(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (2) San Antonio Spurs: Warriors in 4
The Golden State Warriors are the best team in the NBA and it’s not even close. Although I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Warriors lose a game in this series, I wouldn’t bet on it. They have been dominant all season, and seem even more locked in during these playoffs. The Warriors came up short in last year’s NBA Finals, and seem to have redemption on their minds. They dominated the Trail Blazers and Jazz in the first two rounds of the playoffs, and now have an opportunity to defeat coach Popovich’s Spurs. Gregg Popovich might be the best coach in NBA history, but his team isn’t talented enough to beat the Warriors. I think he’ll make adjustments every game, but he doesn’t have enough defenders to slow down the Warriors’ death lineup. Kawhi Leonard is the best defender in the NBA, but he can only lockdown one player. The Warriors seem to be on a mission to complete the greatest postseason in NBA history. They already own the greatest regular season in NBA history, but they left that season without the championship. They are way more talented than last year’s record-breaking team. There might be a few competitive games in this series, but I expect the Warriors to complete their third straight series sweep. Continue reading “NBA Playoffs Conference Finals – What I expect to see”
(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (2) San Antonio Spurs: Warriors in 4
I want to see the Golden State Warriors enter the NBA Finals undefeated in the playoffs. The Warriors are probably the best team in NBA history, so it would be awesome to see them chase history. I think it’s a forgone conclusion that the Warriors will be this year’s NBA champions, so having them chase history will make these games compelling. The Warriors made history during last year’s regular season, now it’s time to see if they can make history during these playoffs. Having the greatest regular season and postseason in NBA history under their belts would make these Warriors the greatest collection of talent that the NBA has even seen. Coach Gregg Popovich might be the best coach in NBA history, but he’s no match for the Warriors. Kawhi Leonard is the best defender in the NBA, but he cannot guard Golden State’s death lineup by himself. Although it would be exciting to see these teams compete for seven games, I’d much rather see the Warriors chase history in the NBA Finals. Continue reading “NBA Playoffs Conference Finals – What I want to see”
(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (5) Utah Jazz: Warriors in 4
The Golden State Warriors completed a four game sweep of the Utah Jazz. Although Utah was competitive at times in every game, they weren’t able to stop Golden State from going on runs that put the games out of hand. The Warriors’ death lineup was too much for Utah to handle. Point guard George Hill missed the last three games of the series. Although he doesn’t get the notoriety that Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert receive, he’s the glue that holds the Jazz together. Utah has faced a number of injuries this season, so they were used to playing without Hill. Although others played admirably in his absence, they weren’t able to overcome his loss. The way that the Warriors were playing, it probably wouldn’t have mattered if Hill was healthy in all four games. Draymond Green was a monster on both ends of the floor. Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant were scoring at will. The Warriors look poised to return to the NBA Finals for a third consecutive season. The Warriors will face the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. Continue reading “NBA Playoffs 2nd Round – Results”
(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (5) Utah Jazz: Warriors in 7
Before the season started, I picked the Utah Jazz as my sleeper team in the NBA. I said the Jazz were the only team in the Western Conference that could beat the Warriors in the playoffs. I liked the Jazz because they are two-deep at every position. Although depth isn’t as important in the playoffs because teams typically play their bench less minutes, I think the Jazz have enough overall talent to give the Warriors fits. They have the personnel to go big or small, which means they can matchup with any lineup that the Warriors throw their way. Gordon Hayward is one of the most underrated players in the NBA, and should be able to score against all of the Warriors’ wing defenders. Rudy Gobert is a defensive monster and clogs the lane offensively, which will open things up for shooters. The Jazz have enough shooters to space the floor, and have one of the most underrated floor generals in the league in George Hill. I don’t expect the Jazz to win the series, but I think they can push the series to seven games. If the Jazz win, I’ll look like a genius. But I’ll give the Warriors the benefit of the doubt in the seventh game at home.
(2) San Antonio Spurs vs. (3) Houston Rockets: Rockets in 6 Continue reading “2nd Round NBA Playoffs – What I expect to see”
(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (5) Utah Jazz: Jazz in 7
Before the season started, I said the Jazz had the best chance of any Western Conference team to knock off the Warriors before the NBA Finals. I would look like a genius if the Jazz were able to pull off this monumental upset. The reason I liked the Jazz is because they are two-deep at every position. Depth is a less important factor during the playoffs, but it still should give the Jazz a boost. They’ve had to play a ton of lineups throughout the season because of injuries, so their bench players should be experienced enough to make a difference against a stacked Warriors team. An upset of this magnitude would entice Gordon Hayward to re-sign long-term, and should help the Jazz stay as one of the best teams in the NBA for years to come.
(2) San Antonio Spurs vs. (3) Houston Rockets: Rockets in 7 Continue reading “NBA Playoffs 2nd round – What I want to see”
(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (8) Portland Trail Blazers: Warriors in 4
Even with Steve Kerr and Kevin Durant missing multiple games, the Golden State Warriors were able to sweep the Portland Trail Blazers. Portland’s backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum played at a high level during the majority of the series, but they didn’t get much of a contribution from the rest of their team. Jusuf Nurkic tried to return from a broken leg, but was ineffective in the one game he played in the series. The Warriors won by an average of 18 points per game, with game three being the only competitive game in the series. Golden State proved that they can win games without their best player. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green are talented enough to carry the Warriors through the Western Conference playoffs. With a healthy Kevin Durant in the mix, it’s unlikely that the Warriors don’t win the championship. The Warriors will face the Utah Jazz in the second round of the playoffs.
(2) San Antonio Spurs vs. (7) Memphis Grizzlies: Spurs in 6 Continue reading “NBA Playoffs 1st Round – Results”
The second and third rounds of the NFL Draft will be held in Philadelphia. The Miles Files will have all your draft needs covered.
Washington Wizards at Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks face the Wizards at home in a must-win game. With the Wizards up 3-2 in this series, the Hawks need to win to keep their season alive. The home team has won the first five games of the series, so the Hawks will be favorites in this game. John Wall has been the best player in the series, but hasn’t gotten much help from his teammates in the two road games in Atlanta. Neither bench has been consistent during this series, so I expect the team with the better bench contribution to win. If the Hawks win this game, these two teams will play game seven on Sunday in Washington.
Boston Celtics at Chicago Bulls: The Boston Celtics look to close out this series against the Bulls in Chicago. After losing the first two games of the series, the Celtics have won three straight games and look poised to advance to the second round of the playoffs. The Bulls haven’t been the same team since Rajon Rondo got injured. The Bulls’ backup point guards have struggled in the last three games, which has put a lot of pressure on Jimmy Butler. Although Butler is the best player in the series, he hasn’t been able to will his team to victory singlehandedly. He’ll need help from Dwyane Wade and his teammates if they want to force a game seven. If the Bulls win this game, these two teams will play game seven on Sunday in Boston.
Los Angeles Clippers at Utah Jazz: The Clippers look to keep their season alive in this must-win game against the Jazz. Not only is this game crucial for their season, but this could be the end of an era for this Clippers team if they lose this series. Both Blake Griffin and Chris Paul could leave in free agency after the season, which would end this Clippers team’s championship window. The Clippers haven’t been the same team since oft-injured Griffin was lost for the season, so they’ll have to rely on Chris Paul more than ever. The Jazz are the healthiest that they’ve been all season, so pulling off the upset will be a daunting task for the Clippers. If the Clippers win this game, these two teams will play game seven on Sunday in Los Angeles.
NFL Draft: The Miles Files has all your draft needs covered
- Cleveland Browns select Myles Garrett: DE – Texas A&M
- Chicago Bears (from San Francisco 49ers) select Mitchell Trubisky: QB – North Carolina
- San Francisco 49ers (from Chicago Bears) select Solomon Thomas: DE – Stanford
- Jacksonville Jaguars select Leonard Fournette: RB – LSU
- Tennessee Titans select Corey Davis: WR – Western Michigan
- New York Jets select Jamal Adams: SS – LSU
- Los Angeles Chargers select Mike Williams: WR – Clemson
- Carolina Panthers select Christian McCaffrey: RB/WR – Stanford
- Cincinnati Bengals select John Ross: WR – Washington
- Kansas City Chiefs (from Buffalo Bills) select Patrick Mahomes: QB – Texas Tech
- New Orleans Saints select Marshon Lattimore: CB – Ohio State
- Houston Texans (from Cleveland Browns) select Deshaun Watson: QB – Clemson
- Arizona Cardinals select Haason Reddick: LB – Temple
- Philadelphia Eagles select Derek Barnett: DE – Tennessee
- Indianapolis Colts select Malik Hooker: FS – Ohio State
- Baltimore Ravens select Marlon Humphrey: CB – Alabama
- Washington Redskins select Jonathan Allen: DE/DT – Alabama
- Tennessee Titans select Adoree’ Jackson: CB – USC
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers select O.J. Howard: TE – Alabama
- Denver Broncos select Garett Bolles: OT – Utah
- Detroit Lions select Jarrad Davis: LB – Florida
- Miami Dolphin select Charles Harris: DE – Missouri
- New York Giants select Evan Engram: TE – Mississippi
- Oakland Raiders select Gareon Conley: CB – Ohio State
- Cleveland Browns select Jabrill Peppers: ATH – Michigan
- Atlanta Falcons (from Seattle Seahawks) select Takkarist McKinley: DE/OLB – UCLA
- Buffalo Bills select Tre’Davious White: CB – LSU
- Dallas Cowboys select Taco Charlton: DE – Michigan
- Cleveland Brown (from Green Bay Packers) select David Njoku: TE – Miami
- Pittsburgh Steelers select T.J. Watt: OLB – Wisconsin
- San Francisco 49ers (from Seattle Seahawks from Atlanta Falcons) select Reuben Foster: LB – Alabama
- New Orleans Saints select Ryan Ramczyk: OT – Wisonsin
Toronto Raptors defeat Milwaukee Bucks 92-89: The Raptors eliminated the Bucks in one of the craziest playoff games this season. After falling behind by 25 points, the Bucks went on a furious rally to take the lead with a few minutes remaining. The crowd was electric, and the Raptors looked like they were having another postseason collapse. Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo scored a game-high 34 points in 47 minutes. Both he and Khris Middleton (who was battling the flu) looked exhausted by the end of the game. The Bucks missed nine free throws in the fourth quarter, which was detrimental to their comeback attempt. Antetokounmpo had the ball with less than ten seconds left and down three points, but decided to make a dunk instead of attempting a potential game-tying three. That ended up being costly because the Bucks didn’t get another chance to tie the game. It’s hard to blame Antetokounmpo because he was the main reason that they made the comeback in the first place. With a healthy Jabari Parker next season (fingers crossed), the Bucks will be a championship contender. The Raptors will need to make drastic improvements in the second round if they want to defeat the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
San Antonio Spurs defeat Memphis Grizzlies 103-96: The Spurs eliminated the Grizzlies to advance to the second round of the playoffs. After the first five games of the series were won by the home team, the road team finally won a game in this series. Kawhi Leonard was the best player in all six games of this series. Although he won’t be the league’s MVP, he has been the most dominant player in the playoffs. With his clutch shooting and unparalleled defense, he has an argument for being the best player in the NBA. Leonard scored a game-high 29 points, and it was possibly his worst game of the series. The Grizzlies put forth a phenomenal effort, but came up just short of pushing the series to a seventh game. This may have been a different series with a healthy Tony Allen, but the Grizzlies didn’t let that become an excuse. Mike Conley finally got some notoriety, which is long overdue. The Spurs will face the Houston Rockets in the second round of the playoffs.
