak LeBron tear through their conferences is a treat to watch, and it won’t last forever. LeBron might be on the move this offseason, and the Warriors are beginning to age. But maybe their dominance will extend further than we previously thought.
Ultimately, it’s likely we end up with a Warriors-Cavaliers final for the fourth time in a row. Earlier in the season, I wrote about how much I love the Cavaliers and LeBron James and how they are perfect foils for the Warriors. Did we ruin the NBA? Maybe, but it’s totally worth it.