The NBA Playoffs In A Nutshell

Devin Jones, Contributing Writer

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The NBA playoffs are more dramatic this year than they have been for a really long time. With LeBron absent for the first time in over 15 years, basketball fans have been left with something that we haven’t had in a very long time. The Warriors are a step or two above the average playoff team, however, and as a result, are almost every basketball fan’s pick to win the championship this year. There is always a chance that they can stumble, however. Can the James Harden-fueled Rockets finally dethrone the reigning champions? What about the wide-open race in the eastern conference? Anything can happen to anyone now that we’re in mid-April.

For round one, the Bucks will more than likely make easy work of the Pistons in a quick sweep. The Raptors will cruise by the Magic with just as much ease, provided Kyle Lowry doesn’t fall apart in dramatic fashion (which, given his history, is definitely possible). I also think Boston will easily handle a Pacers squad that’s missing their driving force: Victor Oladipo.

Because of the style of both teams, I believe the Nets will walk out of Philadelphia with a win or two, but the 76ers will turn it on at the end of the series. This series is a tough one to call because of the style of both teams: Brooklyn plays harder than any other team due to their lack of a superstar player, while Philadelphia has arguably 2-3 superstars in their starting lineup. They haven’t had too much time to gel though, seeing as this team was largely assembled at the trade deadline, and having chemistry issues while playing up against the hardest-playing team in the league may result in an uncharacteristic early playoff loss for the 76ers.

In the West, the Warriors are almost guaranteed to make mince-meat of a ragtag Clippers squad who will struggle to guard a white-hot Steph Curry on top of 4 other all-stars.

I think the Spurs will upset an inexperienced Nuggets team in a surprisingly fast series. Coach Popovich of San Antonio is officially the most winningest head coach in NBA history, which stands in stark contrast to a Nuggets team with almost no playoff experience as a unit.

The Blazers-Thunder matchup is going to be an interesting watch as well, chiefly because of the trash-talk between the two most polarizing players in the series: Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook. The blueprint for beating the Thunder is to simply slow down Paul George enough so that a struggling Westbrook has to play a bigger role on offense, and because of George’s recent shoulder injury, the Thunder have been looking like a shell of the team they were just a couple months back. I think the Blazers end up running away with this series, which will likely be the most entertaining of the first round.

To cap off the first round, I think the Rockets have far too much firepower to drop this early to a quiet Jazz squad that plays with an emphasis on defense. The Rockets will likely cruise out of the first round if they continue playing with their eyes on the prize.

Following those predictions, that would leave us with a Bucks-Celtics matchup at the beginning of the second round that could go any number of ways. I think the Bucks’ style of play will translate better, however. Milwaukee definitely seems to have their gameplan under wraps, while the Celtics are searching for an identity to this day. I think the Bucks will win in a 5-6 game series.

We would then end up with a Raptors-76ers matchup. Honestly, I don’t think Kyle Lowry can handle the spotlight. I have the Raptors losing here, in no way because of Kawhi Leonard however.

In the west, we would have an earlier-than-expected rematch between the Rockets and the Warriors because of Houston’s late-season skid down to the 4th seed. I think this earlier matchup will fare well for Houston. It means their floor general Chris Paul has less time to injure himself before the most important series of the season. Because of Paul’s unfortunate injury history, that matters quite a bit. I think the almighty Warriors walk out of this on top, however. I don’t see Houston’s defense keeping up with Golden State at all.

Given how the Blazers star C.J McCollum is banged up as well, I think the 7th-seeded Spurs walk their way into the western conference finals in surprisingly easy fashion, in large part because of LaMarcus Aldridge and his consistency.

In the semifinals, we’d be left with Bucks-76ers in the east, and Warriors-Spurs in the west. Milwaukee has had Philly’s number all year, and as a result, I think the Bucks (thanks entirely to a white-hot Giannis Antentokoumpo) will find themselves in the finals. I also have the Warriors rolling over the Spurs, who like everyone else in the league, simply won’t be able to keep up with the Warriors historically good offense.

In conclusion, I think the Bucks will put up a solid effort, stealing a game or two from Golden State in the finals. But, to nobody’s surprise, I have the Warriors standing tall over the rest of the league once again.