Welcome to the GQ Sports Cheat Sheet, your pretty comprehensive guide to the world’s greatest sporting event.
The NBA Playoffs is an annual competition to determine who will be the champion. From now until mid-June it took 16 wins to win the Larry O’Brien Trophy, but I think you already know that…
How to look
As usual, ESPN and TNT are doing the hard work. Both networks have apps if you’re trying to watch on the go, but both require you to sign up with your cable provider. If you don’t have cable, both are available on YouTube TV , which also has ABC . They need ABC for the finals and some prime time games like Warriors-Kings Game 1 on Saturday night.
Should I try it live?
Surely! Tickets for some of the hippest places (New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco) will be more expensive. The same goes for Sacramento, where they pay tribute “we haven’t been here since Daniel Powter topped the charts”. But if you’re trying to catch a game in Memphis or Cleveland , you can get by for less than $150, which is totally reasonable for an NBA game. Also, as most Brooklynites know, Nets tickets are easy to come by and not as expensive as you might think. The official Nets website lists Game 3 tickets starting at $59.
It’s hard not to love the Milwaukee Bucks . Championship status in 2021 and the rest of the major divisions have this championship team. Because of this combination, they are considered favorites. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday and Chris Middleton don’t seem to get the credit they deserve for being one of the most impressive trios in the league and all three are great defenders. By the time baseball players pass them, Brook Lopez’s human draft is already on the sidelines.
The western regions are really an unknown quantity. The Phoenix Suns’ star power means they’re technically favorites, but these guys haven’t played much basketball together. Kevin Durant is still learning how to play with Devin Booker, whose horrific injury in early March during a torrid season meant Durant only played eight games with Phoenix after a midseason trade. The Suns won all those games, so…
The Golden State Warriors are a tried and tested product here, but they won’t look like themselves for long. The Denver Nuggets could certainly win in the West, but it wouldn’t be surprising if they were up against one of the last teams with Finals experience. The Nuggets also have a successful track record on the road… but so do the Suns, Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies ! Not being able to consistently win outside of your gym seems like a problem in the game, but if another leader is having the same problem, can you be okay with that? This assembly is also bananas.
You see, historically , trusting the Los Angeles Clippers wasn’t a good idea. But listen to me for a second. They have one of the best playoff players , Kawhi Leonard . They have a head coach, Tyronne Liu , who won championships and made him one of the biggest losers in history. His Cavs beat the Warriors 73 in 2016. The only concern is Paul George , who will reportedly miss the tournament. First round against Phoenix because of a knee injury. George is undoubtedly one of the top 20 players in the world when healthy. So if the Clippers make it out of the wild alive, his presence will be a huge boost next round.
FanDuel has a +4900 clip to win everything, which is incredibly designed for you to pull the trigger. And if they make it through the first-round matchup with the Suns, they’ll be up against one of the toughest opponents in their conference, which should make it even easier on the streets.
Sacramento Kings , March Playing against the Kings to win it all is definitely not easy, but the Kings have the best offense in NBA history and tend to make some noise. The Kings will be all neutral fans’ favorites in the postseason given the massive home advantage their team hasn’t gotten that far since 2006 thanks to a pre-playoff starvation streak.
Make the beam on mf’n.
There might not be enough talent around him to really advance in the playoffs, but we have to give Michael Bridges some love. After leading their comeback with the Durant trade, he averaged over 26 points per game in 27 regular season games with the Nets, a huge jump from the 17.2 he averaged in Phoenix.
Like his Manhattan colleague Jalen Brunson , a college teammate and highly regarded in his class, Bridges proved to be a player who often benefits from being caught. The lanky forward has had a long run in Brooklyn and has developed into a player his new team can count on. A solid defender and an attractive free kick are two qualities that show up in crucial moments.
When it comes to custom jerseys, Celtic’s classic green jersey, one of the best in all sports, is hard to beat. The sun plaid is so unique that there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be their main jersey.
But when NBA teams go so far with their extra units for a shocking value, the deepest and best uniform attire is the Memphis Grizzlies , I have to keep things fresh and fragrant. Whether it’s the navy blue Swingmans or the black City Edition, Griz has a great alternative to their standard white and navy tees.
No team is in absolutely bad shape, but the Thunder could use an overhaul.
Best Dressed Players
It’s definitely Shai Gilgeus-Alexander , the most stylishly dressed athlete in the galaxy. He recently beat out Timothée Chalamet, Steve Lacy and A$AP Rocky for the Most Stylish Person of the Year award, giving the state of Oklahoma an unprecedented level of failure.
That being said, we don’t know how many playoff games Russell Westbrook has left ! Watch out for virus attacks every night. James Harden will also have multiple gems as the definition of a gem. Playoff veterans Chris Paul and PJ Tucker also know the power of tunnel entrances.
If you’re looking for a young player, Devin Booker has established himself as a passer, D’Angelo Russell has his moments, and if you’re looking for a hidden gem, keep an eye out for the Lakers’ Jarred Vanderbilt . .
Best game of the first half
Watch the Suns vs. Clips showdown , in which Durant faced Westbrook, but in the playoffs against a CP3-winning Clippers organization. This starts on Sunday. It stands out as one of the most competitive first-round series, and at any given time there should be at least two or three players on the court that even the most remote NBA fan knows about.
Honorable mentions go to the Warriors Kings and the Cavs Knicks .
We really want to see you as a couple
There’s no shortage of last-round fights to whet your appetite. CD with warriors. KD on LeBron and the Lakers! (Durant and James haven’t been together since 2018 due to multiple injuries and a weight-management strategy. Still, don’t get your hopes up: Sun’s v. Series is unlikely.)
