NBA Playoff Predictions: Round Numba One
I gotta say, what started out with yet another inevitable Warriors regular season and playoffs rout, is now all of a sudden interesting. More interesting if Kawhi's uncle let him play no doubt; not to mention the likes of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward getting some of that good vibranium. Still, it appears that parity, at least for now, has kinda returned to the NBA. I still think the final two teams we thought would be standing, will remain standing, but in the meantime maybe something crazy will happen like Chris Paul -- 11 seasons deep -- finally making the Conference Finals.
Not much time left til tip off on my end so let's get started with my Eastern Conference first round predictions.
Yes, I only do one round at a time predictions. Deal with it.
(1) Raptors vs (8) Wizards
When the likes of perennial big man reserve and dirty player Jason Smith are chirping before the playoffs even begin, nevermind Wall and Beal, the Wizards are still who we thought they were. Still, I'll just say what everyone else says, which is that the Wizards starting five is scary, and if they actually play up to their competition, can beat almost any team in the league.
Plus, I'm reluctant to bet on Demar, Kyle, and Drake, who've lost 10 darn game ones in a row. Heck, the injured Miami Heat, led by Old Man D-Wade, pushed them to seven a few years ago. Sure, the Canadians have a bench now, including likeable gritty dudes like Powell and VanVleet, but stars matter more this time of year.
In the end, I say the Raptors win, but if you think this is going any less than 6 you're tripping.
Raptors in 6
(2) Celtics vs (7) Bucks
Hopefully most of these games are relegated to NBATV or CSPAN. I will say the Bucks organization did J-Kidd dirty. As for the Celtics, sucks they got the injury bug, not just from a Kyrie and Hayward perspective, but most biased commentator of all time Tommy Heinsohn has been MIA for a while too.
Celtics in 5
(3) 76ers vs (6) Heat
For the first time since probably 2010, people are seriously picking a non-Lebron led team to reach the finals for the east. And isn't even out of wanting some fresh meat, say like when the verticality era Indiana Pacers were spoonfed to us, when we all knew how that story would turn out against Miami. People are picking the 6ers because they have potentially two generational players, have been bad for a while, and now have given the city hope. I'd be remiss not to mention honorary Philly product Stephen A. Smith's relentless take that black executives, the handful of them, would have been laughed out of the building if they pitched "Trust the Process."
That aside, I'm old school and believe experience counts for quite a bit in the playoffs and Philly, outside of Redick and Bellinelli, don't have much. D-Wade (and UD) have more than everyone on Philly combined. Problem is, unlike last year where the Heat finished on an incredible post-all star break tear, they're a paltry 9-7 to finish the season. And D-Wade hasn't exactly looked like D-Wade, even the diminished old man version. Ultimately and tragically...
76ers in 6
(4) Cavs vs 5 (Pacers)
Yes, that's not a typo the Cleveland Cavaliers hold the forth seed. The Pacers have had a strong season, led by a rejuvenated Oladipo, who's had his best season as a pro (cue the lazy take that Westbrook held him back). On the one hand, this Pacers team isn't as talented as the ones Lebron faced when he was wearing a Heat jersey. On the other, this is the most dysfunctional Lebron team probably ever. Love seems to have worked his way back into form and J.R. Smith's 3 point shooting has opened up of late, having overcome his latest battle, well, with himself.
Cavs in 6
(1) Rockets vs (8) Wolves
That final game between the Wolves and the Nuggets to determine who would get creamed by the Rockets was a blast. The surprising number one seed is dealing with a few injuries, including to Mbah a Moute, a critical defensive piece in D'Antoni's more balanced orchestra. For Paul, these early rounds don't matter. Ditto for Harden, who's been basically a no-show in the postseason when it matters. Yes, the Wolves are likely better than an eight seed, especially if Jimmy Buckets wasn't out for a while, but the Rockets and the Warriors were so much better than the rest of the pack for most of the year.
Rockets in 5
(2) Warriors vs (7) Spurs
The first game on the NBA 2018 Playoffs docket is only slightly in doubt because of how the Warriors have limped into the playoffs. I say it's mostly injuries and boredom more than something deeper, but the Warriors bench hasn't looked as strong this year either. The Spurs, offensively helmed by Aldridge's 20+ppg and Gay's 11ppg, will struggle to score all series. And a stingy defense and Pop's voodoo can only do so much.
Warriors in 5
(3) Blazers vs (6) Pelicans
This could actually be the most interesting series in the west in round one. Besides those other two guys in the Bay, Dame and CJ, are the best backcourt in the league. Part of it comes down to if AD can outplay Lillard and McCollum. And let's not sleep on playoff Rajon Rondo.
Blazers in 7
(4) Thunder vs (5) Jazz
Another potential bloodbath that could go the distance. The Thunder have been up and down all season, and definitely down of late. PG is shooting in the low thirties totally in a funk and totally open about it. And Westbrook, despite his brilliance, still too often plays on an island in the clutch. I'm interested to see how Adams holds his own against the Jazz's bigs.
Thunder in 6
See ya for round two!