NBA Playoffs Preview

by Jethro Swain

The NBA playoffs are upon us and for the next month and a half you can watch Lebron or Curry or Aldridge make a championship run, but only for the next week can you watch the Blazers.

It’s sad to say but the Blazers as of right now, (4-20-16 when I’m writing this article) look like they have a tough task in beating the Clippers already a game down. Their one saving grace was that Blake Griffin and JJ Reddick were rusty coming into game 1, but they both had solid performances on Sunday, so with a fully functioning Clipper team, I sadly see the Blazers losing in 5, but making the playoffs as a 5 seed is still much more than anyone could have asked for.

Most of the other first round series are two games underway with the exception of the Cavs and Pistons. And most of them are shaping up to where the winner is already obvious. The Spurs and Warriors will both sweep, and the Hawks will win in 5, all three are teams are already up 2-0.

The Raptors started down 1-0 to the 7th seed Pacers but were able to bounce back and win game two, and I think they’ll close it out and win in 6. The Mavs were able to steal a game from the Thunder, but Raymond Felton was the reason they stayed in it. The Mavs are so undermanned that I don’t think they can stay consistent, so the Thunder will win in 6.

The Cavs are eyeing the finals and they’ll beat the Pistons, but they’ll drop a game along the way and win in 5. The Heat had a strong showing in the first and second game against the Hornets, and while the Hornets are a decent team this year, I think the Heat are better and have a lot more experience and will sweep the Hornets with ease.

If my predictions hold true then every higher seed will win the first round matchup, which is expected in the NBA where the best team almost always wins.

In the second round the Western Conference will have huge heavyweight matchups. The Warriors-Clippers series will be heated and the Clippers will put so much effort into the series, trying desperately to make it past the second round, but the Warriors will prove to be too strong.  Steph will have a strong series, and Klay will clean up for Steph if he has a rough game. The Warriors will take the first two at home, and slide into the Conference Finals winning in 6.

The Thunder-Spurs series will be very close, especially If Westbrook and Durant can come up clutch in the 4th. But, as shown on Monday night, the only reason the Mavericks barely edged out the Thunder in game 2 was Steven Adams making a shot and getting offensive rebounds, as well as almost getting the game winning shot off in time after Westbrook choked and missed. I see the Spurs winning in seven, with only a few close games, but game 7 will be close and the Thunder will choke in the end.

In the Eastern Conference, Cavs will again make easy work of their opponent and beat the Hawks in 5. Lebron and Kyrie will take over the game when they need to, and the Hawks will have no answer because they don’t have a star of their own.

The Heat-Raptors series will be close as well. The winner of this series will be the team to give the Cavs a challenge in the East.  The Raptors have a better backcourt in Lowry and DeRozan, but not nearly as much experience as Dwyane Wade.

Without a big man to match Whiteside who will have a big couple of games, the Raptors will have to rely heavily on Lowry and DeRozan, but Dwayne Wade and Dragic will be able to match them step by step, and the Heat will be too much for the inexperienced Raptors. As long as they don’t score 5 points in a quarter like they did against the Celtics in the last game of the regular season, I think the Heat will win in 6.

That leaves Cavs vs Heat and Warriors vs Spurs in the Conference Finals. Warriors and Spurs are what a lot of people predicted, and with good reason because they’re visibly the two best teams in the West. The teams both have equally deep rosters and have experienced coaches.

I’m picking the Warriors in 7 simply because of their home court advantage. The Warriors are the younger team and have more endurance than the older team of the Spurs, but Gregg Popovich always rests his players going into the playoffs, whereas the Warriors had to play every game to reach 73 wins, so the Spurs are more fresh going into the playoffs.

But with two teams who lost a combined total of 3 games at home during the regular season, home court advantage is huge, especially since the Warriors won both meetings in Oracle this year, and took one in San Antonio as well.

The Heat-Cavs series will be a big deal because Lebron will be playing his former team late into the playoffs, and it will put a lot more pressure on him to win because it’ll be extremely embarrassing if he doesn’t.

The Heat however are a strong team like I said before, and they’ll put up a good fight. I predict the Cavs too will win in 7, but don’t be surprised if the Heat take out the Cavs, who will be looking ahead to the finals, especially if Whiteside has a good series.

The Cavs-Warriors rematch is something that I think could repeat itself many times in the coming years. I think the two teams are good enough and young enough that if they keep all their guys the two could start a Celtics-Lakers rivalry and win their conferences year after year.

In NBA Finals history, 50 out of the 69 winners have been one seeds, including each of the last 3 champions, so statistically one of either the Cavs or Warriors should win every year if they snag the number 1 seed, and the Cavs didn’t even do that last year yet they made it to the finals.

During the series I expect Kyrie and Kevin Love to step up after missing last years Finals due to injuries, and players like JR Smith and Iman Shumpert will be able to use their experience from last year to make solid contributions. The Warriors won in six games last year, but are a better team this year as well.

The key difference this year is that now Steph is the favorite. When it came down to the 2015 finals it seemed that the general consensus was still that Lebron was the best player in the world and could or would prove so.

But now, many people see Steph as the best player in the world, but he’s going to have to prove it by besting Lebron. Steph didn’t even have a great series last year, the Warriors team beat the Cavs team because the Cavs were undermanned. But now that Lebron has Kyrie and Love to relieve some of the pressure, it’s going to be a more player oriented battle with the “Big 3” of each team rather than a full team battle.

The series will be very close. I think the Cavs will take one of the two opening home games from the Warriors and head into Cleveland with momentum. They’ll then take the next two home games led by Lebron, and win in game 6 in Cleveland.

2016 NBA CHAMPION: CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

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