NBA Playoff Predictions: Round Deux
I know, I'm slightly late to the game because both the Pelis/Dubs, Rox/Jazz already kicked off the western conference semifinals over the weekend. First, a moment on round one. What an incredible two weeks of hoops. This was probably the best first round of the NBA playoffs in at least half a decade, even though I flubbed a few predictions (who knew Portland would be straight up swept by AD, Playoff Rondo, and a resurgent Jrue Holiday?) The 76ers and Heat series, though I hated the result, was especially fun and much closer than the final 5 game ending. It felt like those old Knicks and Heat series from the late 1990s -- just a pure slugfest, but mostly clean instead of dirty. And though Whiteside has now regressed to Bynum the Bowler levels, we got another classic D-Wade playoff performance which I've already rewatched about ten times. I'm not proud of it but in a moment of despair, I tweeted that the man should retire during the 2014 Finals. Now, four years later, Flash is proving that he can still singlehandedly control a game for at least a night and own a Hollywood celeb (Kevin Hart) in the process.
As for the Cavs, for the first time in a bit, I actually found myself rooting against them slightly versus Indiana. This Cavs team, with a hobbled Love, is as weak a Lebron James team as we've seen since 2007. And at least the likes of Eric Snow seemed to play with heart and effort. (I think greatest shooter in the world Damon Jones was on that team, too). Oh, and get this -- Apart from Lebron, no other player on the Cavs scored 20 points in a single game over the course of the seven game series. That's just crazy. Right now, it's man vs. world and in round one that was enough. But I can't see that sustaining for much longer.
And finally, OKC's out, with Westbrook pretty much illustrating all that's wrong and right with him over the course of six games. On the heels of being outplayed by Ricky Rubio earlier in the series, Westbrook guaranteed that wouldn't happen again, though not exactly in those words. The next game, though, WB laid an egg again, picking up four early fouls, most accrued guarding Rubio. It wasn't until game 5 that Russ finally made good on his promise, able to be brilliantly competitive while remaining under control. But OKC still went down in game 6, with Melo and PG coming up short.
On to round 2!
Eastern Conference Semifinals
Celtics (2) vs. Philly (3)
So now they're saying Jaylen Brown is out for game 1, which gives the Celtics even less of a chance here than I already would have given them. Fully loaded, this matchup would be incredible and I'd give the Celtics the edge. These two teams will likely be the toasts of the east for years to come -- move over Cleveland and Miami aka whatever team Lebron is on. Philly was tested by the Heat, with vets like Belly Nelly showing up and newbies like Embiid and Simmons growing up before our eyes. I know Brad Stevens is good but let's be real here.
Philly in 5
Toronto (1) vs. Cleveland (4)
The Raptors are a much better team than the Cleveland Cavaliers. Yes, I'm being really bold today. But at times against Washington in a series that went longer than it should, the Raptors reverted back to their crappy hoops brand of old. If Lowry and DeRozan move the ball and allow their depth to be their big advantage, this one could be over fast. But if they actually think they can beat Lebron by themselves, things could get interesting. In the end...
Raptors in 6
Western Conference Finals
Houston (1) vs. Utah (5)
I'm going to try not to let what I saw over the weekend influence my position. In fact, in the 4th quarter, the Ricky Rubio-less Jazz looked a lot better than they did during another one of the Rockets' offensive explosions that they're prone to have. Let's not forget that the Jazz are led by a rook (who should be rookie of the year if people jumped off the Simmons bandwagon). It's gonna take some time for Mitchell to get used to the even brighter early May lights. I say the Jazz get one or two at home thanks to the mean fans Russ went on about, but nothing beyond that.
Houston in 6
Warriors (2) vs. Pelicans (6)
Again, I'm going to pretend I didn't see the Warriors look like that annoying team no one in the league could keep up with. At the end of the day, it's defense that can curb this superteam, not trying to outscore them. Hopefully Gentry keeps that in mind going forward and slows the pace and goes into proper post ups with AD. It's still early, but you'd think the Pelis would've have drawn blood first sans Curry if they wanted a respectable outcome here. And Curry is likely coming back soon too. Man.
Warriors in 5