The first round of the NFL Draft will be held in Philadelphia. The Miles Files will have all your draft needs covered.
Toronto Raptors at Milwaukee Bucks: The Bucks need to win at home against the Raptors to keep their season alive. The Bucks have shown the ability to win in Milwaukee and Toronto against this Raptors team, and they’ll have to do both again if they want to win the series. The Bucks cannot afford to look ahead to game seven before winning game six. Khris Middleton has struggled in the last few games, and he cannot afford to struggle anymore. Giannis Antetokounmpo is the best player in the series, but he cannot defeat the Raptors by himself. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have played up to their potential in the last two games. If they can continue this hot streak, they’ll likely end the Bucks’ season in Milwaukee. This isn’t a must-win game for the Raptors, but they’d like to end the series and shift their focus to the defending champion Cavaliers. The Bucks will need a freakish performance from the Greek Freak to help keep their season alive.
San Antonio Spurs at Memphis Grizzlies: The Grizzlies need to win at home against the Spurs to keep their season alive. With the first five games in the series going to the home team, the Grizzlies will be favorites to win this game. They need to win the next two games to win the series, but they cannot look ahead to game seven before winning game six. The Grizzlies need to get major contributions from stars Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. Kawhi Leonard has been the best player all series, and will need another MVP-like performance if they want to end the series in Memphis. Although this game isn’t essential for the Spurs, they’d like to win and get some rest before the second round. The Grizzlies will need their home crowd to help them in this game like they did in games three and four. It’s crucial for both teams that they bring their A game.
Washington Wizards defeat Atlanta Hawks 103-99: The Wizards won a pivotal game five at home to take a 3-2 series lead over the Hawks. Dennis Schroder and Paul Millsap were phenomenal again, but they weren’t enough to overcome a lackluster performance from the Hawks’ bench. John Wall and Bradley Beal led the Wizards with 20 points and 27 points, respectively. Otto Porter Jr. had an efficient day with 17 points on 4 shots. Their bench also struggled, but the three-headed monster of Wall, Beal, and Porter Jr. were enough to seal the victory. These two teams will play game six on Friday in Atlanta.
Boston Celtics defeat Chicago Bulls 108-97: The Celtics won their third straight game in this series to take a 3-2 series lead over the Bulls. Chicago was without point guard Rajon Rondo for a third straight game, which may end up being the deciding factor in this series if Rondo isn’t able to return. Rondo was inconsistent all season, but played at an elite level in the first two games of the series. He’ll try to play in game six, but it seems unlikely that he’ll be able to return. Jimmy Butler had his first mediocre game of the series, and his teammates were not able to pick up the slack. The Tacoma, Washington backcourt of Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley each scored 24 points. Chicago will need to slow down the Celtics’ backcourt if they want to win game six and keep their season alive. These two teams will play game six on Friday in Chicago.
Atlanta Hawks at Washington Wizards: After losing the last two games in Atlanta, the Wizards return home to face the Hawks in a pivotal game five. With the series being tied at two games apiece, the winner of this game will be overwhelming favorites to advance to the second round of the playoffs. The Hawks have played up to their potential for two straight games, but haven’t shown the ability to dominate the Wizards on the road. John Wall has been the best player in the series through four games, but hasn’t gotten the help from his teammates on the road that he did at home. Now that they’ve returned home to Washington, Wall will need his teammates to play at a high level if they want to win this series. The Wizards cannot afford a slip up against a less talented Hawks team. Although this game isn’t the deciding game in the series, it is crucial for both teams that they play at a high level in this pivotal game five.
Chicago Bulls at Boston Celtics: The Celtics return home to Boston to face the Bulls in a pivotal game five. After losing the first two games at home, the desperate Celtics evened the series by winning back-to-back road games in Chicago. Bulls point guard Rajon Rondo missed games three and four with an injury, and likely won’t be able to return in this series. The Bulls struggled without their point guard in the last two games, and will need some sort of contribution from Rondo’s replacements. With the Celtics back in the driver’s seat, they cannot afford another home loss to this injured Bulls team. Although this game isn’t the deciding game in the series, the winner will be overwhelming favorites to advance to the second round of the playoffs.
Houston Rockets defeat Oklahoma City Thunder 105-99: The Houston Rockets defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder to win this first round series 4-1. Once again, Russell Westbrook and James Harden were the game’s leading scorers with 47 points and 34 points, respectively. The Thunder were outscored by 18 points in the six minutes that Russell Westbrook sat on the bench. Although Westbrook took offense to the question a reporter asked after game four that insinuated that the Thunder were struggling with him on the bench, stats from every game prove that the reporter was correct. Westbrook tried to play “hero ball” again in the fourth quarter, and it backfired when his jump shot fell apart. He was obviously exhausted, which wasn’t surprising due to the amount of effort he exudes to help his horrible supporting cast stay afloat. James Harden struggled with his jump shot again, but was able to get to the free throw line at a high rate. He was able to rely on Nene, Patrick Beverley, and Lou Williams to help him in ways that Russell Westbrook’s teammates couldn’t. Although this was a battle between the two MVP candidates, Houston won the series because their MVP candidate had a supporting cast that helped him. The Thunder need to get Westbrook help if they want to compete for a championship next season. The Rockets will either face the San Antonio Spurs or Memphis Grizzlies in the second round of the playoffs.
San Antonio Spurs defeat Memphis Grizzlies 116-103: The San Antonio Spurs took a 3-2 series lead with a home win against the Memphis Grizzlies. Kawhi Leonard continued his impressive series with another dominating performance. He scored a game-high 28 points and was a hassle on the defensive end of the floor. The Spurs’ bench was superb again, led by a 20 point performance from Patty Mills. Manu Ginobili scored ten points on 4-6 shooting from the field, which was a pleasant surprise to Spurs fans because he hadn’t made a shot all series prior to game five. The Grizzlies had decent performances from Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, but they didn’t play with the same level of intensity as they did in games three and four in Memphis. The home team has won every game in this series, and the Grizzlies will need to continue that trend if they want to keep their season alive. These two teams will play game six on Thursday in San Antonio.
Utah Jazz defeat Los Angeles Clippers 96-92: The Utah Jazz stole game six in Los Angeles to take a 3-2 series lead over the Clippers. Gordon Hayward played like an All-Star in a game that they needed him to dominate. He missed most of game four because of food poisoning, but seemed fully recovered during this game. Rudy Gobert seems fully recovered from his knee injury that caused him to miss the first three games of this series (except the first ten seconds of game one). Chris Paul proved again that he’s still the best point guard in the NBA. He scored 28 points and played a great game defensively. He wasn’t able to overcome the loss of Blake Griffin, which has hurt them drastically in the scoring department. The Clippers need to win the last two games of this series, which is something that they probably won’t be able to do without Griffin. These two teams will play game six on Friday in Utah.
Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets: The Rockets look to finish this series against the Thunder by winning game five at home. After losing three of the first four games of this series, the Thunder need to win three straight games to advance to the second round of the playoffs. Probable MVP Russell Westbrook has put up fantastic numbers all series, but he hasn’t gotten much help from his teammates. James Harden has also put up fantastic numbers, but he’s been able to rely on his teammates when his shot isn’t falling. The Rockets are heavy favorites to win this game and advance to the second round of the playoffs, but it seems like Russell Westbrook plays his best when his back is against the wall. This game will likely be won by whichever of the two MVP candidates that can make a greater impact for their team.
Memphis Grizzlies at San Antonio Spurs: The Grizzlies and Spurs will play game five in San Antonio with both teams trying to take a commanding 3-2 lead in this series. After losing the first two games in San Antonio, few people thought the Grizzlies were going to even the series with two wins in Memphis. Although Kawhi Leonard almost singlehandedly won game four, the Grizzlies were able to survive in overtime. The Spurs are the more talented team and are still favored to win the series, but the Grizzlies have shown that they do not fear San Antonio. Even without Tony “first team all defense” Allen, the Grizzlies have played great team basketball. The winner of this game will likely win the series, so it’s crucial for both teams that they play at a high level in this pivotal game five.
Utah Jazz at Los Angeles Clippers: The Jazz and Clippers will play game five in Los Angeles with both teams trying to take a commanding 3-2 lead in this series. These teams have been two of the unluckiest teams in the NBA with all the injuries that they’ve suffered, but both still have a good chance of advancing to the second round of the playoffs. The Clippers are playing without star Blake Griffin for the rest of the playoffs, but have a lot of experience over the last few years of playing without the oft-injured Griffin. Rudy Gobert returned from injury to play in game four, which helped the Jazz overcome the loss of Gordon Hayward to food poisoning. Hayward should be able to return for game five, and they’ll need him healthy to pull off the road win against this desperate Clippers team. The winner of this game will likely win the series, so it’s crucial for both teams that they play at a high level in this pivotal game five.
