Basketball

2018 NBA First Round Playoff Predictions

This is one of the first times I’ve actually said this in years but I am PUMPED for the NBA playoffs. After so many years of Cavs vs. Warriors, it finally appears that is no longer a certainty. What an eventful regular season it has been. From MVP and ROTY races to the absurd amount of injuries to the dominance of the Houston Rockets, and of course, the CRAZY ever-changing Western Conference Finals-this year has been wild. I mean holy shit has anyone ever recalled such a wild race in a Conference? With just a few games to go not even the 4 seed had clinched. But the teams are in, the matchups are set and we’re here with you for an incredible 2018 NBA playoffs.

 

Eastern Conference

 

1- Toronto Raptors vs. Washington Wizards

Wow. Now, this ain’t your typical 1-8 matchup like a Cavs vs. Pistons form a couple years back. The Raptors have had an exceptional season and are top 5 both in offensive and defensive efficiency. If they play to their potential they are one scary team, but that’s just it; the Raptors almost never do in the postseason. I think DeRozan will go off but I still have my doubts about Lowry’s consistency.

The Raptors are also just not a two-man show as they had the number one bench in scoring differential this year.The second-year Whicita State product Fred Vlan-Vleet has been a pleasant surprise making 41% from deep range and making many late-game buzzer beaters.

However, their opponents are no slouches in the Wizards. This year must be the two most talented 8 seeds I have ever seen in Washington and Minnesota respectively. Like holy shi,t those teams are talented if healthy and guess what? They are. The Wizards have John Wall back to go with fellow star Bradley Beal who is averaging a career high 4.5 assists. They are accompanied by the juniors in Otto Porter Jr. and Kelly Oubre Jr. who are both having career years.

Man, this is a lot closer matchup then people realize. The Wizards are such a high variance team they can play with nearly anyone but also lose to anyone. The Wizards would likely be more of a 5 or 6 seed if it weren’t for the Wall injury which seemed to help them with ball movement at first. But eventually, they came back to down to earth. Still we really don’t know which Wizards team we will get and I bet it will change from game to game. There will be some great games in this series and likely some blow-outs as well. Raptors get it done but closer than the experts think.

Prediction: Raptors in 6

 

 

2-Boston Celtics vs. 7-Milwaukee Bucks

The Kyrie Irving injury really changes the whole complexity of this series. The injury changed the whole complexion of the Eastern Conference playoffs and took the Celtics form potential Finals team to a potential first round loss. The season matchup between these teams is 2-2 on the year and the C’s are 0-1 without Kyrie.

However, the Celtics have faired very well without Kyrie going 14-7.¬†That’s not the only injury they have had either with Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis both out for the year. How is this possible? Brad fucking Stevens is a great coach. He’s so good even though he must get laid in every bar he walks into.

The year has been pretty tumultuous and disappointing for the Bucks firing their HC Jason Kidd and only getting the 7 seed. This is another insanely talented low seed with the Greek Freak, Eric Bledsoe, Khris Middleton, and the now healthy Jabari Parker.

Now there’s no question this team is more talented then the Kyrie-less Celtics. I don’t see the consistency from the Bucks to say they will take down the C’s though. Also, the Celtics have the best defensive efficiency in the league while the Bucks are all the way down at 17th. That and coaching will prove to much for the young Bucks. I expect some very exciting games though.

Prediction: Celtics in 6

 

 

3- Philadelphia 76er’s vs. 6- Miami Heat

This is yet again another intriguing matchup in the East. The Sixers are on FIRE, winning 16 straight games. This includes a long stretch without Joel Emid and integrating number one pick Markelle Fultz into the fold. The Sixers look amazing but over this stretch, it’s important to consider only 4 of those 16 teams even had a winning record. And of those 4 only 3 made the playoffs. So I don’t think they’re as unstoppable as people think.

The season matchup on these teams was tied 2-2 and was pretty epic. The Sixers won the first two by a combined 8 points while the Heat would comeback and take the next two. In the third meeting between the two D-Wade went off for 27 and scored 15 of Miami’s last 17 and making the game winner classic step back with 5.9 sec left.

Even as a Heat fan I love this Sixers team. Simmons affects the game in so many different ways still even without a jump shot. Then you have Joel Embid who is a monster to go with the rookie Markelle Fultz and last year’s ROTY Dario Saric. Saric is so underrated his shooting touch combined with his passing abilities and ability to get boards is a pleasure to watch. I love guys like Bellinelli and Ilyasova who they’ve added throughout the year and give them 3-point shooting to go with the shooting abilities of J.J. Redick and Robert Covington.

The Heat have a beast of their own in Hassan Whiteside and an underrated player of their own in Josh Richardson. Richardson is the Heat’s best overall player and matches up with the opposing teams best scorer on a nightly basis. Of course, Wade returning to South Beach was a huge addition for them as well.

These teams are both so well coached and play great defense. The Sixers and Heat are 3rd and 5th in defensive efficiency respectively. Embid is likely to miss game 1 but should be back for Game 2 and going forward. I am so excited for this matchup not only as a Heat fan but basketball fan. This will be longer than people think but I think the Sixers take Game 7 at home.

Prediction: Sixers in 7

 

 

4-Cleveland Cavaliers vs. 5- Indiana Pacers

Man, it’s a shame the Pacers got such a tough matchup going against the LeBrons. The Pacers have had such a good year and in my opinion, have the MIPOY in Victor Oladipo and the Coach of the Year in Nate McMillian. Seriously hats of to these guys. I love me some Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis. Sabonis thought of as a throw-in by many in the PG13-Oladipo trade has been real solid putting up 11.6pts and 7.7 boards. Bojan Bogdanovic is a sniper as well shooting over 40% from 3.

