Regret-Table Setting the NBA Playoffs

I believe it's rare for someone to truly live a life without regret. There are so many chances to look back and think you could have handle certain situations differently or better. You might not recognize it in the moment, but the passage of time could bring you to another conclusion. The teams that make the NBA playoffs are in the throws of battle. There isn't time to reminisce when you're trying to figure out how to extend a series back to your home gym for Game 6.

With the postseason starting this past weekend, questions of how some teams approached a part of the regular season are coming into focus. We won't know how they, including the following ones, will be answered until late July. However, it is fun to speculate what questions need to be played out.

Will the Viewing Public Regret Dismissing the Bucks' Title Chances?

The last two seasons, Milwaukee power forward Giannis Antetokounmpo turned enough heads with his play to grab the league's MVP award. The last two seasons, the Greek Freak couldn't parlay that individual success into a trip to the Finals, let alone the championship. After a while, people (mainly fans and talking heads) get a little gun-shy. So, going into this postseason, the doubts are real. It doesn't help that the Bucks facing a Miami Heat team that ousted them from the 2020 bubble.

The last two offseasons, Milwaukee's brass scoured the free agent and trade market to get Giannis the help he needs to make a long playoff run. This past Fall, the major acquisition was Jrue Holiday. Now, the wondering of whether that move will pay off is front and center. In Saturday's series opener, the point guard made good to the tune of 20 points and 11 rebounds. But will his contributions to Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton be enough to push the East's 3-seed past the Heat (let alone the whole conference)?

Will the Suns Regret Earning the 2-Seed Out West?

Phoenix's season was an inspiring turnaround. After going 8-0 in last season's bubble (and picking up a savvy and veteran point guard), the Suns surprised everyone by leapfrogging several postseason stalwarts over the course of the season. Finishing with the second-best record in the Association, they received a uniquely special reward ... the defending champs.

We all know about the injury issues the Lakers struggled through for the majority of 2021. As the playoffs start to churn, the trophy holders are getting more whole. The tag-team juggernaut of LeBron James and Anthony Davis are back on the court, which is all anyone cheering for Purple & Gold can ask. Because of the presence of the two stars, many have demonstrably favored the seventh-seeded Lakers over the playoff neophyte Suns. Sunday's Game 1 victory staved off their detractors for the moment, but has the franchise from the Desert bitten off more than they can chew (through no fault of their own)?

Will the 76ers Regret Not Finalizing a Trade For James Harden?

Brooklyn struggled early on Saturday. However, the Nets pulled it together and beat Boston in the opener of that series. This organization from the borough got a mega-boost from the blockbuster trade that brought in a certain former MVP from Houston. According to some, Harden would be this year's MVP front-runner had it not been for missing 18 games due to that hamstring injury.

It was also well known that Philadelphia was very interested to pair Harden's talents with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Once it became official that Brooklyn yelled "Beard Bingo," nothing else seemed to matter. The Sixers could have won out for the rest of the regular season. The main test would be whether Philly's firepower could hang for seven games with the triple-pronged attack to the north. Could Milwaukee provide some relief to this potential Brotherly burden? Sure. And I'm betting the Sixers would happily avoid all that smoke ... if need be.

Will the Clippers Regret Their Strategy to Avoid the Lakers as Long as Possible?

If Saturday was an indicator, the Clippers may receive a definitive answer sooner than they would like. It'd be foolish to think that Dallas doesn't hold last season's first-round matchup in the back of their minds. The Mavericks know that they grabbed two of the first four games in that series. They're aware that star point guard Luka Doncic played through an ankle injured in Game 2 of that series. They have the knowledge that star forward Kristaps Porzingis didn't play over the second half of that six-game stretch.

This is a new season and a new series. Doncic and Porzingis are healthy. But that didn't deter the Clippers from taking a different tactic for the end of the regular season. With two games left, this L.A. sat third in the conference standings. Despite their position, they knew that the other L.A. team was getting healthy. They also knew staying on the bottom half of the playoff draw might mean a matchup with that other L.A. team before the conference finals.

So, the Clippers decided to lose their contests against Houston and Oklahoma City (who ended up with the two worst records in the West). This left them fourth in the conference standings. However, what message did that send to the Mavericks? There's a lot of pride in competition. You've got to believe Dallas has that in droves. Can the Mavs use that pride to create the downfall of the Clippers?

Does the NBA Regret the Results of Their Play-In Tournament?

When looking at the league's first "full" Play-In tournament, the results were opposite between the conferences. The East saw nothing but blowouts, with none of the three results being closer than 18 points. With that, there was no change in the initial seeding. Charlotte lost against Indiana and finished 10th. Boston defeated Washington to hold on to their 7th-place finish. The Wizards then beat the Pacers to keep both teams in their respective 8th and 9th spots from the regular season standings.

The West tournament was dramatic. All three games were decided by 3, 4, and 5 points, with the 5-point result coming in an overtime matchup. Unlike the East, though, seeding did not hold. The Lakers (as said above) held on to the 7th seed after LeBron James' late shot-clock, late game-clock triple lifted his team over Golden State. The Warriors couldn't come through for the 8th seed. After Memphis dispatched San Antonio, Ja Morant and crew held on to oust Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and the Dubs. Are the Association higher-ups happy with the young, exciting Morant making his first playoff appearance, or are they bummed to miss out on seeing this version of Curry, if just for a few more games? Commissioner Adam Silver hopes to make this event a permanent fixture. But will it be fruitful long-term?

In my experience, regrets aren't usually positive. They can nag you for ages, creating frustrating "what if" scenarios that will play out over and over forever. The 16 teams still alive hope to destroy those regrets by winning the title. For the 15 that don't, those questions may float around forevermore.

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