Are you ready for about to month of NBA playoffs action? The 1st round of the playoffs tips off this afternoon with four games in total. We start with the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers hosting the Indiana Pacers. Then will get the Milwaukee Bucks at the Toronto Raptors. Game three has the Memphis Grizzlies at the San Antonio Spurs and we wrap up with the Utah Jazz at the Los Angeles Clippers. The first game is on ABC while the other three are all on ESPN.
The other four series get started on Sunday starting with the Atlanta Hawks at the Washington Wizards. The second game features the Portland Trailblazers at the Golden State Warriors. That’s followed by the Chicago Bulls at the Boston Celtics and the night wraps up with Oklahoma City Thunder at the Houston Rockets. The 1st, 3rd and 4th game will be on TNT while ABC is carrying the 2nd game.
Now Golden State comes into the playoffs with the best regular season record, again and they’ve looked like the best team down the stretch. Is there a Western Conference team that could knock them off or are the going to be making another trip to the NBA Finals. Now San Antonio had the second best regular season record in the NBA and they’re always a threat to get to the finals, but as of late they’ve had their struggles in the early rounds of the playoffs. The Spurs do have the best coach in the NBA in Greg Popovich and Kawhi Leonard is one of the best players in the league, but is there enough behind Leonard to get to the finals? The Rockets are an interesting case. They’ve embraced the new style of NBA play and they’ll shoot a 3-pointer from just about anywhere on the court. Now if they’re making these shots they’re a threat to any team in the league, but if they’re off then it’s a different story. Can Houston stay hot enough in a seven game series to get themselves into the finals. They do have an M.V.P. candidate in James Harden and Harden did average just under 30 points per game. The Clippers and the Jazz ended the regular season with the same record 51-31 and will meet in the 1st round. The Clippers still have those names you know; Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, but they haven’t been able to put it together yet; so why would this season be different? Los Angeles does come into the playoffs on a seven game winning streak and are 8-2 over their last 10 games. Utah is a young team making their first trip to the playoffs in a few seasons; so I’m not sure that they’d be a threat of they got out of the 1st round. Gordon Hayward can score and Rudy Gobert does average a double-double, but it appears they’re a ways away from being a title contender. If Russell Westbrook can get some help Oklahoma City could be an interesting 6th seed. The Thunder have a tough 1st round match up against Houston, but if they get past the Rockets it could get Westbrook rolling. Now I fully expect Memphis to win a game or even two in their 1st round series against San Antonio, but even if they did get out of that series I don’t think they’re a threat to the Warriors. The Trailblazers grabbed the final Western Conference playoff spot which got them a 1st round date with Golden State. Damien Lillard kind of jokingly said that Portland would win this series in six games, but I don’t think anyone really believes that will happen.
Now even though the Cavaliers are coming into the playoffs as the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference they’re still the favorite to advance to the NBA Finals. Now Cleveland has shown some vulnerability this season, but is there a team that could knock them off in a seven game series? LeBron James has said that the Cavaliers have a secret weapon to get back to the finals, but a lot of the experts are wondering if Cleveland will be able to flip the switch now that it’s playoff time. The Celtics are actually the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference, but everyone seems to have their doubts in them because their best player is a point guard. I’m sure if you’ve listen to any playoff preview you’ve heard them mention that Isaiah Thomas is 5’9. What they’ve been leaving out is that Thomas averaged 28.9 points per game and has been the best player in the NBA hen the 4th quarter rolls around. Thomas may not be the question when it comes to the Celtics, but is Boston’s supporting cast good enough to get this team to the finals. Toronto ended up with the same record (51-31) in the regular season as the Cavaliers and they seem to be the team that the experts think could get past Cleveland this season. Kyle Lowry should be healthy for the playoffs and Toronto has two quality big men in Jonas Valanciunas and Serge Ibaka and DeMar DeRozen can score, but the Raptors have had their issues in the playoffs before and they may have to get past those demons first. While the experts like Toronto to knock the Cavaliers out of the playoffs if I had to chose one Eastern Conference team to do that it would be the Wizards. John Wall and Bradley Beal both average 23.1 points per game and may be the best backcourt in the NBA. Wall also hands out an average of 10.7 assists per game. The Wizards have some tough big men who aren’t afraid to mix it up and Otto Porter Jr. is one of the better 3-point shooters in the NBA. The Wizards can play a little out of control, but if they keep their composure they can be a real threat in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks where said to be selling off their pieces early in the season when they dealt Kyle Korver to Cleveland. I guess the sale didn’t go as planned as Atlanta ended up with the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference. Dwight Howard can still rebound and block shots, but you have to wonder if the Hawks can score enough to be a playoff threat. The Bucks are young and athletic and Giannis Antetokounmpo has been the breakout star of the season, but the playoffs seem to be a learning experience and Milwaukee hasn’t made enough trips into the playoffs to gain that experience. Now the Bucks will scare any team it matches up with and it may even pull off an upset, but they’d be in a better position of Jabri Parker was playing. The Pacers ended up with the 7th seed and drew the Cavaliers in the 1st round. Paul George is all the way back and is looking to make a statement as he heads into free agency. If George plays out of his mind don’t be shocked to see Indiana win a game or two in the 1st round, but I don’t think they’ll be the team upsetting the Cavaliers. The Bulls where handed the 8th seed when the Brooklyn Nets sat six players in the final game of the regular season, but will Chicago do anything with that gift. The Bulls can match up with the Celtics and Jimmy Butler may be the best player in the series. Chicago has played well against teams with winning records, but will that carry over into the playoffs and is it enough to predict a 1st round upset?
There you go. Will we see a third finals that features Cleveland and Golden State or is there a team out there that you like to crash the party? Let me know your team to watch and who you have winning it all in the comments.
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