After a long, long wait, the NBA's postseason has arrived, and, as always, intriguing storylines are bountiful. Here are three to keep an eye on:
The bubble effect - The NBA's Orlando bubble has been the major storyline since play picked up again following the league's coronavirus pandemic-related hiatus. Now, the big question is what the manufactured home court advantage will mean. Crowd noise is pumped into give the "home" team an advantage, and those teams have won games after the restart at the same clip they did in the regular season, but it's a small sample size. Could this lead to more upsets, or will higher seeds still have that advantage?
Are the Lakers in trouble? - LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers are still one of the favorites to win the title, but they've looked a little shaky since they got to Orlando, going 2-5 in their tune up games. There's reason to believe it was a fluke; the team had all but locked up the Western Conference's no. 1 seed and was shaking off months of rust. But their opponents, the Portland Trail Blazers, are one of the league's hottest teams, led by one of its hottest players, Damian Lillard. They'll likely be tired from the furious run to sneak into the playoffs, but they're also more talented than their record lets on and there's a sense among NBA analysts they could give the Lakers a real fight.
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Can Toronto repeat? — It's been a strange year for the defending NBA champions. Nobody expected the Toronto Raptors to remain a true contender after losing Kawhi Leonard to free agency, but the team barely skipped a beat, winning 53 games and locking up the Eastern Conference's no. 2 seed. Leonard is gone, but Pascal Siakim has taken over as the team's star and he's flanked by several other veterans, all of whom have championship experience. Toronto has a chance to become one of the most unlikely repeat champs ever.
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