The NBA Playoffs are back!
The best time of the NBA season is here – with the seemingly third of the league that was tanking on a nightly basis at home now waiting on the bounce of ping pong balls – we should have competitive and entertaining games from now till the Finals end in June. Here is how I see the postseason playing out this season.
Eastern Conference First Round:
(1) Toronto Raptors over (8) Washington Wizards: They split the season series, but Toronto is too deep to lose this series.
(2) Boston Celtics over (7) Milwaukee Bucks: They also split the season series. The Celtics might be the most injured team in the league, but they have enough talent and tremendous coaching that should allow them to win this series.
(3) Philadelphia 76ers over (6) Miami Heat: Another split season series shows you how tight and competitive the Eastern Conference playoffs should be. I Trust the Process and expect the 76ers to win this series. Simmons is incredible, especially down the stretch without Embiid in the line-up.
(4) Cleveland Cavaliers over (5) Indiana Pacers: The Pacers actually won the season series 3-1, but I just can’t go against playoff LeBron James in the first round of the playoffs. He can single-handedly win this series if he wants to. This series should also showcase why Victor Oladipo should win the Most Improved Player award this season without question.
Eastern Conference Semi-Finals:
(4) Cavaliers over (1) Raptors: The Cavs won the season series, 2-1. The Raptors have not been able to pass the Cavs in the playoffs either of the last two seasons, and I just can’t go against LeBron to end the Raptors season again this year.
(3) 76ers over (2) Celtics: The Celtics won the season series, 3-1. This is where I see the Celtics injuries catching up to them. The 76ers ended the season on a 16 game win streak, they are reaching their peak at the right time and I expect them to win this series.
Eastern Conference Finals:
(4) Cavaliers over (3) 76ers: They split the season series and the last game was incredible to watch. One last hurrah for LeBron James and Cavs, but this could be the passing of the guard, barring anything crazy, my pre-season favorite to win the East next season is the 76ers, even if LeBron stays in Cleveland.
Western Conference First Round:
(1) Houston Rockets over (8) Minnesota Timberwolves: The Rockets swept the season series and I wouldn’t be surprised if they sweep this series also.
(2) Golden State Warriors over (7) San Antonio Spurs: The Warriors won the season series, 3-1. The playoffs are here and it is time for the Warriors to care again. It should be easy for them to flip the switch against the Spurs without Kawhi Leonard.
(3) Portland Trail Blazer over (6) New Orleans Pelicans: They split the season series. This might be the hardest series to predict. Can the Anthony Davis carry the Pelicans against the Blazers’ gunners? I think this series goes seven games, and give the Blazers the edge on home court.
(4) Oklahoma City Thunder over (5) Utah Jazz: The Thunder won the season series, 3-1. The Thunder were built for the playoffs, if they don’t win this series, the season was a failure. I don’t think Russell Westbrook lets that happen. The Utah Jazz surprisingly didn’t regress after losing Gordon Hayward and Donovan Mitchell would be the Rookie of the Year in any other season, but it won’t be enough against the Thunder.
Western Conference Semi-Finals:
(1) Rockets over (4) Thunder: The Thunder won the season series, 2-1. All people remember about James Harden last season was the playoff collapse, I don’t think he lets that happen again this year.
(2) Warriors over (3) Blazers: The Blazers won the season series, 2-1. The Warriors should have Steph Curry back for this series and that will allow them to win this series pretty easily. Curry and Klay Thompson can hang shot for shot with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, but then the Warriors still have Kevin Durant who might be the best all around shooter in the NBA.
Western Conference Finals:
(1) Rockets over (2) Warriors: The Rockets won the season series, 2-1. This is the series we have all been waiting for. Pre-season, I had the Warriors win the Finals easily, but now, I like the Rockets. The Rockets are ready for this series. The Warriors looked bored to end the season, and yes they had some injuries, but I don’t think that they can flip the switch and become the same unstoppable force after having bad habits for so long to end the season.
(1) Rockets over (4) Cavs: The Rockets won the season series, 2-0. LeBron James will be enough to will the Cavs to the Finals again, but at a certain point, the team’s weaknesses will be exposed. The NBA Finals are that point. The Rockets are complete – 1st in offensive efficiency and 6th in defensive efficiency on the season. The Cavs are not – 5th in offensive efficiency and 29th in defensive efficiency on the season.