The Cavs obviously are led by the king but more importantly now have a healthy Kevin Love. Huge additions at the deadline gave them key contributors like Larry Nance Jr., Jordan Clarkson, and Rodney Hood.

Oh yeah, the Pacers also won the season series 3-1 against the Cavs. AND guess who’s back? Lance “ear blowing” Stephenson against his old comrade LeBron James. Can’t wait for Lance’s shenanigans. Going back and forth between 5 and 6 games on this one.

Prediction: Cavs in 5/6

 

 

Western Conference

1- Houston Rockets vs. 8- Minnesota Timberwolves

I hope you’re as happy as I am that the Wolves ended their fourteen year playoff drought. So happy for Jimmy, KAT, and company. Jimmy Butler has got to be one of my favorite players both on and off the court; dude is a comedy show but also sooo good on both sides of the ball. Unfortunately, for the Wolves, though they’re going home in the first round because of slipping in the standings due to Jimmy’s injury.

The Rockets have only lost 4 games on the season when their Big 3 of Harden, Paul, and Capella play. Believe it or not but Houston is 6th in DEFENSIVE EFFICENCY! Yup, you read that right. Also to go with being the second best team efficiency wise on offense behind G-state by just .1.

Additions such as Paul and the always underrate P.J Tucker and Luc Richard Mbah Moute revamped this defense. Giving them guys that can guard multiple positions and knock it down from deep as well. The Rockets are my pick to take it all this year if their Big 3 stay healthy. I think this game will have tons of close games but inevitably be a short series. I trust Harden and Paul, TOGETHER, at the end of games.

Prediction: Rockets in 5

 

 

2- Golden State Warriors vs. 7- San Antonio Spurs

Well, this matchup could have been a lot better on paper. No Curry and no Kawhi really put a damper on this one. This will be one of the series I’m reluctant to turn into if there’s other games on. The Warriors look extremely human lately actually only going 8-9 down the stretch. Two things to remember; they were depleted by injuries and they were coasting just waiting for the playoffs.

No Curry is still a problem for this team thought. Even though KD is clearly the better overall player on both sides of the ball they are 12-8 without Curry with KD in the lineup. Compared to 20-0 with Curry in and no KD. Curry is the MVP for the Warriors even though KD is the second best player in the game. Weird I know.

I gotta tip my cap to Pop, perhaps one of his best coaching jobs in recent memory. The team was deprived of talent due to the big injury of Kawhi Leonard. Yet they still managed to win 47 games and make the playoffs in the super competitive Western Conference.

If Kawhi miraculously comes back? Damn the Warriors are in trouble. But that seems to be a near miracle at this point, as who fucking even knows where that guy is!? I sure fucking don’t.

Gotta go with the Kerr’s Warriors in this one but Pop will win a few games lead by LaMarcus Aldridge who has been BALLIN this year. Guy really came back strong this year as is a candidate for Comeback Player of the Year. Rudy Gay, Danny Green and Dejounte Murray have had nice seasons as well. But realistically the combo of KD, Draymond, and Klay is too much for the Spurs.

Prediction: Warriors in 6

 

 

3- Portland Trail Blazers vs. 6- New Orleans Pelicans

Really wish Cousins didn’t get injured, this would have been one hell of a series. AD has put the team on his back and has absolutely killed it. Jrue Holliday is such an underrated defensive PG and has had a very nice year. But after that, they don’t have much. Although Nikola Mirotic was a very nick pickup.

For the Blazers it’s not just a two-man show of Dame and CJ. Jusuf Nurkic gives them a real nice Big 3 and they are DEEP. Guys having career years like Aminu and Harkless from long distance. Not to mention Evan Turner, Ed Davis, Shabazz Napier, Pat Connaughton, and the rookie form Gonzaga Zack Collins to give them a potent bench.

There’s gonna be a game, MAYBE two where AD just goes off and wills them to victory. But other than that I just don’t see the Pelicans having them depth to matchup with the Blazers. I also love both these coaches in Terry Stotts and Alvin Gentry FYI. I think they’re just a tad behind guys like McMillian and Snyder for COTY.

Prediction: Blazers in 5

 

 

4- Oklahoma City Thunder vs. 5- Utah Jazz

This is another matchup you would never have imagined going into the year. With OKC adding two stars and Utah losing their only one, these teams seemed destined for opposite ends of the spectrum this year. Yet, here they are, sitting right next to each other in the standings and in the first round of the playoffs. Now that Russell Westbrook took care of his personal achievements, making sure he got that triple-double average, it’s time for him to refocus and change his ways in the playoffs. The problem is, Russ doesn’t change his ways, nor does he want to.

Yes, the Thunder beat Utah 3/4 times in the regular season, but only one of those three losses came with Rudy Gobert in the lineup. The Jazz were 2nd in defensive efficiency this year, even with Gobert missing time. He is so influential in their late-season success that once he returned they finished the year on a 30-8 run.

With Melo and Paul George both seemingly forgetting how to shoot over the past few weeks, it will fall on Russ to make shots and create more opportunities. A challenge in itself that will be made exponentially more difficult with the presence of Rudy Gobert in the paint. Expect Utah’s combination of athleticism on the wing, great team defense, and the rim protector Gobert is to cause major problems for Westbrook. Utah should force a lot of turnovers and bad shots.

The Thunder normally are an erratic, inconsistent and head scratching team, while the Jazz are everything that Thunder aren’t – smart, tough, disciplined and well coached.

For those reasons I expect the Jazz to shock the public and the Westbrook stans who only care about totals unless it’s turnovers.

Prediction: Jazz in 6

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