The NBA playoffs have one hell of an act to follow. On the final night of the regular season, an occasion usually undersold by resting stars, meaningless matches and coach sackings, two gripping stories unfolded on the West Coast.
While the Golden State Warriors aimed to break the single-season record for most NBA wins in a campaign, an LA Lakers icon bowed out after 20 seasons wearing purple and gold.
Judging by the way the defending champion Warriors had gone about collecting their previous 72 wins this term, there was little surprise when they tagged on the decisive 73rd against an undermanned Memphis Grizzlies.
The real shock was that, a mere hour’s flight away, Kobe Bryant was turning back the clock in his final game as a pro.
The retiring star scored 60 points against the Utah Jazz, hauling his team to a 101-96 win at home and bowing out of the NBA in utter personal glory.
It says everything about the 37-year-old’s attraction that, in a dead rubber, more people watched him throw up 50 shots to score those 60 points than tuned in to see the Warriors create history.
Nevertheless as confetti decorated both courts, the Warriors and Bryant had sent the postseason an unmistakeable message: follow that.
Unfortunately, there looks to be little chance of the Western Conference managing to do so in the first round. The Warriors, San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder – the top three seeds – all went unbeaten against their upcoming respective opponents, the Houston Rockets, Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks.
However, in the Eastern Conference bracket, the Detroit Pistons could just spring a surprise on the top dogs. They won three of the four games they played against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, although the last in that sequence came in a battle of the benches on the final game of the season.
The rest of the first round looks evenly balanced, with the Toronto Raptors battling the Indiana Pacers, the Boston Celtics facing the Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat taking on the Atlanta Hawks.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.