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With basketball set to return in what has become a unique season, the NBA has kicked things off with an enticing commercial featuring Issa Rae.

The NBA's slogan, "It's a Whole New Game" perfectly depicts the upcoming restart and postseason.

A four-month pause has given teams and players the chance to heal, recharge, and come back to what normally would be a new season–but it's not. Now more than ever, teams that may have not been expected to make the finals or even playoffs just might have a chance, if the stars align at the right time. If you're going against betting odds, here are two teams from each conference we believe have the possibility to make a surprise run in the playoffs this year.


Houston Rockets

Houston Rockets Tim Warner/Getty Images

  • 6th in the west
  • 10th in the league
  • +1400 championship odds

Eric Gordon's right knee injury affected his game this season, but hopefully the additional time off has allowed him enough time to be back to full health. Looking to return to form, Gordon could provide perimeter shooting to open up the driving lanes for Russell Westbrook and James Harden, and the Rockets could excel even without a traditional big man.

Robert Covington could also be a key player in the playoffs. As an often-overlooked player, he was brought to Houston for his defensive abilities. Statistically, Covington had been having the worst defensive season of his career. He spent the first 48 games of it in Minnesota, which means that statistical analysis alone isn't a fair assessment of how Covington can still be a force on the defensive end. He will likely be tasked with guarding opponents' best offensive player, and if he can be successful in that task, then the Rockets could be a tough team to beat.

Dallas Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks David Liam Kyle/Getty Images

  • 7th in the west
  • 13th in the league
  • +5000 championship odds

Last year's rookie of the year and this year's candidate for MVP and most improved player, Luca Doncic, has proven to be a big-time performer at all levels, and we've yet to see him let pressure affect his game.

Kristaps Porzingis is another one to watch for. Porzingis has always been an anomaly since entering the league. Coined "The Unicorn" by some, his combination of size, shooting, and defensive ability is almost impossible to stop when he's on the court. Unfortunately, Porzingis has been sidelined with injuries throughout his career; but, much like Joel Embiid, he's only going to help the team if he's on the floor and fit to play.

It also doesn't hurt to consider that the Mav's hold the highest offensive rating in the history of the NBA. I question if Dallas has the structure around their two Euro sensations, but the duo may be good enough to do it themselves.

Philadelphia 76ers

Philadelphia 76ers Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

  • 6th in the east
  • 12th in the league
  • +2000 championship odds

Things were not looking good for Philly before the March pause. Simmons was out with a back injury and not slated to be back for the original start of the playoffs. Joel Embiid has also, yet again, dealt with nagging injuries this season. But he's continued to show what he can accomplish if he's able to stay healthy enough to reach his full potential.

The Sixers have shifted Ben Simmons into the power forward position while still maintaining primary ball-handler responsibilities. Averaging 17 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists per game on the year already, this move might be the change the Sixers need to elevate Simmons to a new level.

In their first scrimmage game, Simmons just missed a triple-double. The Sixers have the star power to take on any team in the playoffs, but will a lack of perimeter shooting (JJ Redick) prevent them from advancing through the eastern conference?

Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

  • 3rd in the east
  • 5th in the league
  • +2000 championship odds

Kemba Walker struggled during the games leading up to the pause in March due to a knee injury. Having the extra four months off to heal has greatly improved the Celtic's chance of making the NBA Finals.

Jason Tatum was on fire before the pause and is expected to pick back up right where he left off as a dangerous scoring threat. His progression has been impressive this season, posting 17 points per game while shooting just under 46% from the field. Walker and Tatum provide Boston with two all-star caliber threats on offense to pair alongside budding star Jaylen Brown, who we have seen improving throughout the 2019-2020 campaign and could be the third piece to a Celtic championship puzzle.

The time off also gave Gordon Hayward more time to recover. He is now the healthiest he has been since his gruesome injury sustained during the 2017 season opener. His ability to score from anywhere on the floor and make smart plays with or without the ball makes him an X factor that could push Boston all the way through to the finals.

Paul George grabbing a rebound in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals

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In a must win game for the Los Angeles Clippers, Paul George was finally able to look like the best player on the floor in a playoff game.

After a slow start, George poured it on in the second half on his way to a game high 41 points in Game 5. The performance elevated the Clippers over strong outings from the likes of Devin Booker and Chris Paul as L.A. outlasted Phoenix 116-102.

The Clippers don't have much time to bask in their win however as they have to turn around and play two more elimination games just to make it out of the West. The Suns jumped out to a 3-1 series lead as Los Angeles struggled to find their identity without Kawhi Leonard. If the Clippers are to stave off elimination any longer, George has to continue this level of play.

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Ben Simmons disappointed in the playoffs this season

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Following a Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the Philadelphia 76ers and coach, Doc Rivers, are questioning if Ben Simmons is the right guy to be running their offense through moving forward.

Offense being the key word here.

Simmons is an all-world defender possessing the ability to guard virtually any opponent on the court from the perimeter to the rim. But it was his lack of offensive help throughout this playoff season that stood out beyond any accomplishments this year. Simmons joined Rudy Gobert as unanimous selections for the NBA's All-Defensive First Team this year and also finished fifth in the NBA in assists per game with 8.8 per contest.

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The Lakers looked lost in the Valley

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Phoenix Suns are just a win away from sending LeBron James home in the first round of the playoffs for the first time in the King's illustrious career.

After stating that "These shoulders were built for a reason," James referring to facing the challenge of taking on added responsibilities after Anthony Davis was ruled out for Game 5, the Lakers and LeBron disappointed in a big way Tuesday night. L.A. started off hot jumping out to a 10-5 lead behind a couple shots from James and a three from Davis' replacement Markieff Morris. But it didn't take long for the wheels to completely fall off for the defending champion Lakers as they spent most of the first half trying to remember how basketball works.

LeBron James LeBron looking on during Game 5Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Two numbers stick out in the Game 5 loss for the Lakers and those are 34.5 and 12. Los Angeles shot 34.5% from the field on Tuesday night and were minus 12 in turnover ratio. No matter who's on your team, if you can't shoot and you can't protect the ball, the outcome is already determined.

The Suns weren't simply beneficiaries of a poor performance however as the Suns put it on the Lakers early and often and they never let their foot off the pedal for 48 minutes. Phoenix ended with 15 more assists, had seven more combined steals and blocks, and outscored L.A. in the paint by 12 points. Devin Booker and Cameron Payne were spectacular and they seemed to hit big shots every time the Lakers appeared to threaten a comeback. Mikal Bridges was effective on both sides of the ball adding three steals and two blocks to help electrify his team with the defensive effort.


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