Toronto Raptors defeat Milwaukee Bucks 118-93: The Toronto Raptors took a 3-2 series lead over the Milwaukee Bucks with a dominating win in game five. The Raptors got off to a fast start and never looked back. The Raptors didn’t get much of a contribution from their bench, but all five of their starters scored in double figures. The “trash bros” backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan played their second consecutive great game, even though Lowry was playing through a back injury. The Raptors were led by Norman Powell, who scored 25 points on 8-11 shooting from the field. Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo scored a game-high 30 points on 12-19 shooting. He had a great all-around game, but didn’t get a lot of help from his teammates. Khris Middleton had another terrible game. He scored only 8 points and looked out of rhythm throughout the game. Milwaukee needs to win the last two games of the series if they want to advance to face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round of the playoffs. These two teams will play game six on Thursday in Milwaukee.
Atlanta Hawks defeat Washington Wizards 111-101: The Hawks defeated the Wizards at home to even the series at two games apiece. Although the Wizards have the better starting unit, all five of the Hawks’ starters scored in double figures. The Hawks also got bench contributions from Kent Bazemore and Jose Calderon. The Wizards were led by their backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal, but didn’t get help from the rest of their starters. After a terrible game three, Beal bounced back to lead the Wizards with 32 points. John Wall scored 22 points, but wasn’t as efficient in game four as he was in the first three games of the series. Although the Hawks won both games at home, they are still the underdogs in this series. These two teams will play game five on Wednesday in Washington.
Golden State Warriors defeat Portland Trail Blazers 128-103: The Warriors completed a four game sweep of the Trail Blazers with a convincing win in Portland. The Warriors got off to a fast start by scoring 45 points in the first quarter. Damian Lillard was dominant again for the Trail Blazers, but he didn’t get help from anyone besides Al Farouq Aminu. C.J. McCollum had his worst game of the series, scoring just 6 points on 2-12 shooting from the field. Although this was Kevin Durant’s return game, he only scored 10 points in 20 minutes of play. The Splash Bros picked up the slack by combining for 55 points. The Warriors were playing for coach Steve Kerr, who has missed the last few games because of complications from back surgery. Hopefully he’ll be able to return to coaching during the second round of the playoffs.
Milwaukee Bucks at Toronto Raptors: The Bucks and Raptors are playing a pivotal game five in Toronto which will break the 2-2 series tie and give one of these teams an overwhelming advantage to win the series. Although the Raptors are favored to win this game and the series, the Bucks proved they can win in Toronto when they won the first game of the series. The Raptors were outplayed in each of the first three games, but were able to steal game two despite a poor performance from their backcourt. Stars Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have lived up to their “trash bros” nickname during the playoffs, but are still in the driver’s seat to advance to the second round. They both had their first great game of the series in game four, which happened to be the first game that Giannis Antetokounmpo struggled. This game will come down to the two stars for each team. If Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton dominate, the Bucks will win game five. If Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan dominate, the Raptors will win game five. The stars for both teams will be under enormous pressure to help their team win and become overwhelming favorites to advance to the second round to face the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
Washington Wizards at Atlanta Hawks: The Wizards and Hawks will play a crucial game four in Atlanta that could possibly decide the series. If the Wizards win game four, they’ll take a 3-1 series lead back to Washington. In all likelihood, the Hawks won’t win the series if they lose this game. If the Hawks win game four, they’ll even the series at two games apiece. Either way, the Wizards will still be favored to advance to the second round. John Wall has been fantastic in all three games, but didn’t get any contribution from his teammates in game three. If the Hawks are able to shut down John Wall’s teammates again, they’ll have a great chance of winning this game. If Wall and his teammates are able to play their style of basketball, they Hawks will be in serious trouble. For all intents and purposes, this is a must-win game for the Atlanta Hawks.
Golden State Warriors at Portland Trail Blazers: The Warriors look to complete the sweep of the Trail Blazers in Portland. The Warriors have dominated the series, even with superstar Kevin Durant missing games two and three. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum have been dominant in two of the three games, but it ultimately hasn’t mattered because they haven’t gotten any help from their teammates. Jusuf Nurkic tried to play in game three and was ineffective. He won’t play in game four and likely won’t return later in the series (if the Trail Blazers win this game). The Splash Bros have been dominant all series, and have gotten large contributions from their teammates to win all three games. Portland will try to become the first team to win a seven game series after losing the first three games, but they probably won’t even win this game. This isn’t a must-win game for the Warriors, but they’d like to win and get some rest. Hopefully they’ll be able to get Durant and coach Steve Kerr back during the playoffs, but they probably won’t need either of them to advance past Portland to the second round.
Cleveland Cavaliers defeat Indiana Pacers 106-102: The Cavaliers completed the sweep against the Pacers in what might be Paul George’s last game in Indiana. If this was George’s last game in Indiana, it was a terrible way to conclude a great Pacers career. George shot 5-21 from the field and ended up with 15 points. Myles Turner and Lance Stephenson scored 20 points and 22 points respectively. Both Turner and Stephenson were criticized by George in the media, and both outplayed their teammate in this must-win game. LeBron James had another fantastic game leading the Cavaliers with 33 points. Kevin Love struggled again scoring just five points on 2-13 shooting from the field. The Cavaliers had the ball up by three points in the final seconds when J.R. Smith went full J.R. Smith and tried an extremely stupid behind-the-back pass that resulted in a turnover. Paul George would get off a three pointer with a few seconds remaining that would’ve tied the game, but he missed wide right which ended the Pacers’ season. The Cavaliers will face the Toronto Raptors or Milwaukee Bucks in the second round of the playoffs.
Houston Rockets defeat Oklahoma City Thunder 113-109: The Houston Rockets got an impressive contribution from their bench to help win game four and take a 3-1 series lead against the Thunder. The Rockets played three bench players, and they happened to be the team’s three leading scorers. Nene scored a team-high 28 points on 12-12 shooting from the field. Eric Gordon and Lou Williams both contributed 18 points to help pick up the struggling starters. James Harden shot 0-7 from three-point range and made only six free throws. His 16 point performance was way below his average, but he was able to depend on his teammates to help him in ways that Russell Westbrook’s teammates couldn’t. Westbrook scored a game-high 35 points and had a triple-double at halftime. Steven Adams had a solid game, but they didn’t get any contribution from their bench. Andre Roberson played great defense, but he shot 2-12 from the free throw line. The Thunder need to win three straight games to win the series, but don’t have any chance if they don’t get a contribution from their bench. These two teams will play game five on Tuesday in Houston.
Boston Celtics defeat Chicago Bulls 104-95: The Celtics defeated the Bulls in Chicago to even the series at two games apiece. Without Rajon Rondo, the Bulls have struggled to keep the momentum that they obtained after winning the first two games in Boston. Jerami Grant and Michael Carter-Williams took Rondo’s place at point guard and combined to score as many points as I did in this game. Yes, the two point guards for Chicago couldn’t manage to score a single point. Michael Carter-Williams has been a terrible basketball player since his first game of his career when he almost registered a quadruple-double, but he and Grant need to at least score a few points if they want to have a chance in this series. They won’t be able to match Rondo’s level of production, but they can’t afford to play as terribly as they did in this game. Jimmy Butler was fantastic again, but he can’t carry the team by himself. Isaiah Thomas and Gerald Green led the Celtics with 33 points and 18 points, respectively. These two teams will play game five on Wednesday in Boston.
Utah Jazz defeat Los Angeles Clippers 105-98: The Jazz evened the series at two games apiece with a home win against the Clippers. The Jazz were able to win without a contribution from their star player. Gordon Hayward was struggling with food poisoning, and was only able to play nine minutes in the game. “Iso” Joe Johnson was able to pick up the slack, scoring a game-high 28 points off the bench. He was very mamba-esque in the fourth quarter hitting clutch shot after clutch shot. Chris Paul and Jamal Crawford led the Clippers with 27 points and 25 points respectively, but they didn’t get much of a contribution from the rest of their team. These two teams will play game five on Wednesday in Los Angeles.
Cleveland Cavaliers at Indiana Pacers: The Cleveland Cavaliers will attempt to pull off a four game sweep of the Pacers in Indiana. LeBron James and Paul George have been dominant throughout the series. George has been a one-man wrecking crew for the Pacers, but hasn’t gotten consistent help from his teammates. Although Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love haven’t been consistent, they’ve had enough flashes to help the Cavaliers win each of the first three games. The Pacers will try to become the first team in NBA history to win a seven game series after falling behind 3-0. They can’t win all four games at once, so they’ll have to start by winning this game at home.
Houston Rockets at Oklahoma City Thunder: The Thunder look to even the series at 2-2 at home against the Rockets. After an exciting game three, both teams have a chance to make their mark on the series in game four. The Thunder need to keep pace with the Rockets by winning their second straight home game. If they lose, the Rockets will take a commanding 3-1 series lead and look to finish off the Thunder in game five at home. This is a pivotal game for both teams.
Boston Celtics at Chicago Bulls: The Boston Celtics will look to even the series at two games apiece with a road win against the Bulls. After losing the first two games at home, the Celtics rebounded with a dominating road win. The Bulls lost point guard Rajon Rondo to an injury suffered in game two, which was a major reason why they lost game three. Rondo will likely miss the rest of the series (and playoffs), so they’ll have to find a way to win without him. Jimmy Butler is the best player in this series, so he’ll have to put the Bulls on his back if they want to advance to the second round. The Celtics can regain the home-court advantage with a win, which will put them in the driver’s seat to move on to the second round. The winner of this game will be huge favorites to win the series.
Los Angeles Clippers at Utah Jazz: The Jazz look to even the series at two games apiece against the Clippers in Utah. These two teams can beat anyone when healthy, but both have suffered a key injury during this series. They’re both used to playing with adversity due to the plethora of injuries both teams suffered during the regular season. Jazz star Rudy Gobert got injured ten seconds into the first game of the series, and is questionable to return in game three. His injury looked worse than it was, but he still might not be able to return in this series. Clippers star Blake Griffin injured his toe and will miss the rest of the postseason. This is a huge blow to the Clippers, which they were able to overcome in game three because of the brilliance of Chris Paul. The winner of this game will likely win the series, so it’s extremely important for both teams that they play their best basketball.
