We can all rejoice, the NBA playoffs are finally here! Here are my predictions for the outcome of the first round.
No. 1 Atlanta Hawks over No 8. Brooklyn Nets in four games: The Hawks have been stellar all year and a matchup with a Nets team that somehow made the playoffs with a losing record will not be much of a challenge. I expect a big series from Atlanta’s Paul Milsap and Al Horford as the duo will be too much for Brooklyn to handle.
No. 2 Cleveland Cavaliers over No. 7 Boston Celtics in five games: Once again, not much of a challenge here for the higher seed. I expect LeBron James to be fired up in his first playoff season back, as a Cavalier and Boston will have no answer for him. The Celtics win a close game at home but ultimately Cleveland will dominate this series.
No. 3 Chicago Bulls over No. 6 Milwaukee Bucks in six games: Derrick Rose is the biggest question mark for this series. He left Chicago’s final game of the season with knee soreness, but clearly they are a much different team with him on the court. The Bucks have a young team that will be excited to be in the postseason, but I think Chicago’s experience will be enough for them to survive the series with or without a healthy Rose.
No. 5 Washington Wizards over No. 4 Toronto Raptors in seven games: This series is my loan upset in the East for the first round. Paul Pierce will be the X-factor in this series. Although John Wall and Bradley Beal are the main guys in Washington, I think Paul Pierce has enough clutch shots left in him to make an impact in this series in the fourth quarter.
No. 1 Golden State Warriors over No. 8 New Orleans Pelicans in four games: The Warriors are the easy choice here. They are the league’s best team and have the best point guard in the game, Stephen Curry. New Orleans however has one of the league’s next stars in Anthony Davis. Davis will likely put forth a super human effort, but I don’t expect New Orleans to have enough firepower to win a game in the series.
No. 7 Dallas Mavericks over No. 2 Houston Rockets in seven games: The Houston Rockets have not made it out of the first round of the playoffs since 1997. I expect that streak to continue this year when Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks send James Harden and company home in a thrilling series. For the Mavericks to win, they will need a big series from point guard Rajon Rondo. Rondo has struggled since being traded to the Mavericks, but he will have the clear advantage over the aging Houston point guards Jason Terry and Pablo Prigioni.
No. 6 San Antonio Spurs over No. 3 Los Angeles Clippers in six games: The Spurs are a playoff machine and I think they have one more playoff run left in them. Led by Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs have been one of the hottest teams in the NBA heading into the playoffs. Despite the seeding I expect the defending champions to eliminate the Clippers in just six games in the upset that is not really an upset.
No. 5 Memphis Grizzlies over No. 4 Portland Trailblazers in seven games: This series is the most unpredictable to me. We all know Portland’s point guard Damian Lillard has ice water in his vains, but will he have enough help? I think the trio of Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley will be enough to lead Memphis into the second round as they will be able to control games with their grind-it-out pace.