As with manhood, you can’t win New York against Boston or New York against Philadelphia . It looks like the Knicks will be evenly tied in one of those potential series (which should lead back to the conference finals). Arguably the best series for drama and real competition is the aforementioned Warriors of the Sun Tilt or Grizzly Warriors Showdown, in which the newcomers take on the old guard and their four rings. Memphis and Golden State also have history, meeting in a thrilling playoff game in 2021 that went to Memphis in overtime and again in the second round in 2022. The Dubs won that six-game set, but Ja Morant didn’t. Played in one of the last three games. And have there ever been troll fights like the one we saw between Draymond Green and Dillon Brooks ? Rekindling that fire would be a pretty platonic act in an NBA playoff game.
When it comes to the Finals, the showdown between the Nuggets and the 76ers will be great fun, sparking MVP debate and bringing much-needed innovation to the championship stage. Denver has never reached the NBA Finals; The Sixers have not played since 2001 and have not won since 1983.
Judges are always judges. We avoided controversy when the Dallas Mavericks decided it was best for them not to make the playoffs. The Mavs’ decision to rest several key players in the final two games of the regular season has sparked an NBA-wide investigation into the tank, which doesn’t sound like much! You are really scared!
Playoffs always have one or six games, depending on the referee’s whistle. That’s how basketball works. But refereeing during a game is very stressful and when it comes to a star player or a high quality team you don’t stop hearing about it for days.
As always, the stakes are high here. Honestly, no one expects the Lakers to win a championship, so LeBron’s legacy doesn’t matter much if they are to fail. But LeBron has never won a final against the Lakers outside of the bubble, and if he and Anthony Davis can’t go wrong, the conversation is sure to escalate.
The first championship will do wonders for the legacy of Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic . Winning an MVP is one thing, but it’s personal. Even if they try, it will be difficult for them to put a hole in the championship, which both fantastic centers are certainly capable of.
Giannis, who brought home his second Larry O’Brien in three years, was in great company. LeBron, Steph and Kobe playing back-to-back aren’t as effective, but winning two out of three is a big deal. While a league title this year does not mean career success, Giannis could join Tim Duncan and Larry Bird at two of the three clubs.
Meanwhile, Chris Paul is still looking for his first ring – 18 years later! – Can Duran beat the suns when he gets his third ring (and first without the warriors). Leonard has been included three times, each time with a different team, which has moved him up several spots on the all-time list.
This is definitely not betting advice.
Is it wrong to think that the Warriors will beat the West ? While it’s odd to see six seeds next to its name, Golden State still has some juice in it. In the first half, they spotted an inexperienced Sacramento team. Then you look at the Grizzlies, who are inexperienced even without Steven Adams, or the Lakers, who are surprisingly below center.
Even in my thirties trying to beat the Splash Bros. in the heat was like trying to stop an earthquake. Jordan Pool is always a threat at 30 and they still have their signature group of players who, for lack of a better word, are very combative. In the last eight years, crazier things have happened than teams that raised four flags and made it to the finals.
The best media tracker
You can’t start two months of serious Twitter circles without following Dragonfly Jones . Jones is the co-host of the popular Jenkins & Jones podcast and remains one of the most followed Twitter users regardless of the topic. But the content of basketball is top-notch, especially when it comes to the classic comedy art.
Write with an expert
We caught up with basketball writer and podcaster Howard Beck, who has been featured in The New York Times , Sports Illustrated , Bleacher Report and here on GQ Sports.
GQ: I think the most interesting thing about this game is how open everything is. 2015 seems to be repeating itself, with thrones at stake and many teams likely to try. How many teams do you think can realistically win all of this?
Howard Beck : Really? Maybe two: the Bucks and the Celtics. You’re the only contender with the stars, depth, and defense needed to win it all. All conventional wisdom points to both. On the other hand, the Sixers have an MVP favorite (Joel Embiid). The Nuggets have a two-time MVP (Nikola Jokic). The Suns have Kevin Durant and a couple of co-stars. The Warriors are the defending champions and they still have Steph Curry. The Lakers are back and they still have LeBron. And West is so confused this season that anything seems possible. So seven? Let’s say seven.
What tells you that a certain player or team has a real chance of winning a league?
This is the all-star league, so get started. You need MVP level centers (Giannis, LeBron, Steph) armed with another star or two. While we all love a good set (Halo, Kings, and Grizzlies), teams are often influenced by flashy names. Historically you need a top 10 defense against the Lakers, Warriors, Nuggets, Clippers and Kings.
Let’s understand strange, weird or low stories.
Remember the line from legendary NFL coach Bill Parcells: “Are you who you say you are?” I think the NBA will write. The Suns are fourth in the West, but with Durant midseason, they look like favorites to win the conference. The Warriors are tied in sixth place on points but are still considered serious contenders given their championship pedigree. Meanwhile, it’s hard to find anyone who genuinely believes in the winning potential of the Nuggets (No. 1 in the West), Grizzlies (No. 2 in the West), or Kings (No. 3 in the West). Sorry Coach Purcell, but sometimes reviews lie.
Consider this cool fact for yourself
Did you know that the Cleveland Cavaliers play the lowest stakes in the league ? Here are the stats: The Cavs are bottom with 96.27 possessions per 48 minutes (for context, the Warriors are in first place with 102.54). Unmistakably, this team can score. The Clevelands are in the top 10 on offense and could perfectly complement one of the NBA’s best defensive duos, Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell. You will only do it on purpose.
Free hot shot
Joe Mazzula may not be ready for this. The 34-year-old began the season as an interim coach with the Boston Celtics but lost that title when he took charge of the Celtics in February. But C had some tough losses in March and the manager’s behavior in the fourth quarter has been a major concern for some time. Send a message to the most Boston-minded person in your life and ask the coach how they’re feeling now that they’re at launch center and this marks the most important two months of their career.
Originally published in GQ.