Evaluating the Dig’s NBA Playoff Predictions

by Sahil Veeramoney

We are now about two weeks into the NBA playoffs and it’s time to look at how the bracket is developing. More importantly however, it’s time to evaluate fellow dig-writer Jethro Swain’s first-round predictions from his playoff update a couple article’s ago (on an A-F grade scale).

Currently, the first-round has been completed in both the Western and Eastern Conferences with the victors continuing to the semi-finals. Just to clarify, each series consists of a best of 7 format thus whichever team to reach 4 wins first takes the series.

The following format will be fairly straight-forward by recapping Jethro’s prediction, the actual result, a grade for the series, and an explanation for the respective grade.

So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the playoff picture right now and see how Jethro did in the first-round. If you are only interested in my thoughts on the Blazers chances against the Warriors you can scroll down past the following section.

Western Conference QF Series 1: Golden State Warriors (1) vs. Houston Rockets (8)

J’s Prediction: A Warriors Sweep (4-0)

Actual Result: Warriors in 5 (4-1)
Jethro’s Grade: A

Comment: Though many may think that this was an easy prediction to make, James Harden and Co. had the potential to legitimately take a game or 2 off the Curry-less Warriors. However I will still give my colleague an A because the game-winner that Harden hit to give the Rockets their only win shouldn’t have counted.

Western Conference QF Series 2: San-Antonio Spurs (2) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (7)

J’s Prediction: A Spurs Sweep (4-0)

Actual Result: A Spurs Sweep (4-0)

Jethro’s Grade: A

Comment: There isn’t much to say about this series. The banged-up Grizzlies looked ghastly on the court. Granted they were playing the Spurs but no excuse for losing three games by over 20 points.

Western Conference QF Series 3: Oklahoma City Thunder (3) vs. Dallas Mavericks (6)

J’s Prediction: Thunder in 6 (4-2)

Actual Result: Thunder in 5 (4-1)

Jethro’s Grade: A-

Comment: Once again, Jethro predicts the overall outcome correctly in the Western Conference. Three for three so far, not shabby at all. He did slightly over-estimate the capabilities of the injury stricken Mavs but nonetheless an impressively close prediction.

Western Conference QF Series 4: Los Angeles Clippers (4) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (5)

J’s Prediction: Clippers in 5 (4-1)

Actual Result: Blazers in 6 (4-2)

Jethro’s Grade: F

Comment: Things were looking good for Jethro before I got to this series. I have nothing to say to this non-believer who called a Rip City loss in 5 games. Seeing the Blazers down 1 game, Swain made a grave mistake in succumbing to pessimism and thinking that we had no chance.

When the Blazers dropped two consecutive games at Staples Center and returned to PDX down 0-2 it looked like Jethro might have been correct. But Portland surged back to life and won the next four games to clinch the series 4-2.

Okay, in Jethro’s defense, no-one could have predicted the loss of both Clippers All-Stars in Chris Paul and Blake Griffin during Game 4; but still…believing that McCollum and Lillard would allow our hometown Blazers to lose in 5? Come on Jeth. A wholehearted and deserved F for the TOLF GEAM captain.

Eastern Conference QF Series 1: Cleveland Cavaliers (1) vs. Detroit Pistons (8)

J’s Prediction: Cavs in 5 (4-1)

Actual Result: A Cavs Sweep (4-0)
Grade: A-

Comment: Look’s like Jethro is back on track by once again predicting the series nearly exactly. I was inclined to give him a B+ but Game 4 was super close and the Cavs just grazed by the skin of their teeth.

Eastern Conference QF Series 2: Toronto Raptors (2) vs. Indiana Pacers (7)

J’s Prediction: Raptors in 6 (4-2)

Actual Result: Raptors in 7 (4-3)
Grade: A-/B+

Comment: This series was extremely close as the 7th seed Indiana took the 2nd seed Toronto all the way to 7 games. Once again, Jethro was off by one game. However I give an A-/B+ because of how hard the Pacers fought behind Paul George which was not indicated within his breakdown.

Eastern Conference QF Series 3: Miami Heat (3) vs. Charlotte Hornets (6)

J’s Prediction: A Heat Sweep (4-0)

Actual Result: Heat in 7 (4-3)
Grade: B-

Comment: This was the first overall correct series prediction in which Jethro didn’t predict the game score within one. The inexperienced Hornets proved to be a challenge for Heat taking the latter team to 7 games but were blown-out by 33 in the final matchup.

Eastern Conference QF Series 4: Atlanta Hawks (4) vs. Boston Celtics (5)

J’s Prediction: Hawks in 5 (4-1)

Actual Result: Hawks in 6 (4-2)
Grade: B+/A-

Comment: I would have given Jethro a flat A- here but the Hawks were up 2-0 at the time he made his predictions. Therefore, it’s easy to say that the ahead team will win and predicting how much home court advantage will affect the series takes a lot of skill. Once again, Jethro is within one game of the exact score but the close manner of Game’s 1, 3, and 4, warrant a B+/A-.

