NBA Play­offs Chal­lenge

Business World - - WORLDSPORTS - MICHAEL AN­GELO S. MURILLO

The Na­tional Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion (NBA) play­offs got go­ing over the week­end which only meant jacked up ex­cite­ment for ev­ery hoops afi­cionado in the next two months. And as if the games are not enough to keep fans glued to the post­sea­son, the NBA in­tro­duced the Play­offs Chal­lenge to keep the level of fan en­gage­ment at a high.

The Play­offs Chal­lenge is an­other plat­form where fans can throw their take on the go­ings-on in the NBA, in this case the play­offs which in the end de­ter­mine the world cham­pion.

In the chal­lenge, which can be played in groups un­der a cus­tom­ized league, fans se­lect who they think will win a par­tic­u­lar se­ries. But in­stead of just choos­ing the win­ner, they also have to se­lect the num­ber of games each se­ries will go (e.g. Golden State War­riors win se­ries four games to two). Points will be awarded on ac­cu­racy and re­sults.

There is also a chance to re­vise picks af­ter each round for re­duced points.

To play, one just has to log on to the NBA Play­off Chal­lenge web­site ( www.nba.com/play­offs/ brack­etchal­lenge/intl), reg­is­ter and fill out the brack­ets.

This writer was for­tu­nate to have been in­vited last week by NBA Philip­pines for the Play­off Chal­lenge along with other mem­bers of me­dia. Be­low is how my bracket goes.

For the first round, I do not see any up­sets hap­pen­ing with the vic­tors win­ning their re­spec­tive se­ries, 4-2, save for the Cleve­landIn­di­ana se­ries which I think the Cava­liers will win in five games.

I went such route in my se­lec­tion for I see the top half teams in each con­fer­ence just more steady in more ways than one and deep enough to sur­vive the ini­tial phase of the play­offs.

My picks of Philadel­phia over Mi­ami and Ok­la­homa City over Utah raised some eye­brows from friends and fam­ily mem­bers but I am stick­ing with them.

The Six­ers, young as they may be, are a tal­ented bunch and their “in­ex­pe­ri­ence” in the play­offs ac­tu­ally I think will serve them well be­cause they can go out there and play with less pres­sure since not many are ex­pect­ing them to go deep in the first place.

As for OKC, three big-time play­ers in their fold in Rus­sell West­brook, Paul Ge­orge and Carmelo An­thony is a huge ad­van­tage in the open­ing round. Mind you, I like the Jazz. But for me the play­offs are also about the stars ris­ing up and mak­ing the big plays and the Thun­der have such play­ers that can do that.

In the sec­ond round, I picked the top two teams in the West — Hous­ton and Golden State — ad­vanc­ing to the con­fer­ence fi­nals, and in the East — Cleve­land and Philadel­phia.

Hous­ton is go­ing to be a whole new op­po­nent for OKC in the con­fer­ence semi­fi­nals com­pared to Utah. The Rock­ets are deeper, ex­pos­ing the shal­low bench of the Thun­der, and they have MVP­fa­vorite James Harden. So it is Hous­ton, 4-2.

Golden State, mean­while, should have its way over Port­land, more so if as ex­pected cur­rently in­jured Stephen Curry is back in har­ness by this time. The War­riors just have more fire­power and big-game poise for the Blaz­ers and should move on, 4-1.

Cleve­land against East top seed Toronto was tough to call be­cause the Rap­tors have been solid all year long and this could well be their year in the con­fer­ence. But I am just a be­liever in LeBron James and his abil­ity to carry a team so I am go­ing their way, 4- 2.

Then Philadel­phia which I saw ini­tially as fall­ing at this point un­til I re­al­ized it will be up against Bos­ton sans All- Star Kyrie Irv­ing. The Celtics are well-coached and dis­ci­plined but up against Joel Em­biid, Ben Sim­mons and the rolling and con­fi­dent Six­ers they may have their hands full, 4-2.

In the con­fer­ence fi­nals, I see the War­riors and Cava­liers over their op­po­nents, 4-2, and set­ting up an­other NBA Fi­nals en­counter.

As good as Harden and Hous­ton have been, the War­riors col­lec­tively are more bat­tle-tested in ad­di­tion to hav­ing the top-class per­son­nel to get the job done.

Over at the East, I could have gone crazy and say Six­ers all the way but James and the Cava­liers are stand­ing in the way which is go­ing to be a tough hur­dle even for tal­ented Philadel­phia.

Then in the fi­nals, it’s the War­riors over the Cava­liers, 4-2, for hav­ing more to give in the end. James And Co. un­doubt­edly will bat­tle and give their all but the War­riors, with KD, Steph, Klay and Dray­mond lead­ing the way, one just has to love their chances.

There you go, my bracket. What’s yours?

MICHAEL AN­GELO S. MURILLO has been a colum­nist since 2003. He is a Busi­nessWorld re­porter cov­er­ing the Sports beat. msmurillo@bworl­don­line.com

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