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We’ve heard too much about Milwaukee and the LA’s. Boring. What better time for an underdog to sneak into the Finals than during a pandemic bubble dome stadium? 

An aside: I want to imagine the “bubble” is a stadium actually shaped like half of a bubble. I won’t listen to anything otherwise

 

1. Houston Rockets

David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

I think the Rockets are the most dangerous team that no one is really discussing. Before the season ended temporarily, there was concern among the national writers that Houston’s small ball game would wear down as they reached the playoffs.

Now, with a three month midseason break, PJ Tucker can recover from banging around with the 7-foot opponents and Westbrook will regain his full explosiveness (it wasn’t too far from 100% anyway but still).

Look for the Rockets to move up the standings (they are currently tied in win percentage with OKC) and potentially get into a 3-6 matchup to propel themselves to an easy first round.

 

2. OKC Thunder

Kathy Willins / AP

Listen, this is a Thunder website. Of course we’re gonna make the arguments in favor of OKC’s success.

Much like PJ Tucker recovering from all the banging around down low, so will Steven Adams. Year after year we have seen Steve lose steam in the first round of the playoffs, many assuming it was due to his wear and tear through the season.

We saw the same in the final games before the suspended season. Now he has his own 3 month break.

CP3, similarly, is an older point guard with historically bad injury luck at the end of the season (see Houston, 2016 WCF). He’ll be 100% ready to go as well. Expect a strong push immediately out the gate, as this team was clicking on all cylinders back in March.

Assuming no crazy changes in the standings, OKC will be in the 4-5 matchup, which could be against Utah or Houston. Either matchup is a very possible series win, and then it comes down to potential injuries among the Lakers or Clippers.

Remember last year the Warriors were basically handed the Larry O’Brien trophy before the postseason and then they fell apart? Anything can happen in the playoffs.

3. Denver Nuggets

Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post

Denver’s playoffs on the past has cast plenty of doubt among the their fanbase. But this team is full of weapons. Of course, you have Jokic (who apparently lost about 100 pounds during quarantine) and Jamal Murray, but you also have deadly shooters in Gary Harris and Will Barton and athletic young wings in Jerami Grant and Michael Porter Jr.

They can attack in so many different ways it’s really impossible to always contain them. If they can keep to their scheme and execute better in the playoffs than before, they can easily matchup with the Lakers or Clippers in full force.

 

4. Toronto Raptors

Really the only team in the East that I think can challenge the Bucks is Toronto.

The departure of Kawhi turned everyone’s eyes to the Clippers, but Toronto is still very, very good. Siakam and Van Vleet are a year older and more developed, OG Anunoby is back in the lineup, and the veteran mentality from Gasol and Lowry makes this team incredibly well-rounded and experienced.

It will take all of their forces to stop this Bucks team, but it is entirely possible. But I won’t be surprised if they finish atop the East.

 

That concludes the dark horses. What do you all think? Let us know.

Lu Dort is still not signed. MAKE THIS HAPPEN PRESTI.

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Matt Tierney