NBA playoffs are wide open, for once

ImageCreditPeter and Maria Hoey

ImageCreditPeter and Maria Hoey

The Houston Rockets, Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors are the only three teams that could be considered winning it all.

These are the kinds of maddeningly inconsistent mental moments the Wizards have had all season - the reason they are the eighth seed, instead of the fifth or sixth as they should have been.

Philadelphia, after years of the rebuilding saga known as "The Process", has a chance as well.

John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards, Mike Scott #30 of the Washington Wizards and John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards exit the court during the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on April 5, 2018 at The Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.

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The Indiana Pacers do not hold a star on their roster. Ball protection was much improved in the second half of Game 1 and that helped the defence greatly, allowing the Raptors to guard 5-on-5 in the half court and lock into tendencies and play calls. James Harden and LeBron James have been getting a lot of MVP mentions, but don't sleep on this guy.

The Miami Heat have the same issue. Boston already has a history of difficulty stopping the Buck's star player Giannis Antetokounmpo.

There were winners, and, naturally some losers from the Game 1 action across the US.

Unfortunately, the first-day wasn't as entertaining as everybody expected. The eight top teams from each Western and Eastern conference will play each other in a series of seven games. If I'm in his shoes, I go the Tom Thibodeau route and ride my top players into the ground. Sadly, the reason they can not compete is because of injuries. The 16 teams in these playoffs combined to win 351 games on the road in the regular season, or 54 percent.

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They have not been healthy all year and will not be able to challenge James with simply young talent. That being said, this year seems different. At 33, James has been as dominant as ever, and he has a way of flipping the switch to an even higher level in the playoffs.

I'll make the argument that the better, more intriguing matchups can be found in the East. LeBron taking on the Pacers and his personal nemesis, Lance Stepheson, for a seven-game series doesn't get you gassed? Guess who's going to be sitting on their couch watching the playoffs? Taking it up a notch, Mitchell didn't even think he was worthy of being a first round draft pick this time a year ago.

As we've seen in the past, the Warriors know well how to harass James enough to make his nights hard, and this time around, he has an uncertain supporting group. They won 16 straight to end the regular season and the first game of the playoffs. They're scrappy, and while the lack of talent will catch up to them at some point, it might just be later than everyone thinks. - Z.F.

Who in their right mind would have expected Derrick Rose and Jamal Crawford to each outscore Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns? MVP candidate Anthony Davis, Jrue Holliday and playoff Rajon Rondo is a cast that can compete in the east. The only problem is Paul George might be the one blanketing him during the series against the Thunder. This is a matchup that is one step too far to speculate, the Rockets this season are just too good with both Chris Paul and James Harden on the floor. It comes as no surprise that the Sixers' two leading scorers in Game 1 (Marco Belinelli and J.J. Redick) are two veterans with NBA Finals experience. However, instead of the Warriors running away with the 1-seed like they have for three straight years, the Houston Rockets have dethroned them this year.

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Finally, the Warriors are still the favorite to win it all. They have another all-star in Karl Anthony-Towns, but he is not almost enough to defeat the best team in the National Basketball Association this season. If that is not the recipe for success, then no one knows what is. The Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets have been considered the two teams coming out of the west.

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