NBA playoffs: preview and predictions

Michael Winn

Sports Blogger

@Michael_winnboy

 

Western Conference

First round

A wild final night of the regular season started with the Oklahoma City Thunder as the seven seed and the Utah Jazz in the three seed. It ended with the Thunder as the four seed and the Jazz as the five seed. Expect these conference playoffs to be the wild, wild west as each match-up is filled with great competition. The top-seeded Houston Rockets battle the eighth-seeded Minnesota Timberwolves in this star-studded offensive versus defensive matchup. Meanwhile, the Golden State Warriors will take on the San Antonio Spurs in a battle without two of the game’s best players, Kawhi Leonard and Steph Curry. It’s safe to say there will be a little less offense and defense from both sides. The Portland Trailblazers are in new territory as they have climbed all the way up to the three seed for the first time since the year 2000. C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard will face “the brow,” Anthony Davis, and the New Orleans Pelicans. If Davis can score 60 points every game to account for Lillard’s and McCollum’s points, then the Pelicans have a chance. Finally, Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, potential rookie of the year and prospective defensive player of the year, respectively, face off against Mr. Triple Double himself, Russell Westbrook, and Paul George. This is a great post matchup as Steven Adams and Gobert both thrive in the paint on offense and defense.

(KUNVAR sanjeevkumar Singh, Flickr)

The Rockets’ offense is too much for the Timberwolves. Kevin Durant will try to prove why he’s the best in the world and will be too much for the Spurs. Portland will finally get back to the semifinals as the dynamic duo of McCollum and Lillard will lead the way. Westbrook and the Thunder’s playoff experience will outlast Mitchell and the Jazz.

Semifinals

Westbrook and the Thunder go back to battle with former teammate James Harden and the Rockets. This series will determine if Paul George stays in OKC or leaves for LA. Trevor Ariza will heavily guard George all season long, and he will ultimately realize what everyone else realizes, that Westbrook will never win a championship. It was fun while it lasted, but this experiment is over, and it’s time for George to become a big baller.

Rumors are flying that Curry is eying a possible semifinals return date. This will help the Warriors tremendously as any Curry is better than no Curry. Lillard always seems to have his A game when he plays the Warriors, but this is a team sport, and the Warriors are the better team. The matchup we’ve all been waiting for is in the conference finals. Can the Rockets dethrone the Warriors in the West?

Western Conference Finals

Harden and the Rockets have said this is their year to win it all. I believe they have the pieces, but can they prove themselves in the playoffs? Chris Paul has never played in a conference final, and neither has Harden. We all saw the collapse of Harden and the Rockets last year as the Leonard-less Spurs beat them in the semifinals. Hopefully, the Rockets can get it together because I’m pretty sure everyone’s tired of seeing the Warriors in the finals (except Warriors fans, obviously). But if Harden and Paul can pull it all together, I see no reason as to why the Rockets can’t make it to the championship. Rockets in 6.

Eastern conference

First round

Philly’s win streak, LeBron James’ decision, and Kyrie Irving’s injury will all play a major role in helping “the process” continue to build and send James home early to pack his bags for his next move. The Toronto Raptors have finally conquered the king in the regular season and will battle John Wall and the “great team basketball” of the Washington Wizards. This series will come down to whose role players step up as both teams’ backcourts are evenly matched. Sorry to all the Boston Celtics fans out there, but this is going to be a tough matchup without Irving. With Malcom Brogdon coming back for the Milwaukee Bucks, this team has the depth to make things interesting in the East. Out of all the matchups, the three versus six matchup in the East is my favorite. Usually I don’t watch the Miami Heat, as I find their style of play unattractive, but when it’s in a matchup against Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers, that’s must-see TV. I expect to see plenty of fireworks and trash talk throughout this series. Finally, the Cleveland Cavaliers square off with the new-look Indiana Pacers. Victor Oladipo will look to continue his strong season and battle King James for the right to play the Raptors in the semis.

As Drake would say, it’s “God’s plan” for the Raptors to make it out of the first round and the Bucks to finish the too-young Celtics in seven games. “The process” will continue into the second round with Embiid trolling on the way there. King James is, well, the King, so we might as well pencil the Cavaliers into the second round without a doubt.

Semifinals

There’s no doubt Toronto will be rocking when the Cavs come into town, but it has never had an answer for James and his squad. The Cavs will continue marching on and beat the Raptors in five games. On the final day of the regular season, the 76ers and Bucks played against each other. It was no contest, as the 76ers ran away with the game and won by 35 points. Maybe Giannis Antetokounmpo puts up more of a fight in the playoffs, but as of now, Ben Simmons and the 76ers have his number. James versus Simmons in the Eastern Conference Finals. “The King” versus “the Prodigy.”

Eastern Conference Finals

“The process” versus the King. Simmons versus James. This series will be one for the ages. There’s nothing scarier than a confident team with nothing to lose in the playoffs. The 76ers are that team and are finding their way at the right time. Everything, except James’ play and Kevin Love’s injury before the All-Star break, for the Cavs has been anything but normal. This team has had a tremendous amount of trouble and is not going to make it to the finals. This year, there are two new teams that will fight for the championship. The 76ers knock out the Cavs in game seven of the Eastern conference Finals, which then will cause the crowd in Philly to chant LeBron James’ name and sway him to team with Simmons and Embiid, thus completing “the process.”

The Finals

This series will make history with the number of people that will watch it. Something new in the world of basketball is exactly what this sport needed to continue its reign of being the best sport around the world. This stage will be new to both teams and players and will be interesting to watch. Embiid versus Clint Capela will be a new matchup to watch. Embiid is more of a finesse type of player, while Capela will sky for a rebound and dominate on the glass. Either Harden or Paul will have his way with the 76ers as they can’t have Simmons play on both of them at the same time. I expect a high-scoring finals series with plenty of big-time plays and excitement, but in the end, the Rockets will be crowned champions.

ozone@ocolly.com

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