Toronto Raptors defeat Milwaukee Bucks 87-76: The Raptors defeated the Bucks in a defensive struggle that evened the series at two games apiece. The Raptors were able to regain the home-court advantage by shutting down Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo. Khris Middleton also struggled with his shot all game, which caused the Bucks to lean on their role players. Tony Snell was their best player all game, but he doesn’t have the talent of Antetokounmpo or Middleton to lead the Bucks to victory. Both DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry had a great game for the Raptors. This was the first game in the series that both of their stars showed up. These two teams will play game five on Monday in Toronto.
Atlanta Hawks defeat Washington Wizards 116-98: The Hawks dominated the Wizards to win their first game of the series. They outscored the Wizards 38-20 in the first quarter and never looked back. Dennis Schroder, Paul Millsap, and Taurean Prince all had huge games for the Hawks. The Wizards were switching every pick and roll all game long, which ended up being a failed strategy. The Hawks were attacking the mismatches and scored at will. The Wizards’ starting unit struggled all game. John Wall was fantastic again, but didn’t get any help from the other four starters. Wall had the highlight of the game when he went coast-to-coast and dribbled the ball behind his back before dunking on Kent Bazemore. That was the only highlight of the game for Washington. These two teams will play game four on Monday in Atlanta.
Memphis Grizzlies defeat San Antonio Spurs 110-108 (OT): In the most exciting game of the playoffs, the Grizzlies defeated the Spurs in overtime on a last-second shot by Marc Gasol. The final few minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime were absolutely fantastic. This is what playoff basketball is all about. Kawhi Leonard was the best player on the floor and made his case for being the league’s MVP (although it is a regular season award). He hit multiple clutch shots in the final minutes to send it to overtime. A few times I caught myself calling him Kobe because his performance was mamba-esque. He led all scorers with 43 points and played fantastic defense all game long. Mike Conley played like a superstar point guard. He hit clutch shots down the stretch and helped rally his team when it seemed like Leonard was going to win the game singlehandedly. After Leonard hit a game tying shot in the final seconds of overtime, Marc Gasol put in an ugly looking game-winning shot with a second remaining. These two teams will play game five on Tuesday in San Antonio.
Golden State Warriors defeat Portland Trail Blazers 119-113: In a game that the Warriors were missing star Kevin Durant and coach Steve Kerr, Golden State took a commanding 3-0 lead in this series. The Trail Blazers got off to a fast start with a 67-54 halftime lead. But the Warriors came out in the second half and dominated to get the victory. Klay Thompson took over the third quarter by hitting multiple threes. The Warriors started getting stops defensively, which fueled their fast break offense. The Warriors have won both games without Kevin Durant, which shows how dominant of a team they are. Portland’s star backcourt put in a combined 63 points, but they were not enough to defeat the heavily favored Warriors. These two teams will play game four on Monday in Portland.
Toronto Raptors at Milwaukee Bucks: After a pathetic showing in game three, the Raptors will look to bounce back and even the series at two games apiece. The Raptors cannot afford to go down 3-1 in the series, even though they are the more talented team and have the potential to win three straight games against the Bucks. The problem with this Raptors team is their confidence. If they go down 3-1 in this series, they’ll have to win despite being a perennial playoff underachiever. They added Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker at the trade deadline, which will end up being a huge waste if they don’t make it out of the first round (especially if both leave in free agency). The Bucks have outplayed the Raptors in all three games of this series. With this game being in front of their home crowd, they have a good chance of taking a commanding lead in this series. The winner of this game will be huge favorites to advance to the second round.
Washington Wizards at Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks are playing the Wizards at home in a must-win game. After losing both games in Washington, the Hawks cannot afford to go down 3-0 in this series. They’ve been competitive in the first three quarters of both games, but have struggled to close in the fourth quarter. John Wall has been the best player on the floor in both games. The Hawks don’t have a player that can stop him, so they’ll have to collectively try to limit his impact. The Wizards have the much more talented starting lineup, so the Hawks will need their bench players to rise to the occasion if they want to stay competitive in this series
San Antonio Spurs at Memphis Grizzlies: After a convincing win in game three, the Grizzlies can even the series at home against the Spurs. After game two, the Grizzlies’ coach was critical of the referees. Although they won game three, the Spurs still received more foul calls than the Grizzlies. But that didn’t matter, because coach David Fizdale got his point across. He wanted his team to realize that they shouldn’t change their game plan because of how the refs were calling the game. The Grizzlies are a tough and aggressive team, and they cannot afford to stray from that style of basketball because they aren’t getting calls. Fizdale moved Zach Randolph into the starting lineup, which ended up being a fantastic decision. Although this game is extremely important for the Grizzlies, the Spurs will still be the favorites to win the series no matter who wins this game.
Golden State Warriors at Portland Trail Blazers: The Trail Blazers return home to Portland in this must-win game against the heavily favored Warriors. After an embarrassing loss in game two, the Trail Blazers’ star backcourt needs to bounce back and lead their team to victory. With Kevin Durant missing game two, the Trail Blazers had their best chance to steal a road game from the Warriors. The Warriors will be heavy favorites to advance no matter what happens in this game. Durant may miss this game too, which likely won’t end up mattering. Portland needs to win four straight games to make Damian Lillard’s “Trail Blazers in 6” prediction come true. If Lillard doesn’t have a stellar game tonight, the Warriors will take a commanding 3-0 lead in this series.
Boston Celtics defeat Chicago Bulls 104-87: The Boston Celtics won a must-win game in Chicago against the Bulls to avoid going down 0-3 in this series. The top seeded Celtics finally looked like a championship contender. They outscored Chicago 33-15 in the first quarter and never looked back. Their Tacoma, Washington backcourt of Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley were fantastic all game. Al Horford bounced back after a pitiful game two to lead the Celtics with 18 points. The Bulls were clearly missing starting point guard Rajon Rondo, who broke his thumb during the last game and may miss the rest of the playoffs. Jerami Grant and Michael Carter-Williams played in his place, and both had awful games. Jimmy Butler struggled with his shot all game, only scoring 14 points on 7-21 shooting from the field. These two teams will play game four on Sunday in Chicago.
Oklahoma City Thunder defeat Houston Rockets 115-113: The Thunder were finally able to hold on to a fourth quarter lead to win their first game of the series. Russell Westbrook had another triple double, but was much more efficient than in game two. He got his teammates involved instead of resorting to “hero ball.” Westbrook missed two key free throws in the final minute of the game, which almost cost them the game when Harden missed the potential game-winning shot. Down by two points with less than ten seconds remaining, Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni decided not to call a timeout and let James Harden make a play. Although Harden missed the game-winning shot, this was the right decision by D’Antoni. Harden and Westbrook have put up amazing stats in all three games, but have struggled with their shooting during the last two games. Whichever of these two MVP candidates finds their shooting stroke first will give their team a huge advantage in the rest of the series. These two teams will play game four on Sunday in Oklahoma City.
Los Angeles Clippers defeat Utah Jazz 111-106: The Clippers defeated the Jazz on the road to regain the home-court advantage in this series. The Jazz had a comfortable lead in the second half before collapsing down the stretch. Clippers star Blake Griffin injured his toe before halftime and did not return to the game. Unfortunately for the injury-prone Griffin, this injury is serious enough that he will miss the rest of the postseason. This is a huge blow to the Clippers, but it evens up the injury score because of the injury to Jazz star Rudy Gobert. Both the Clippers and Jazz suffered a plethora of injuries during the season, and it’s unfortunate that these two teams will not play each other at full-strength. The Clippers won the game because their star came up bigger than the Jazz’s star in the key moments of the fourth quarter. Chris Paul put the Clippers on his back during the fourth quarter. He finished the game with 34 points and 10 assists. Gordon Hayward scored a game-high 40 points, but he shied away from the pressure moments towards the end of the game. These two teams will play game four on Sunday in Utah.
Boston Celtics at Chicago Bulls: The Boston Celtics are fighting for their playoff lives in Chicago against the Bulls. Bulls point guard Rajon Rondo broke his thumb in game two, and will be out indefinitely. This is crushing news for the Bulls because Rondo was playing his best basketball in years. This means Michael Carter-Williams will be getting more minutes, which should be alarming to Bulls fans. The Celtics had the best record in the Eastern Conference this season, but few people thought they were the conference’s best team. They haven’t played like a number one seed during this series, but have a talent and health advantage going into this game. This is a must-win game for the Celtics to avoid going down 0-3 in this series.
Houston Rockets at Oklahoma City Thunder: The Thunder travel to Houston to take on the Rockets in a must-win game. After a crippling loss in game two in which they blew a fourth quarter lead, the Thunder need to regroup and give their best effort in front of their home crowd. Westbrook put up amazing stats in game two, but he struggled shooting from the field. He’ll need to be more efficient in this game and help get his teammates involved. James Harden also struggled in game two, but he wasn’t trying to force things like Westbrook did in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma City cannot afford to go down 0-3 in this series, so they’ll need to play better as a team and not allow Westbrook to try and play hero ball for 48 minutes.
Los Angeles Clippers at Utah Jazz: The Clippers and Jazz will play game three with both teams trying to take a 2-1 series lead. Jazz center Rudy Gobert is still injured, so they’ll have to make adjustments to stop the Clippers from scoring at will in the paint. The Clippers weren’t able to make on-the-fly adjustments in game one, but smartened up before game two and decided to attack Utah’s weakness. Utah was able to win game one and keep game two close without Gobert on the road, so they should have enough firepower to win without him at home. If he was healthy, they probably would be up 2-0 in this series. Since Gobert might not return in this series, they’ll need to have role players step up in his absence. They’ve had a lot of injuries all year, so they are ready for this adversity. The winner of this game will be in the driver’s seat to advance to the second round of the playoffs.
Cleveland Cavaliers defeat Indiana Pacers 119-114: The Cavaliers defeated the Pacers in the craziest game of the postseason. After leading at halftime by 25 points, the Pacers had an unbelievable collapse that basically ended their season. Although they could still win four straight games to move on to the second round, it’s not going to happen. Paul George led the Pacers with 36 points, but struggled with his shot all game. The Cavaliers’ defense was putrid in the first half, but they were able to figure things out in the second half. Amazingly, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love sat on the bench for the entire fourth quarter. They were struggling and the team was making a run with them on the bench, so coach Tyronn Lue decided against putting them back in the game. LeBron James put the team on his back and singlehandedly won them the game. He scored a game-high 41 points to go with his 13 rebounds and 12 assists. These two teams will play game four on Sunday in Indiana.
