Excited to share that this is my favorite time of the year. Yes, the NBA playoffs is finally here! It’s time for teams to put up or shut up. I’m going to share my thoughts on all 8 first round match ups:
(1) Golden State Warriors/ (8) Houston Rockets: What more can I say about Golden State? 73 wins and poised to make another run at the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Steph Curry is looking like the runaway MVP, along with Iggy as 6MOTY and Kerr the potential coach of the year once again. Houston punched their ticket during the season finale with a win over the Sacramento Kings. In all honesty, it’s not looking too good for Houston in this match up. I’m expecting Harden to put up an effective 35 points per game to even hold a chance with the Warriors. It’s hard to judge Golden State off of their first round opponent but I’m expecting Curry and the gang to come to play. It would be nice to see an impact Dwight Howard but what are the odds of that? Ball movement will also be pivotal if Houston has plans on hanging around, but a Curry/Harden shootout will be a nice one to watch. PREDICTION: GSW beat the Houston Rockets 4-1.
(4) LA Clippers/ (5) Portland Trailblazers: This will be one of the more underrated playoff series in the first round. I’m actually looking forward to this one. Chris Paul held his own as far as leading this team while Blake went down with injury + a suspension, and he couldn’t have asked for a better time to have him back. He still have some ways to go to find his rhythm, but with a deep roster including Jamal Crawford, Jeff Green, Paul Pierce, Austin Rivers, and many others off the bench, contribution is the only thing questionable about this Clippers team. I’m waiting for a player such as Jeff Green to have that impact game off the bench that this team will really need, and I know they’re counting on it as well. This team will only go as far as Blake and Chris Paul take them. As far as the Trailblazers goes, I bet no one seen this coming! Fifth seed after losing 4/5 starters. Damian Lillard has all of my respect, and way to go for CJ McCollum for stepping up at the right time, and the future is bright for this young backcourt. This team has young legs with players such as Mason Plumlee, Noah Vonleh, Allen Crabbe, and Maurice Harkless along with Dame and CJ. It will be up to Lillard to rally his troops as the leader for this exciting first round match up. Oh and by the way, they might miss Myers Leonard for this one. PREDICTION: Clippers beat out the Portland Trailblazers 4-2.
(3) Oklahoma City Thunder/ (6) Dallas Mavericks: This will be a very shaky playoff series. Both team have questions that need to be answered among themselves, especially this OKC roster. Before the season started, I said OKC was a sure favorite to win the West, but now all I see is inconsistency. What a year for the dynamic duo of KD and Westbrook, but outside of them this roster is suspect. Enes Kanter emerged off the bench during this season and can be an asset, but for this team to succeed players such as the Dion Waiters, Serge Ibaka, and Steven Adams will need night in night out contribution. It will be tough to hang with two fo the top 5 players in the league for a seven game series, though. Dallas has been the average Dallas they’ve been for the past few years, and a first round exit wouldn’t be surprising. Dirk has played exceptionally well for his age and JJ Barea has been great during the end of the season. I’d thought we’d get more out of Wesley Matthews and Chandler Parsons is out for the year. PREDICTION: OKC advances to the next round, beating Dallas 4-1
(2) San Antonio Spurs/ (7) Memphis Grizzlies: First off, hats off to Memphis for hanging on to their playoff rights despite all injuries they faced this season. They deserved it but unfortunately, this is as far as they go. In the shadow of Golden State’s 73 wins, 67-15 is magnificent! The addition of LaMarcus Aldridge worked like a charm and Kawhi Leonard looked like he’s ready for war all season long. Tim Duncan is still a solid rim protector and this Spurs bench will be VITAL for a deep playoff run. With the likes of Manu Ginobli, Kevin Martin, David West, Patty Mills, and Marjanovic they can be the difference in this playoff run. My only question mark with this team is the durability as in age and Danny Green’s outside shooting. How much can the Spurs rely on that is a big question that will soon be answered. This will be a series were Mike Conley and Marc Gasol will be missed. I just don’t see a core of Z-Bo, Lance Stephenson, and Matt Barnes holding a finger to this Spurs team. PREDICTION: Spurs sweep the Grizzlies 4-0
(1) Cleveland Cavaliers (8) Detroit Pistons: Hats off to Detroit for securing a playoff spot after an amazing move to bring in F Tobias Harris at the deadline. They showed they were serious and the emergence of C Andre Drummond has played a part in that. My biggest worry besides the fact that they’re facing the Cavs is the inconsistency and inexperience amongst these player. Reggie Jackson is a outstanding athlete with tremendous IQ, but night in and night out you’ll never know what you’re going to get from him. I don’t think that their bench is deep enough to withstand Cleveland’s deep bench. Cleveland on the other hand is expected to come out the east for a second year in a row. Health was an issue last year and this year can be something different if they can stay healthy and stick together. Lebron is coming in leading the league in points in the paint and was playing in playoff mode during the final stretch of the season. Love and Kyrie will have to be big, along with other role players. This is a match up they’re expected to win, though. PREDICTION: Cavs sweep Detroit 4-0
(4) Atlanta Hawks/ (5) Boston Celtics: This series may be a quiet, yet competitive one. I honestly believe the Boston Celtics have what it takes to go on a deep playoff run. Isaiah Thomas has been playing just as good as any other guard in front of him this season, and I’m liking the way Jae Crowder has stepped up to be one of the most improved players this season. My only thought is how will Boston bigs match up with Atlanta’s big man combo of Millsap and Horford, who can hurt you from anywhere from the arc within. There will be key matchups all across the boards even with the great backup PGs, Dennis Schroeder and Marcus Smart. What a rebuilding process for Boston and it all worked out for the best. PREDICTION: This one WILL go to 7, with Boston coming out on top on the road, 4-3
(3) Miami Heat/ (6) Charlotte Hornets: A good season for both teams but I’m going to be as straightforward as I possibly can. This Charlotte team isn’t equipped to outlast this Miami Heat team in a 7 game series. This Miami team has a nice mixture of Veteran and young talent, and the addition of Joe Johnson was just pure genius. The absence of Bosh will come back to haunt these guys more likely than not, but I don’t think in this series it will matter. Nick Batum, Kemba Walker, and Jeremy Lin will have a lot on their plate and will have to play lights out to hold a chance to the Heat. PREDICTION: Miami wins this series 4-2
(2) Toronto Raptors/ (7) Indiana Pacers: This might be a boring series, but any time you can watch playoff Monta and Paul George is a good time. Although this year I don’t believe Toronto will be a first round exit. I believe their bigs might be their only weakness in their playoff run. The return of Demarre Carroll will be vital although he’s facing early minute restriction. I like how backup PG Cory Joseph has been playing all season, controlling the tempo of this bench unit and even coming in with the starting unit making impact. Kyle Lowry has had another great season, along with Derozan. This is a dynamic backcourt and the fate of their playoff success lies in their hands. PREDICTION: Toronto wins this series 4-2
SIDENOTE PREDICTIONS: The East will be far more competitive in the playoffs this season, as they were in the regular season. I don’t think this will be a runaway playoff season like it was last year. Happy playoff season to everybody!