We’ve reached May on the calendar and the NBA has their final eight teams still moving toward the ever-elusive championship. Today we are doing predictions for round two, but first, let’s recap round one and see what I got right and wrong.
Celtics/Bulls (Celtics in 6)
I originally had the Celtics in five games but Chicago put a real scare into Boston during the first two games. Having Rondo go down was a huge break for the Celtics but ultimately someone not named Isaiah Thomas needed to step up and Avery Bradley and Al Horford did in a huge way. Boston took four straight to win the series.
Cavs/Pacers (Cavs in 4)
Even though the Cavs swept Indiana, Paul George was a monster and the Pacers had a good chance to win every game. I’m not going to bet against the Cavs just yet, but they still have a huge issue on defense. They did a good job trapping Paul George and making him give up the ball, but I worry about how that will go against teams like Toronto or Boston, who have multiple guys who can score the ball.
Wizards/Hawks (Wizards in 6)
As I expected, this was extremely entertaining. Both teams love to run the floor and both play solid defense. But there’s not much to say other than John Wall wasn’t mortal in this series and neither was Bradley Beal. Washington’s star backcourt pair won them this series.
Raptors/Bucks (Raptors in 6)
I expected Toronto to win this series. I just wanted to see how hard Milwaukee was going to make them work for it. Don’t be surprised if the Raptors are a little gassed after dealing with the massive length of Milwaukee last round. Oh, and hey, Kyle Lowry finally showed up and that is welcome news if you’re a Raptors fan.
We were perfect in the East. Now to the West…
Warriors/Blazers (Warriors in 4)
We all knew this was coming. Nothing to see here. Next!
Spurs/Grizzlies (Spurs in 6)
Memphis actually put up more of a fight than I expected in this series. Ultimately, Kawhi Leonard and San Antonio’s depth was too much for the Grizzlies but hey, this series was tied at two games a piece at one point. TAKE THAT FOR DATA!
Rockets/Thunder (Rockets in 5)
I had Oklahoma City winning this series because I had hope that the Thunder weren’t a glorified D-League team without Russell Westbrook on the floor. But Houston was just faster, more athletic, and had WAY more outside shooting. Just goes to show basketball is a true team game. Still, I hate the fact I have to wait until October to see Russell Westbrook play again.
Clippers/Jazz (Jazz in 7)
I saw this coming but it has to be extremely disheartening to be a Clippers fan. They’ve had the lead at some point in every playoff series they’ve been in since 2013 and blown all of them. Missing Blake Griffin hurt the Clips, but make no mistake, Utah went out and won this series. Joe Johnson turned back the clock, Joe Ingles might be the most underrated player in basketball, and Rudy Gobert remains the top paint protector in the league for a reason. The get the Warriors next and call me crazy, but I think they could give Golden State some problems.
So for the first round, we got seven out of the eight series correct. Not bad. Now to the second round.
Celtics vs Wizards (Celtics in 6)
Boston started this series with a win on Sunday and Isaiah Thomas finally got his shot back again. I’m taking the Celtics simply because the Wizards bench is awful. Boston has far more depth and if Bradley and Horford keep playing at the level they are right now, I don’t see how they wouldn’t advance.
Cavs vs Raptors (Raptors in 7)
UPSET ALERT! I expect a chippy, physical series but Toronto is solid enough off their bench and has the ability to put up points against a Cleveland team that just can’t seem to stop anyone from scoring. LeBron and Kyrie will put up a fight, as they always do. But look for a Raptors bench player to be a huge X-factor. My money is on PJ Tucker.
Warriors vs Jazz (Warriors in 6)
This series is so much about the contrast in styles. Utah loves to play slow and make it tough on you to score and the Warriors play at an unbelievably high pace and score tons of points. The Warriors are the better team and they will win, but I do think Utah can force Steph Curry and Klay Thompson into some bad shots and take a game or two. Nonetheless, Golden State moves on.
Spurs vs Rockets (Spurs in 6)
Get ready for a lot of free throws! That’s what James Harden and Kawhi Leonard do better than anyone and I’m sure this series will see lots of foul shots. The strategy for San Antonio is simple: force someone other than James Harden to beat you. Leonard will lock down Harden and I just don’t know if Houston has many other scorers that can take you off the dribble. Also, look for LaMarcus Aldridge to have a field day against Ryan Anderson. Spurs in six!
So in case you’ve been keeping track, here are my conference finals matchups.
East: Celtics vs Raptors
West: Warriors vs Spurs