Milwaukee Bucks defeat Toronto Raptors 104-77: In a game that was a blowout from the beginning, the Milwaukee Bucks punked the Raptors to take a 2-1 series lead. The Bucks won the first quarter 32-12 and never looked back. The Raptors’ star backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan combined for 21 points. DeRozan scored as many field goals as I did during the game (zero). Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo only scored 19 points, but he was extremely efficient. Greg Monroe, Michael Beasley, and Matthew Dellavedova all scored in double figures off the bench. Everyone stepped up for Milwaukee and nobody stepped up for Toronto. This was an embarrassing effort by the Raptors on the road. These two teams will play game four on Saturday in Milwaukee.
Memphis Grizzlies defeat San Antonio Spurs 105-94: The Memphis Grizzlies defeated the Spurs at home in a must-win game. Grizzlies coach (take that for data!) David Fizdale decided to move Zach Randolph into the starting lineup, and Z-Bo rewarded him by scoring 21 points. Marc Gasol and Mike Conley both scored over twenty points, which was crucial for the Grizzlies. They needed their stars to step up, and that’s exactly what they did. The game was close at halftime, but got away from San Antonio in the third quarter. Coach Gregg Popovich would say after the game that they lost because of the first minutes of the second half. Popovich was so upset with his team’s effort to start the third quarter that he benched all five players after a timeout. Kawhi Leonard was not his usual self in this game. Former stars (and soon-to-be retirees) Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili combined to score as many points as I did. This was a game that the Grizzlies needed to win, and they played dominant basketball on both sides of the court. These two teams will play game four on Saturday in Memphis.
Cleveland Cavaliers at Indiana Pacers: The Cavaliers head to Indiana up 2-0 in the series to face the desperate Indiana Pacers. The Pacers were able to keep both games competitive before falling apart down the stretch. Cleveland is the much more talented team, but Indiana has proven that they can win if a few breaks go their way late in the fourth quarter. With their fans cheering them on, the Pacers need to win this game to avoid going down 3-0 in the series. Paul George has been fantastic in both games, but he needs help. Usually role players play better at home in the playoffs, so they might get a much needed boost from their bench. Myles Turner has emerged as the second best player on this team, and he’ll need to play like it after an abysmal game two. George was critical of both Turner and Lance Stephenson in the media. He claimed that it was to motivate his teammates. Both Turner and Stephenson will be counted on to give George support, which will be crucial if the Pacers want to get back in this series. This is a must-win game for the Pacers.
Toronto Raptors at Milwaukee Bucks: The winner of game three between the Raptors and Bucks will take a 2-1 lead in this series. After struggling in game one at home, the Raptors were able to even the series by hitting a few clutch shots late in the fourth quarter. The Bucks were playing catch-up all game, but had a chance to win late in the fourth quarter. Coach Jason Kidd played a few questionable lineups during the game that put the Bucks behind the eight ball. This was an inopportune time for his inexperience to rear its ugly head. The Raptors did a much better job of limiting superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo in game two. He wasn’t able to get to the rim as easily as he did in game one, and he had trouble finishing due to the presence of Serge Ibaka. With Milwaukee stealing the home-court advantage from the Raptors, they’ll need to win these two games at home if they want to win the series. The winner of this game will be in the driver’s seat to advance to the second round of the playoffs.
San Antonio Spurs at Memphis Grizzlies: The Grizzlies need to defeat the Spurs to avoid going down 3-0 in this series. If Memphis doesn’t win this game, they’ll have to try to become the first team to win a seven game series after losing the first three games. “TAKE THAT FOR DATA!” Grizzlies coach David Fizdale was recently fined after criticizing the officials after game two. He was upset that Kawhi Leonard shot more free throws than his entire team. The NBA playoff officials have been so terrible for so many years that this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Right when Memphis was getting back into the game, the officials started making one-sided calls that helped the Spurs regain a double-digit lead. This was blatantly obvious to any non-biased observer. As a fan of basketball that loves playoff competition, I was furious. Now that Fizdale made his point, look for the refs to swing in the opposite direction and start making calls to benefit the Grizzlies. We all hope they start calling the game fair, but don’t get your hopes up. These are NBA playoff refs, and they take sucking at their jobs very seriously. I appreciate Fizdale standing up for his players and criticizing the terrible playoff referees, and his “take that for data” rant was so fantastic that I hope this motivates his team and the officials to do a great job for the Memphis fans.
Washington Wizards defeat Atlanta Hawks 109-101: The Wizards defeated the Hawks in a back-and-forth game by dominating in the finals minutes of the fourth quarter. After an evenly matched first quarter, the Wizards dominated the second quarter to take a seven point lead at halftime. The Hawks dominated the third quarter to take the lead back before getting dominated in the fourth quarter. Although the back-and-forth style of game was exciting, it was ruined by the referees. It’s a common theme in the playoffs to see refs taking over the games, and it’s so damn embarrassing to watch. It seemed like the refs were calling fouls on every possession. Nobody paid money to watch you ref, we all want to see the players decide the game on the court. Luckily, the Wizards were the better team on the court and deserved to win. John Wall and Bradley Beal led the Wizards with 32 points and 31 points, respectively. Now that the Hawks are down 0-2 in the series, they’ll need to win game three in Atlanta. Neither of these next two games are must-win games for the Hawks, but they’ll have to dig themselves out of a serious hole if they aren’t able to even the series before heading back to Washington for game five. These two teams will play game three on Saturday in Atlanta.
Houston Rockets defeat Oklahoma City Thunder 115-111: The Thunder looked poised to steal this game on the road through three quarters, but weren’t able to hold on in the fourth quarter. The Rockets were able to get contributions from their role players, which is something that plagued the Thunder in this game. This was an issue partly due to Russell Westbrook’s “hero ball” that he played towards the end of the fourth quarter. He decided that he’d take over the game, but was missing a bunch of contested jumpers. His shot selection has always been an issue, and it plagued his team down the stretch when he went cold. But it’s hard to blame a guy who scored 51 points to go along with his 13 assists and 10 rebounds. This was the highest scoring triple-double in NBA playoff history. But these stats can be misleading. Westbrook shot an abysmal 17-43 from the field. Although he struggled down the stretch, the Rockets’ ability to make shots in crunch time was the most important deciding factor of this game. James Harden led the Rockets with 35 points, but he struggled shooting from the field. He scored 18 points from the free throw line. He was able to contribute in other ways and was uplifted by his teammates’ contributions. The Thunder return to Oklahoma City down 0-2, and they’ll need to win these two home games if they want to get back in the series. These two teams will play game three on Sunday in Oklahoma City.
Golden State Warriors defeat Portland Trail Blazers 110-81: In a game that the Warriors had to play without superstar Kevin Durant, the Trail Blazers came up flat when they had their best chance to steal a game on the road. If the Trail Blazers can’t win this game on the road, they don’t have any chance of winning on the road in this series. Portland was able to keep the first game competitive, so they should’ve had some confidence going into this game. Knowing that Durant wasn’t going to play should’ve made life easier, but the Trail Blazers fell flat on their faces. The star backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum were incredible in game one, and they were incredibly bad in game two. They combined for 23 points, which is basically how many points each scored by halftime of game one. The Trail Blazers need to win both games at home to have a chance of winning the series, but that looks extremely unlikely. Damian Lillard’s prediction of winning the series in six games looks foolish now. They’ll probably end up getting swept. These two teams will play game three on Saturday in Portland.
(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (8) Portland Trail Blazers: Warriors in 5
The Golden State Warriors coasted through the regular season waiting for this moment. This playoff run will be their redemption for losing in the finals last year. Their first round opponent could be one of their biggest challenges this postseason. The Trail Blazers underachieved all season, but have enough talent to give the Warriors problems. The dynamic backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum is one of the few in the NBA that can match Steph Curry and Klay Thompson on a nightly basis, but they’ll have to get help from their teammates if they want to compete with the Warriors. The Warriors don’t have the depth that they had last season, but they added a superstar in Kevin Durant that will be instrumental in their efforts to get back to the finals. The Trail Blazers just don’t have enough firepower to match the Warriors. They’ll probably win either game three or four at home, but I don’t expect them to push the series beyond five games.
(2) San Antonio Spurs vs. (7) Memphis Grizzlies: Spurs in 5
After an injury to Tony “first team all defense” Allen in the last game of the regular season (in a meaningless game), I expect the Spurs to defeat the Grizzlies in five games. I would’ve chosen the Spurs to win in six games if defensive star Tony Allen was healthy, but his injury won’t be the deciding factor on who wins the series. The Grizzlies have a lot of talent and veteran leadership, but they are no match for Gregg Popovich and the Spurs. The Spurs have the coaching advantage, which is an extremely important factor in the playoffs. Grizzlies coach David Fizdale is a rookie head coach, so we won’t know how he’ll respond to adversity until the moment that he faces adversity. He seems like he is the right man for the job, but he’ll be outclassed in this series by future Hall of Famer Gregg Popovich. The Spurs have the best player in the series in Kawhi Leonard, better overall depth, and a better coach. This series won’t be very competitive. I like the Grizzlies’ “Grit and Grind” mentality and hope they can keep the games competitive, but I’ll be surprised if they’re able to win more than one game in this series. Continue reading “NBA Playoffs – What I expect to see”
Atlanta Hawks at Washington Wizards: The Hawks and Wizards will play game two of this series in Washington before heading to Atlanta. The Wizards were able to win game one at home thanks to a dominating third quarter. The Wizards are the favorites in this series, and are the much more talented team. John Wall was the best player on the floor in game one, and should be able to dominate again against a Hawks team that doesn’t have an elite defender to slow him down. This isn’t a must-win game for either team, but whatever team wins this game will have the advantage in the series before heading to Atlanta.
Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets: After a dominating win in game one, the Rockets will try to keep the home-court advantage in this series before heading to Oklahoma City. The Thunder were completely outclassed in the first game. Russell Westbrook was outplayed by fellow MVP candidate James Harden, and the Rockets’ supporting cast outplayed the Thunder’s supporting cast. Westbrook is the star of the Thunder, and he doesn’t have much help surrounding him. He’ll need a herculean performance if they want to even the series before heading home to Oklahoma City.