Overall Grade: A-

Comment: As much as I want to chastise Jethro for his incorrect Blazers prediction, I have to pay homage to the accuracy of his projections. Overall, he went 7-1 earning a scholarly 87.5% accuracy rating. In addition, each and every correct series prediction was almost to the T in overall game score which is quite impressive. Great work Jethro, a well-deserved A-.  

NOW… for all my loyal readers (The Dig editor(s) and maybe 1 OESian) here is a quick update of the current playoff picture and my thoughts on the Blazers chances.

Western Conference SF Series 1: Golden State Warriors (1) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (5)

Rundown: Currently the Warriors are up 2-0, capitalizing on home-court advantage and making the journey to the formidable Moda Center with a comfortable lead. Honestly, this series should be 1-1 as the Blazers were up by 17 points in the first half and took a 13 point lead to the fourth quarter.

Unfortunately the ‘Zers were unable to finish the job in the fourth getting outscored 12-34 by the Warriors largely due to Mason Plumlee’s nerves. However, based on the fact that we wouldn’t be in the second round without the 6’10 giant from Duke, I can’t yell at the guy. If the Blazers had snagged game 2 and upset the Warriors at Oracle Arena, the Blazers, in my opinion, would have had a legitimate shot at winning the series.

In addition, a Blazers win would have most likely rushed Steve Kerr to get Stephen Curry back in the lineup before he was 100%. Now, the Warriors might rest Curry for longer because of the comfortable lead they hold.

Sure, the Blazers returned to the Moda Center down 0-2 against the Clips and yes they won the next four games and clinched their spot in the semis. But the Warriors are no Clippers especially when they have Steph Curry.

I’m not ready to give up on the Blazers yet with two home games at the best stadium and fan-base in the NBA and the best backcourt in the NBA. Yes, I said it, I’m changing Charles Barkley’s ranks and putting his number 2 spot, in CJ and Dame, in first place.

The Splash Brothers got nothing on Lillard and McCollum and I will gladly have a lengthy conversation and explain my reasoning to any bandwagon Warriors fans who feel differently. This is going to be an uphill battle and in lieu of past performance a Portland victory is unlikely.

Louis R. ‘17 feel’s different, though, and is still convinced the ‘Zers are going to win the finals this year. To conclude, to all you diehard Blazers fans, it is important we reflect on how far the Blazers have come.

Earlier this year, everyone (besides Louis) predicted the Blazers would be a bottom-feeder below .500 team. Now, they have already surpassed expectations by making playoffs as the fifth seed, beating the Clippers, and giving the Warriors a run for their money. I’ll be eagerly looking forward to Game 3.

Western Conference SF Series 2: San-Antonio Spurs (2) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (3)

Rundown: I won’t go as in-depth with remaining series’ but matchup is a lot closer than I initially expected (currently 1-1). The veteran Spurs are looking a bit out-of-steam against the surging OKC thunder. Always playoff-ready Tim Duncan, now 40, doesn’t look so unwavering as of late. Regardless, I don’t believe the Thunder can sustain last game’s performance throughout the series and I predict a Spurs victory in 6 or 7. I hope I am incorrect thought because I want to see LaMarcus Aldridge lose. Or, I would love to see a Blazers-Spurs WCF match-up but my dreams probably won’t be granted.

Eastern Conference SF Series 1: Cleveland Cavaliers (1) vs. Atlanta Hawks (4)

Rundown: Not much to say about this one. The Cavs are looking like a well-oiled machine on the court and their NBA playoff record-setting, light’s out performance from behind the arc (25 made 3pt FG’s) speaks in favor to my argument. Seeming like a top-notch team the Cavs will most likely cruise to a 4-0 sweep over the Hawks.

Eastern Conference SF Series 2: Toronto Raptors (2) vs. Miami Heat (3)

Rundown: The Heat came out on-top yesterday with an upset win over the Raptors at the Air Canada Centre in a gripping OT game. Kyle Lowry hit a prayer three from half-court to send the game into OT but thanks to great D by Dwyane Wade and sloppy ball-handling from the recently-underperforming DeMar Derozan, the Heat clinched the victory late in the 5th.

However, Heat All-Star Chris Bosh was just confirmed to be done for the entire post-season and an announcement like that can play with team morale. Even though I think the latter won’t be a huge factor, I still predict a Raptors victory (4-2) as Lowry and DeRozan are eager to be in contention with Curry/Thompson and Lillard/McCollum for the best backcourt in the NBA.

I’ll be following up and evaluating Jethro’s second-round predictions once round two is complete.

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