NBA Round 1 Playoff Preview

Playoffs? We’re talking about playoffs.

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Western Conference

Golden State Warriors (1 seed, 73-9) vs. Houston Rockets (8 seed, 41-41)

  • So…  the Rockets battled at the end of the season to get into the playoffs by winning their last 3 games and were rewarded with the honor of facing the historically good (literally) Warriors team that seemed to break every single NBA record this year. So what  can we expect from this series?  Is it a wash?
  • Well nobody in their right mind expects the Rockets to pull off an upset here, but I do believe that they will be able to make at least a few games interesting, and might even steal a game at home.  James Harden is a special offensive talent who can take over a game and win single handily, and if he gets hot and drops 40 points in a game (or 2 or 3), this could be a fun series to watch.  Michael Beasley was also a very underrated signing by Houston, and his stretch play has worked well in their system.  And who knows?  If Houston can steal 2 games, Golden State might get rattled and you never now what can happen…
  • That being said, Golden State is not just good, they’re great, and they will win the series.  I predict in 5.

San Antonio Spurs (2 seed, 67-15) vs. Memphis Grizzles (7 seed, 42-40)

  • Memphis stumbled into the playoffs this year, going 1-9 over their last 10, mainly due to season-ending injuries to both Mike Conley and Marc Gasol.  If the season was just a few days longer, they probably would not have made it at all.  However, Spurs fans all remember another season, not too long ago, when Memphis, as the 8 seed, upset the #1 Spurs in the first round.
  • If it wasn’t for Golden State’s historic run this year, everyone would be talking about how great the Spurs have been.  Even after all of the success that San Antonio has had over the years, they set their franchise wins record this year.  They have been locked into an at worst #2 seed for about 3 weeks now, so Coach Pop has been able to rest the starters for long stretches, which does not bode well for Memphis.  If any Western Conference first round series is going to be a sweep, this is it.

Oklahoma City Thunder (3 seed, 55-27) vs. Dallas Mavericks (6 seed, 42-40)

  • OKC knows more than anyone how important health is going into the playoffs, as their previous runs were cut short by injures to Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, and Kevin Durant.  This year, however, they look healthy, which is a scary thought for the injury-riddled Mavericks.
  • Rick Carlisle, Dallas’s coach, is extremely good at putting together game plans that work with what he has.  And in the past, despite being outmatched on paper, they have made several playoff series competitive on that strength.  Will that be enough to overcome the extreme athletic advantage possessed by OKC?  Probably not.  But don’t be surprised if this series is more competitive than most people expect.

Los Angelas Clipper (4 seed, 53-29) vs. Portland TrailBlazers (5 seed, 44-38)

  • Man, who expected Portland to finish as a 5th seed this year?  Granted, they have one of the top 5 backcourts in the league, but after that, not much else.
  • And the Clippers have come so far in the past 5 years.  It wasn’t that long ago that they were the but of all NBA jokes, and now they are widely considered some of the cream of the crop, with Paul, Griffin, and Jordon overtaking the purple and gold as the most popular basketball in town.
  • Watching Lilliard vs. Paul will be a treat for all basketball fans, but LA’s frontcourt talent will simply overpower whoever Portland throws out there, and that will be the story of this series.  Lilliard just cannot catch a break – no All-Star selection, and no round 2 of the playoffs.

 

Easter Conference

Cleveland Cavaliers (1 seed, 57-25) vs. Detroit Pistons (8 seed, 44-38)

  • Man, can you imagine how last year’s playoffs would have gone if Kevin Love didn’t get hurt in the first round?  We could be talking about the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers instead of a team that was beaten by Golden State.  This year, just like last year, nobody in the East is as good as Cleveland.  With the trio of  King James, Irving, and Love, they can hang with anybody.  But 2 big questions still remain: can they stay healthy, and can that trio consistently play well together?
  • Detroit is young, and honestly, probably just happy to not be on vacation at this point.  Expect a few big games out of Andre Drummond, but honestly, this series should be fairly easy for Cleveland.  Besides, when is the last time that James lost a 1st round series?

Toronto Raptors (2 seed, 56-26) vs. Indiana Pacers (7 seed, 45-37)

  • Toronto possesses one of the most enjoyable teams to watch, with Kyle Lowrey and DeMar DeRozan as a great 1-2 punch.  They have not had much playoff luck over the past few years, failing to get out of the 1st round in both 2014 and 2015, but the Indiana team they are facing this year does not quite have the same fire power as Toronto’s previous opponents.
  • The Indiana Pacers look quite different then they have from the past, with Paul George missing the usual supporting cast.  George Hill does have a lot of playoff seasoning, but he lacks the offensive output to keep up with Toronto’s guards.  While it is great to see P. George back on the court after his horrible injury, don’t expect to watch him much during this year’s playoffs, his team won’t be around long.

Miami Heat (3 seed, 48-34) vs. Charlotte Hornets (6 seed, 48-34)

  • Wait, what?  A 3 seed and a 6 seed with the same record?  Yep, the Eastern Conference was definitely one for parity this year – I guess they had to make up for the Warriors and Spurs running away with the West.
  • Is this Charlotte’s year to take the next step?  Quite possibly.  Without any real star power, they have managed to have a very successful year with their scrappy defense and some great play from not only Kemba Walker, but the whole team.  And who doesn’t like a small market, feel good team?
  • Miami had a tough year, relative to their past seasons.  Wade still managed to hold his own, but the team had to rely on some surprising contributions from rookies to snag that 3rd seed.  It is difficult to see how they get past Charlotte, but if they do, their home court advantage just might be the difference.

Atlanta Hawks (4 seed, 48-34) vs. Boston Celtics (5 seed, 48-34)

  • Well if the 3 and 6 seeds have the same record, then obviously the 4 and 5 do as well.  #MathStupid.
  • The Hawks ended last season in a disappointing fashion after winning 60 games in the regular season, and are probably still playing with a bit of a chip on their collective shoulders.  However, they did not end up with an easy first-round draw in a very young, but very well coached Boston squad.
  • Atlanta has the edge in talent in this series, but Boston has the secret weapon of a really really good coach.  It’s hard to point to any real star power in Boston, outside of All-Star Isiah Thomas, but they play cohesively as a unit, which probably be enough to pull the “upset” in round 1.

Thoughts on any of the above?  Sound off in the comments below and let us know.  Just remember, be a bro.

 

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