Portland Trail Blazers at Golden State Warriors: The Warriors look to take a 2-0 series lead before heading on the road to Portland. The Trail Blazers kept the game close through three quarters due to their backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. The Trail Blazers’ stars were dominant all game, but they didn’t get any help from their supporting cast. The Warriors have a lot more depth than the Trail Blazers, and got contributions from everyone that stepped on the floor. Draymond Green was the best player in game one, dominating on both ends of the floor. Kevin Durant is probably going to miss this game, which will give the Trail Blazers a better chance of winning. But even without Durant, the Warriors are one of the best teams in the NBA. With Durant’s injury, this becomes a must-win game for the Trail Blazers. If they cannot win this game, they don’t have a chance of winning any games in Golden State (and therefore can’t win the series because they don’t have the home-court advantage). The Trail Blazers need to even up this series otherwise they’ll make Damian Lillard’s prediction of winning in six games look like a bad joke.
Toronto Raptors defeat Milwaukee Bucks 106-100: The Raptors were able to defeat the Bucks in this back-and-forth game to even the series at one game apiece. Kyle Lowry was able to bounce back after a horrible game one to lead the Raptors to victory. Although the Bucks kept it close, they were not able to take the lead down the stretch. This game was lost by Milwaukee due to their coach Jason Kidd. It was obvious that Spencer Hawes and Mirza Teletovic were struggling, but he refused to pull them from the game. Greg Monroe was a dominant force all game, but Kidd decided to play rookie Thon Maker down the stretch. Milwaukee fans are used to Kidd’s head scratching lineups, but this was an inopportune time to make terrible coaching decisions. Toronto deserves credit for evening the series, but the Bucks missed out on a great opportunity to take a two game lead heading to Milwaukee. These two teams will play game three on Thursday in Milwaukee.
Chicago Bulls defeat Boston Celtics 111-97: For the second consecutive game, the Bulls dominated the top seeded Celtics in Boston. Once again, Isaiah Thomas did not get enough help from his supporting cast to defeat the Bulls. Chicago has a lot of talent, but underachieved all season. They have the best player in the series in Jimmy Butler, and have two veterans in Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo with championship experience. Rondo was dominant all game, falling just one rebound shy of a triple-double. The Celtics now head on the road down 0-2 in this series, which has to be extremely disappointing. They’ll likely need to win both games in Chicago, especially game three. These two teams will play game three on Friday in Chicago.
Los Angeles Clippers defeat Utah Jazz 99-91: The Clippers were able to take advantage of a Rudy Gobert-less Jazz team to even the series at one game apiece. Although Gobert missed all but ten seconds of the first game, the Clippers weren’t able to make in-game adjustments to their game plan to attack the basket. This showed that Doc Rivers isn’t a great coach like many people think. The Clippers were able to make adjustments between games to attack the Jazz’s new weakness. Without Gobert, the Jazz don’t have a rim protector to stop the Clippers from scoring at will in the paint. This was evident all game. The Jazz fought hard to keep the game competitive, but they didn’t have enough firepower without Gobert. Hopefully he’ll be able to return during this series. These two teams will play game three on Friday in Utah.
Milwaukee Bucks at Toronto Raptors: The Bucks and Raptors will play game two in Toronto after the Bucks pulled off the stunning upset in game one. This is a must-win game for the Raptors, who cannot afford to go down 2-0 in this series before it heads to Milwaukee. The Raptors didn’t have an answer for Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo in game one, so they’ll need to make adjustments to limit his impact. Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry was terrible in game one (which has been a playoff theme for him), so he’ll need to find a way to put the ball in the basket. His backcourt teammate DeMar DeRozan put in a decent amount of points in the first game of this series, but they were mostly from the free throw line. This backcourt cannot play like the “trash bros” again in game two. Although Giannis Antetokounmpo is the best player in this series, the Raptors are the more complete team and should be favored to even the series before heading to Milwaukee.
Chicago Bulls at Boston Celtics: The Bulls and Celtics will face each other for the second time in this series. The Bulls pulled off the upset in game one, which wasn’t all that surprising given the circumstances that surrounded the game. Celtics star point guard Isaiah Thomas played game one just one day after the tragic death of his younger sister. Thomas was visibly shaken up before the game, but he showed toughness by playing when many others would’ve sat out. He not only played, but he played at a high level. His teammates didn’t help him out enough, as they were outclassed by Jimmy Butler and the Bulls. Thomas is expected to play in game two, and they’ll need him in this must-win game. The Bulls are more talented than most eighth seeded teams, so the Celtics will need to bring their A game if they don’t want to head to Chicago down 2-0 in this series.
Utah Jazz at Los Angeles Clippers: This third game of the night also consists of a favored team playing at home in a must-win game. The Utah Jazz pulled off the upset with an “Iso” Joe Johnson buzzer beater to stun the fans in Los Angeles. The Jazz were able to rally after the loss of star center Rudy Gobert just ten seconds into the game. Gobert will not play in game two, and may miss the entire series (or longer if they advance). Losing Gobert is a huge loss, and should make the Clippers heavy favorites in a series that was evenly matched before the injury. The Clippers should make game plan adjustments that can attack the Jazz inside without Gobert’s presence. The Jazz have been dealing with injuries all year, so they’ll be ready for the adversity that this latest blow brings them. This should still be a competitive game, but the Clippers will have the upper hand. The Clippers need this victory, otherwise they’ll be down 2-0 in this series when it heads to Utah.
Cleveland Cavaliers defeat Indiana Pacers 117-111: In another closely contested game, the Cavaliers defeated the Pacers to take a 2-0 lead in this series. Although the game wasn’t as close as the first game, the Pacers dominated the fourth quarter to make it close at the end. At the end of the day, the Pacers weren’t able to get enough out of their role players. Myles Turner struggled all game, scoring just six points in 37 minutes. Paul George played like a superstar again, scoring a team-high 32 points. George and Lance Stephenson have been the best two players for the Pacers during the first two games of the series, but they haven’t been able to lead the Pacers to victory. The Cavaliers got another dominating performance from their big three. Kyrie Irving led the Cavaliers with 37 points, with Love and James adding 27 points and 25 points, respectively. The Pacers head home, where they hope to get a boost from their crowd and their bench. They’ve played Cleveland close on the road, but now they’ll face a lot of pressure with a couple of must-win games at home. These two teams will play game three on Thursday in Indiana.
San Antonio Spurs defeat Memphis Grizzlies 96-82: In a game that was a blowout by halftime, the Spurs defeated the Grizzlies to take a 2-0 lead in this series. The Grizzlies dominated the third quarter and early fourth quarter to make the game competitive, but the Spurs pulled away in the end to win by double digits. Kawhi Leonard dominated again with a game-high 37 points and stellar defense. Mike Conley and Zach Randolph led the Grizzlies with 24 points and 18 points, respectively. Grizzlies coach David Fizdale was extremely critical of the referees after the game, correctly pointing out that Kawhi Leonard shot more free throws than the entire Grizzlies team. It was hard not to notice that the Spurs were getting a lot of ticky-tack calls in their favor late in the fourth quarter when Memphis was coming back. It was extremely frustrating to watch, especially for the Grizzlies’ head coach. Fizdale should expect a fine from the league, but it’s time the NBA holds their officials accountable for doing a terrible job in the playoffs. This is an issue every year, and it seems intentional. These two teams will play game three on Thursday in Memphis.
Indiana Pacers at Cleveland Cavaliers: The Pacers and Cavaliers will face each other in game two of this first round playoff matchup. After an exciting first game of the series that featured no defense, both teams will attempt to make it more difficult for their opponent to put the ball in the basket. Stars Paul George and LeBron James were both dominant in game one, and will have to shoulder the majority of the burden in the rest of the series. Paul George was upset about not getting the last shot in game one, which could fuel him going forward. These two teams know each other extremely well, which will make it interesting to see which team will make the necessary adjustments. This game isn’t a must-win for either team, but it would be extremely helpful if the Pacers can get one game before the series heads to Indiana.
Memphis Grizzlies at San Antonio Spurs: The Grizzlies will try and bounce back after a humiliating loss in the first game of this series. The Grizzlies kept the game close early, but were outclassed in the last three quarters of the game. San Antonio is the much more talented team, especially with the injury to Memphis’ defensive star Tony Allen. The Grizzlies have enough talent and playoff experience to pull off the upset, but they’ll need to make a lot of adjustments if they want to even the series before heading home to Memphis.
Washington Wizards defeat Atlanta Hawks 114-107: The Wizards and Hawks played a tight game until the third quarter when the Wizards pulled away. All five starters for the Wizards were in double figures, which was a common theme this year. The Wizards’ starters played more minutes than any starting unit in the NBA. Teams typically play their bench less minutes in the playoffs, which should be an advantage for the top-heavy Wizards. But they could get worn out if their bench doesn’t give them any help. John Wall was the star of the game with 32 points and 14 assists. The Hawks’ starters didn’t play well enough to give them a chance. Their bench outplayed the Wizards’ bench, but it ultimately wasn’t enough to make a big enough impact on the game. These two teams will play game two on Wednesday in Washington.
Golden State Warriors defeat Portland Trail Blazers 121-109: The Warriors pulled away in the fourth quarter to beat the Trail Blazers in game one at home. The game was incredibly close through three quarters because of the scoring output of the Trail Blazers’ backcourt. C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard combined for 75 of Portland’s 109 points, but that wasn’t enough to defeat the heavily favored Warriors. Draymond Green was phenomenal on both ends of the floor. He had 19 points, 12 rebounds, 9 assists, 5 blocks, and 3 steals. The Warriors have too much firepower for McCollum and Lillard to beat them singlehandedly. The Trail Blazers need other players to step up. If Jusuf Nurkic isn’t able to return during this series, the Blazers could be in serious trouble. Game two will be played on Wednesday in Golden State.
