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Stempak: The best and worst of the NBA Playoffs so far

| Tuesday, April 25, 2017

With the 2017 NBA Playoffs well underway, here’s a quick list of likes and dislikes so far in the first round.

Like: Playoff LeBron

As a Cavs fan, it worries me that LeBron James is playing over 40 minutes per game, but he also gets a full seven days off because his heavy minutes’ load has led to yet another first round sweep. Playoff LeBron is mean. Playoff LeBron is shooting 54 percent from the field and 45 percent from three. Playoff LeBron nearly averaged a triple double over the four games with the Pacers.

It will be interesting to see how long he can hold this up, but if this first round series is any indicator, it looks like LeBron and the Cavs are on their way to another NBA Finals. We are lucky to be alive for this historic stretch by one of the greatest ever.

Dislike: Fouls on three-point attempts

Contact initiated by the defensive player guarding a player with the ball is not legal. Running into a three-point shooter, impeding his space or hitting his arm is a foul. Trying your hardest to get around a screen only for James Harden to hook your arm and go up for a shot should not be a three-point foul. It is unnatural. Rule it like the rip-through move, just have the offense take the ball side-out instead of giving them free throws.

Like: The entire OKC-Houston series

Ignoring the action mentioned above, this series has been almost surreal. Russell Westbrook versus the world. James Harden and company tearing up the defense. So many low-IQ shot attempts and silly turnovers that have led to ultra-exciting and unpredictable games. These guys are incredible, and it is incredible to watch.

Dislike: Injuries

Every year, this takes away from what can be awesome basketball to watch. This year the victim is the Clippers-Jazz series. Blake Griffin out for the remainder of the postseason with a toe injury, just as he was regaining form (Remember just a few years ago he was fourth in MVP voting). On the other side, the Jazz have their own struggles, as center Rudy Gobert is battling a knee injury and Gordon Hayward has food poisoning. I wonder if Utah is going to let him choose where he eats ever again. Luckily, both men are back for the Jazz, who I expect to take control of the series. Also, RIP Playoff Rondo for we may never see him again. He gave his life to put the eighth seeded Bulls up 2-0 over the Celtics.

Like: Playoff tag-lines/rally cries

Every year these just get cheesier and funnier. My favorite this year is the Utah Jazz’s #TakeNote. Get it? Music puns. Other notably cheesy tag lines for this year are Cleveland’s #DefendTheLand, Memphis’ simple, but kind of sad #BelieveMemphis and a genuinely cool one Toronto, #WeTheNorth.

Like: Being a spectator for teams hitting a wall and a crossroad

Toronto, Indiana and Portland, but specifically Indiana and Portland, are done with the current makeup of their teams. Paul George is going to leave and the Pacers are going to have to plummet into rebuilding mode, just a few seasons removed from being the first seed in the East and a dominant defensive force.

Toronto is getting bullied by Milwaukee, a much younger and more inexperienced team, albeit the win last night. It looks like the ceiling for DeRozan and Lowry is lower than the team expected, so changes will have to be made. You had a good run, Dwayne Casey.

Lastly, Portland is going to have to move either CJ McCollum or Damian Lillard, and it is not going to be Lillard. McCollum is a stud, and wherever he ends up is going to have a great chance to leap into title contention. But this just is not working out for the Blazers, and they need to flip him for more complementary pieces for Dame.

And with that, bring on Round Two.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About R.J. Stempak

R.J. Stempak is a sophomore computer science major who enjoys basketball.

Contact R.J.