What’s different about this year’s NBA playoffs? Absolutely everything

Eight teams are still alive — including five with zero titles between them — and none of us has a clue what’s going to happen from here.

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Phoenix Suns v New York Knicks

Devin Booker, Chris Paul and the Suns have already knocked off the defending-champion Lakers.

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Is it possible this is the wildest, strangest, most wide-open NBA postseason since before Larry Bird’s Celtics vs. Magic Johnson’s Lakers was a thing?

Look, just bear with us here.

The last decade was nothing but LeBron James and/or Stephen Curry in the Finals. Before that, you had Kobe Bryant’s Lakers and the Celtics’ Big Three. Before that, the heart of the Spurs’ dynasty. Before that, the Kobe-Shaq Lakers three-peat. Before that, a little something we like to call six Bulls championships. Before that, the Pistons’ heyday. We’re back in the 1980s now, folks.

And just look at who’s still alive this year. The 76ers are aiming for their first title since 1983. The Bucks are trying to win it all for the first time since five weeks before Lew Alcindor changed his name in 1971. The Hawks haven’t pulled it off since 1958, a decade before they moved from St. Louis to Atlanta.

The other five quarterfinalists — the Nets, Jazz, Suns, Clippers and Nuggets — have a grand total of zero NBA championships. Sorry, Nets, but your ABA crowns in 1974 and 1976 don’t count. Sheesh, you were still known as the New York Nets back then.

And though the Nets entered these playoffs as the favorites, they watched superstar James Harden walk off the court in the second-round opener with a hamstring injury. How long will he be out? And will he be able to stick around if and when he comes back?

Eight teams left in the NBA playoffs, and none of us has a clue what’s coming. What’s stranger than that?

Here’s what’s happening:


Bucks at Nets, Game 2 (6:30 p.m., TNT)

Game 1 wasn’t even a close shave for Brooklyn without Harden, but going Beardless for long would be dangerous business.


Lightning at Hurricanes, Game 5 (5:30 p.m., NBCSN)

Just when it looked like Carolina might even the series in Game 4, the champs went off with yet another flurry of goals on the power play. Somebody remind Tom Brady the Buccaneers are merely the second-best team in Tampa.

Golden Knights at Avalanche, Game 5 (8 p.m., NBCSN)

These teams tied for the regular-season points lead, were 1-2 in goal differential and split the season series with four wins apiece. This thing has to get to a Game 7, doesn’t it?

New York Mets v San Diego Padres

Darvish has been lights-out all season long.

Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images


Cubs at Padres (3:10 p.m., Marquee)

Who needs Yu Darvish, anyway? The Cubs castoff, who starts today, is merely 6-1 with a 2.25 ERA, and his team a ho-hum 11-1 when he takes the mound.

USMNT vs. Costa Rica (6 p.m., ESPN2, UniMas)

The Americans play a friendly against Fire captain Francisco Calvo’s home squad, and let’s face it: It isn’t often anyone is friendly to the last-place Fire.

Fever at Sky (7 p.m., CBSSN, The U)

Once upon a time, the Sky were 2-0 and the existence of Candace Parker was more than just a rumor. Another “L” would make eight straight.

THU 10

Blue Jays at White Sox (7:10 p.m., NBCSCH)

Toronto’s Hyun-Jin Ryu is one of the best lefties in the game, but he has never beaten the Sox. In a related development, this will be his first time facing the Sox.

Clippers at Jazz, Game 2 (9 p.m., ESPN)

Isn’t L.A. the underdog? Doesn’t matter. All the pressure is on Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to drag this never-been-there, never-done-that franchise to its first Finals.

St Louis Cardinals v Chicago Cubs

It’s hard to top Cubs-Cards at Wrigley.

Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images

FRI 11

Cardinals at Cubs (1:20 p.m., Marquee)

Baseball’s best rivalry on a 75ish-degree afternoon on the day Wrigley Field opens back up to 100% capacity? You’re right, it probably won’t be any fun.

76ers at Hawks, Game 3 (6:30 p.m., ESPN)

The sweet stench of series upset has been in the air since Trae Young and company dropped 42 first-quarter points on Philly in a Game 1 victory.

Suns at Nuggets, Game 3 (9 p.m., ESPN)

Yes, the upstart Suns have already knocked off LeBron James and Anthony Davis. But can they really handle Nikola Jokic and Shaquille Harrison?

SAT 12

French Open women’s final (8 a.m., Ch. 5)

Unless Poland’s Iga Swiatek gets all the way through and repeats, Roland-Garros will crown a sixth consecutive first-time champion.

White Sox at Tigers (3:10 p.m., NBCSCH)

Six days after striking out 10 Tigers hitters in seven scoreless innings, Dylan Cease gets to toy with them again. Wait, did we say “Tigers hitters”?

SUN 13

French Open men’s final (8 a.m., Ch. 5)

Another French title for clay king Rafael Nadal would be his record 14th. Second on the list? That would be Max Decugis, who won the tournament eight times from 1903 to 1914 (but you probably knew that already).

Cardinals at Cubs (6:08 p.m., ESPN)

The end of a weekend series between these teams is always bittersweet. Especially when the Brewers are in first place.

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