Chicago Bulls defeat Boston Celtics 106-102: The Chicago Bulls pulled off the upset on the road in game one of this series. The Bulls have the best player in the series in Jimmy Butler, who went off for thirty points. The Bulls also have two former champions in Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo who can provide valuable leadership. Bobby Portis was a major contributor off the bench with 19 points. Isaiah Thomas played a fantastic game just one day after the tragic death of his younger sister. Nobody knew if he would play going into the game, and nobody would’ve blamed him if he decided to sit the game out. Instead, he battle hard and led his team with 33 points. But the Celtics didn’t get enough of a contribution from the other starters. These two teams will play game two on Tuesday in Boston.
Houston Rockets defeat Oklahoma City Thunder 118-87: In the game that most NBA fans looked forward to more than any other playoff game, the Rockets dominated the Thunder in a game that wasn’t close after halftime. If this game was the deciding factor on who should win the MVP award (which it won’t be), James Harden would be walking away with the trophy. Russell Westbrook had a nice game with 22 points, 11 rebounds, and 7 assists, but that isn’t up to the level he played at during the season. He also had 9 turnovers and was forcing up bad shots at times. James Harden scored a game-high 37 points, to go along with his 9 assists and 7 rebounds. His teammates also gave him more help than Westbrook’s teammates, which was a common theme throughout the season. Harden’s Rockets are a more talented team, which is why they are favored in this series. Russell Westbrook has to do everything for the Thunder if they want to win, which is something that he’s capable of doing at times. These teams will play game two on Wednesday in Houston.
Atlanta Hawks at Washington Wizards: The Hawks and Wizards will meet in Washington for game one of this first round playoff series. The Hawks are one of the hottest teams in the NBA during the last few weeks of the season, which could give them confidence heading into this series. The Wizards struggled a bit during the regular season’s last month, but are the more talented team in this matchup. The Wizards played their starters more than any team in the league, which could lead to them being worn out during this postseason run. Their bench is an issue, but teams typically play their bench fewer minutes in the playoffs. They definitely have the talent advantage over the Hawks, but Atlanta has enough firepower to keep the series close. Game one will be crucial in both teams’ efforts to advance to the second round.
Portland Trail Blazers at Golden State Warriors: The Trail Blazers and Warriors will meet in Golden State for game one of this first round playoff series. The Trail Blazers are one of the hottest teams heading into the playoffs. They are led by the duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. This backcourt is as talented as any in the NBA. After the addition of center Jusuf Nurkic, the Blazers started playing up to their potential. Nurkic suffered an injury and may miss the series, which could be detrimental to their chances of pulling off the upset over the heavily favored Warriors. Golden State didn’t win as many games as last season, but they are a much more talented team because of the addition of superstar Kevin Durant. Lillard predicted the Trail Blazers would win the series in six games, so he’ll need to help his team pull off the upset in game one if he wants to make his prediction come true.
Chicago Bulls at Boston Celtics: The Bulls and Celtics will meet in Boston for game one of this first round playoff series. The Celtics were able to take the number one seed after the Cleveland Cavaliers stopped trying to win during the last few games of the season. The Celtics have a lot of talent on both sides of the floor. Isaiah Thomas has been one of the best players in the league all season, and could take over the series if Chicago isn’t able to limit his impact. The Bulls are one of the most confusing teams in the league. They have the best player in this series in Jimmy Butler, and have playoff veterans in Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade. The Bulls have the talent to beat the Celtics, but they’ve underachieved all season. This is an interesting 1-8 matchup, and it could be closer than most first round series that include the top seed.
Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets: The Thunder and Rockets will meet in Houston for game one of this first round playoff series. This is a dream matchup for all fans of basketball. Not only are Russell Westbrook and James Harden competing for the MVP, but they’re facing each other in the first round of the playoffs. These two MVP candidates were once teammates, but they weren’t even the best player on that team. The Thunder have been led by Russell Westbrook’s historic season. The Rockets are one of the most exciting teams in the NBA. Coach Mike D’Antoni brought his fast-paced style of basketball to Houston, and it has been run to perfection due to James Harden’s ability to adapt. He was a shooting guard before this season, but Harden has changed his game to become a point guard in D’Antoni’s system. These two teams are led by superstars, but Houston is the favorite because they have more talent around their superstar. This series will be must-see TV.
Cleveland Cavaliers defeat Indiana Pacers 109-108: In the first game of the NBA postseason, the Cavaliers squeaked out the victory against the Pacers in Cleveland. The game was back-and-forth until the final shot, which was a missed shot at the buzzer by the Pacers’ C.J. Miles. Down by one with roughly ten seconds remaining, the Pacers’ coach Nate McMillan called a timeout to set up a play. This was a crucial mistake because it allowed the Cavaliers to set up their defense and get the ball out of Paul George’s hands. George passed the ball to Miles and tried to get open to take the final shot, but it was too late and Miles was forced to take the shot. Miles got off a good shot, but it came up just short. Paul George had a fantastic game in which he scored 29 points and was 6-8 from three point range. LeBron James led the Cavaliers with 32 points and 13 assists. These two teams will play game two on Monday in Cleveland.
Milwaukee Bucks defeat Toronto Raptors 97-83: The Bucks pulled off the road upset in Toronto in the first game of this series. Giannis Antetokounmpo had a stellar game full of blocks and ferocious dunks. He blocked DeMar Derozan at the end of the game and was called for a technical foul, even though it was DeRozan who started acting like a child. Although poor officiating isn’t rare in the playoffs, it didn’t cost the Bucks in this game. The Greek Freak scored 28 points and had 8 rebounds to lead his Bucks. Rookie Thon Maker had an impactful game including three blocks in a matter of minutes. Kyle Lowry had another terrible postseason game in which he shot 2-11 from the field and scored four points. DeRozan had a decent game, but roughly half of his 27 points came from the free throw line. The self-proclaimed “trash bros” need to step up their game in game two unless they want to head to Milwaukee down two games to none. Game two will be played on Tuesday in Toronto.
San Antonio Spurs defeat Memphis Grizzlies 111-82: In the one boring game of the day, the Spurs routed the Grizzlies in San Antonio. Although the Grizzlies won the first quarter, they would be outscored in the remaining three quarters. In a battle featuring the Gasol brother, Marc would outscore his brother 32-6. But Marc Gasol was the only player on the Grizzlies who had a good game. Kawhi Leonard would also put in 32 points and played stellar defense throughout the game. The Grizzlies clearly missed Tony “first team all defense” Allen, who got hurt in the meaningless last game of the season. He would’ve guarded Kawhi Leonard, but will likely miss the entire series. These teams will play game two on Monday in San Antonio.
Utah Jazz defeat Los Angeles Clippers 97-95: In an game that featured Jazz star Rudy Gobert injuring his knee ten second into the game, the Utah Jazz were able to defeat the Clippers on the road in the first game of this series. The Jazz could’ve easily folded after watching their big man go down with a potentially serious knee injury, but they rallied around his injury and pulled off the upset. The Jazz are used to playing with backups due to the plethora of injuries their starters have sustained this season. Both of these teams had injury issues during the regular season, but were relatively healthy heading into the playoffs. If these teams didn’t have so many injuries, they both could’ve been the two seed in the Western Conference. That’s how talented both of these teams are, and it’s why this series will likely be the best first round series in the playoffs (regardless of the status of Rudy Gobert). This game came down to the last shot, in which “Iso Joe” Joe Johnson hit the game winning floater at the buzzer to stun the crowd in Los Angeles. Jazz coach Quin Snyder elected not to call a timeout before Johnson hit the game winning shot, which was a fantastic decision. Hopefully Gobert’s knee injury isn’t as serious as it looked, but it’s hard to imagine he’ll be ready for game two. Their next game will be on Tuesday in Los Angeles.
Indiana Pacers at Cleveland Cavaliers: The Pacers and Cavaliers will meet in Cleveland for game one of this first round playoff series. LeBron James looks to lead the defending champion Cavaliers back to the NBA Finals. This would be LeBron’s seventh straight trip to the NBA Finals. The Indiana Pacers aren’t as good as they’ve been in past seasons, but they still have superstar Paul George leading the way. George is starting to look like the pre-injury Paul George again, which could give the Cavaliers trouble. LeBron’s teams have beaten the Pacers in multiple playoff series in the past, and shouldn’t have any problems beating this weaker Pacers team. The Cavaliers struggled towards the end of the regular season, so they’ll have to find their rhythm if they want to repeat as champions. This should make for an exciting series.
Milwaukee Bucks at Toronto Raptors: The Bucks and Raptors will meet in Toronto for game one of this first round playoff series. The Raptors are at full strength since the return of Kyle Lowry from his wrist injury. This Raptors team is more dangerous since the additions of Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker at the trade deadline. The Raptors traded for these players to help them during the postseason, so now we’ll see if these moves pay off. The Bucks have been a much better team since the return of Khris Middleton, even though Jabari Parker tore his ACL in the game Middleton returned. With Giannis Antetokounmpo leading the way, the Bucks have enough firepower to challenge any team in the Eastern Conference. Toronto is the favorites in the series, but Milwaukee has enough talent to pull off the upset.
Memphis Grizzlies at San Antonio Spurs: The Grizzlies and Spurs will meet in San Antonio for game one of this first round playoff series. The Grizzlies will likely be without Tony “first team all defense” Allen for the playoffs, so this might be a lopsided series. The Grizzlies still have a lot of playoff experience with Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, and Zach Randolph on the roster, even though their coach David Fizdale doesn’t have any playoff experience. This could be an issue going up against the great Gregg Popovich. The Spurs have a ton of playoff experience too, led by superstar MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard. Both of these teams play a slower style of basketball, which could limit the number of possessions each team gets while keeping the games close. The Spurs are heavy favorites in this series, but they better not underestimate the Grizzlies with all of their playoff experience.
Utah Jazz at Los Angeles Clippers: The Jazz and Clippers will meet in Los Angeles for game one of this first round playoff series. The Jazz and Clippers both underachieved this season largely due to the injuries both teams sustained. Now that both teams are relatively healthy, they should both be playing their best basketball at the most important time. The Jazz are one of the deepest teams in the NBA, but depth isn’t extremely important in the playoffs because starters usually get the bulk of the minutes. But the Jazz had to play a lot of their bench players in crucial minutes during the regular season because of the plethora of injuries their starters sustained. They received valuable experience that should help them during this playoff run. The Clippers also had to overcome a lot of injuries during the season. They were one of the hottest teams in the NBA during the first month of the season and then started to cool off when star players got injured. Now that Blake Griffin and Chris Paul are both healthy, the Clippers have enough firepower to beat any team in the Western Conference. This may be the most exciting and competitive first round series, so winning game one will be crucial for both teams.
(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (8) Portland Trail Blazers: Warriors in 6
Since Damian Lillard predicted that the Trail Blazers would win the series in six games, I think it would only be fair if they lost in six games. People would give him a lot of heat for his prediction, especially if he got the number of games right in the series. I can only imagine how funny the memes would be, and he’d deserve to be ridiculed if his prediction backfires. Lillard is an amazing player and I’d rather him be confident in winning than expecting to lose, but he’s going to regret making this prediction.
(2) San Antonio Spurs vs. (7) Memphis Grizzlies: Grizzlies in 6
Although Tony Allen is injured and may miss the whole series against the Spurs, I’d like to see Memphis advance to the second round. The Grizzlies and Spurs are both older teams that play a unique style of basketball. The Spurs were the second best team in the Western Conference during the regular season, but I think they have the fifth best chance of making it to the NBA Finals behind the Warriors, Rockets, Jazz, and Clippers. The Spurs are a better regular season team than playoff team, and aren’t exciting to watch. The Grizzlies play a slow-paced “Grit and Grind” style of basketball, but I think their style would be more interesting to watch against the rest of the Western Conference playoff teams. Although it’s a longshot, I hope the Grizzlies advance to the next round.
(3) Houston Rockets vs. (6) Oklahoma City Thunder: Rockets in 7 Continue reading “NBA Playoffs – What I want to see”
With the NBA regular season concluding yesterday and the playoffs starting Saturday, we’ll have to suffer through two days without NBA basketball.
Toronto Maple Leafs at Washington Capitals: The Maple Leafs and Capitals will do battle in the first game of their first round playoff matchup. The Washington Capitals are the top seed in the Eastern Conference and will be heavy favorites against the Maple Leafs. Toronto snuck into the playoffs as the eighth and final seed in the Eastern Conference, but they have enough talent to make this series competitive.
Nashville Predators at Chicago Blackhawks: The Blackhawks and Predators will face-off in the first game of their first round playoff series. As the top seed in the Western Conference, the Blackhawks look poised to make another postseason run. After winning the Stanley Cup in 2013 and 2015, it seems like they should win the title again this year. The Predators are the eighth and final seed in the Western Conference. They’ll be heavy underdogs, but they should have enough firepower to win at least one game in the series.
Calgary Flames at Anaheim Ducks: The Flames and Ducks play tonight in the first game of their first round playoff series. Although both the Ducks and Flames had good regular seasons, the Ducks are the heavy favorites in this matchup. The Ducks are the more talented team and should win the series if they play up to their potential. Anaheim was one of the hottest teams in the NHL over the last month of the regular season, and should be able to use that momentum to propel themselves into a long postseason run.
Toronto Raptors defeat Cleveland Cavaliers 98-83: The Cavaliers decided a few days ago that it is more important to rest their starters before the playoffs than try and compete for the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. The defending champion Cavaliers are confident that they can win a seven game series against the Celtics without home-court advantage. The last time these two teams played, the Cavaliers dominated the Celtics in Boston. It’s hard to bet against LeBron James, but the Cavaliers aren’t playing their best basketball heading into the postseason. This strategy will be questioned all offseason if the Cavaliers don’t make it back to the NBA Finals. Although this game was played by backups for both teams, this could be a potential second round playoff matchup. The Raptors are a much more dangerous team with the additions of Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker at the trade deadline. With the return of a healthy Kyle Lowry, this Raptors team has enough firepower to make an NBA Finals run.
Boston Celtics defeat Milwaukee Bucks 112-94: In a game that was a lot closer than the score suggests, the Boston Celtics were able to clinch the number one seed in the Eastern Conference by defeating the Bucks. This game was extremely close through three quarters before the Celtics were able to pull away in the fourth quarter. The Bucks were resting most of their starters including superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. This game shouldn’t have been close, but it seemed like the Celtics were feeling the pressure of competing for the top seed. Since the Cavaliers lost, the Celtics would’ve been the number one seed even if they lost this game. If this is how the Celtics play under pressure, they may have a disappointing showing in the playoffs.
Miami Heat defeat Washington Wizards 110-102: The Miami Heat’s improbable season came to an end after a victory over the Wizards. The Heat needed either the Indiana Pacers or Chicago Bulls to lose in order to clinch a spot in the playoffs, but both of those teams won and clinched playoff berths. The Heat had one of the greatest endings to a season for a non-playoff team in NBA history. They had a ton of injuries and had one of the worst records in the NBA halfway through the season, but they never gave up. Coach Erik Spoelstra deserves a ton of credit for the way he led his team to the precipice of the playoffs. Although they came up short, this season proves Miami has a bright future ahead of them.
Indiana Pacers defeat Atlanta Hawks 104-86: The Indiana Pacers clinched the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference with a win against the Hawks. The Pacers would’ve missed the playoffs if they lost this game. The Pacers have a great challenge ahead of them in the first round of the playoffs when they face the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers. Although LeBron has had the Pacers’ number in past postseason matchups, this year’s Cavaliers limped into the playoffs. The Pacers aren’t as big of a threat as they’ve been in year’s past, but they still have superstar Paul George leading the way. George looks like the pre-injury Paul George again, and that could be a major problem for the Cavaliers. The defending champions will be heavy favorites in this series, but you can’t sleep on a team with a superstar of Paul George’s caliber.
Playoff standings –
- Golden State Warriors
- San Antonio Spurs
- Houston Rockets
- Los Angeles Clippers
- Utah Jazz
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Memphis Grizzlies
- Portland Trail Blazers
- Boston Celtics
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- Toronto Raptors
- Washington Wizards
- Atlanta Hawks
- Milwaukee Bucks
- Indiana Pacers
- Chicago Bulls
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Indiana Pacers: Heading into the final day of the regular season, the Cavaliers and Pacers are the second and seventh seeds in the Eastern Conference, respectively. If the playoffs started today, they would face each other in the first round. The Cavaliers could get the top seed if they win their regular season finale against the Toronto Raptors and the Boston Celtics lose their regular season finale against the Milwaukee Bucks. But the Cavaliers haven’t seemed to care about getting the top seed, and will likely rest their starters. The Bucks have already clinched the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, so they will likely rest their starters too. It seems highly unlikely that the Cavaliers won’t be the second seed in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers will be the seventh seed if they win their season finale against an Atlanta Hawks team that may be resting their starters. The Pacers could fall to the eighth seed or even out of the playoffs if they lose to Atlanta. The Cavaliers and Pacers would be an ideal matchup because we’d get to see LeBron James versus Paul George in the playoffs one more time. LeBron has gotten the best of George in all of their playoff matchups, but it still would be exciting to see. Paul George has recently started to look like the pre-injury Paul George. He’d need a herculean effort to pull off the upset against the defending NBA champions. The Pacers aren’t as good as they’ve been in years past when trying to knock LeBron out of the playoffs, so this series might not be close. But it would still be fun to watch two of the NBA’s best players go head-to-head in the playoffs again.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies: The San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies will meet in the first round of the playoffs. Heading into the final day of the regular season, the Spurs and Grizzlies have the second and seventh seeds clinched. The Spurs had another historic season under coach Gregg Popovich. The Grizzlies’ Grit-‘N’Grind mentality has gotten them back into the playoffs, but they don’t seem to be as dangerous as they’ve been in years past. They still have the same cast of characters leading the team, but their play has diminished over the last few seasons. Their style of play is different than most teams and should present some challenges for the Spurs. San Antonio also has a unique style of play. Coach Pop does an amazing job of maximizing his team’s talent each season. Kawhi Leonard has been one of the best players in the league this year, and should lead them deep into the playoffs. Both teams have a lot of postseason experience, so it should be fun to watch them go head-to-head in the first round of the playoffs.
Continue reading “Ideal Playoff Matchups – What I want to see”
All non-playoff teams: Fans of non-playoff teams should watch their team’s season finale. This will be the last time to watch your team until next season.
Toronto Raptors at Cleveland Cavaliers: Although this is an extremely important game for the Cavaliers, there is a good chance that they will rest their starters. The Cavaliers are in second place in the Eastern Conference and are just one game behind the Boston Celtics. They rested LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in their last game, which cost them the top seed in the playoffs. The Cavaliers seem to care more about resting their players than getting the top seed. The Cavaliers destroyed the Celtics in Boston the last time they played, so they might not be worried about beating the Celtics on the road in the playoffs. This strategy is extremely risky and may come back to bite them in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Milwaukee Bucks at Boston Celtics: The Boston Celtics are currently one game ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers for the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. With Milwaukee already locking up the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, there’s a good chance the Bucks will rest their starters including superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. This could help the Celtics clinch home-court advantage.
Washington Wizards at Miami Heat: This game is a must-win for the Miami Heat. They are currently in ninth place in the Eastern Conference. They are tied with the eighth seeded Chicago Bulls, but they don’t own the tiebreaker. They are one game behind the seventh seeded Indiana Pacers, but in this case they own the tiebreaker over Indiana. If the Heat lose to the Wizards, their valiant effort to get back into postseason contention will be wasted. There are multiple scenarios that could lead to the Heat making the playoffs. If the Heat and Pacers win and Bulls lose, the Pacers and Heat will be the seventh and eighth seeds, respectively. If the Heat and Bulls win and Pacers lose, the Bulls and Heat will be the seventh and eighth seeds, respectively. If all three teams win, the Heat will stay in ninth place and will miss the playoffs. The Heat must win and hope either the Bulls or Pacers lose.
Atlanta Hawks at Indiana Pacers: The Indiana Pacers control their own destiny. If the Pacers beat the Hawks, they will clinch the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. If the Pacers lose, they could fall to eighth place if the Heat or Bulls win. The Pacers will miss the playoffs if they lose and both the Heat and Bulls win. If all three teams win or lose, the playoff standings will remain the same. The Hawks have already clinched the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference and may decide to sit their starters. This would be an enormous help for the Pacers. Indiana cannot focus on all the potential playoff scenarios, they just need to focus on themselves and beat the Hawks to clinch a spot in the playoffs.