NBA Playoff Preview: Spurs, And Warriors, And Cavs! Oh my!


John Ferraro, Sports Editor

After one of the most memorable last days of the regular season in NBA history, the NBA playoffs almost got lost in the shuffle.

With the Golden State Warriors breaking the all-time record for wins in a regular season with 73 wins, surpassing the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls team, the race for the real championship was easy to forget.

Combine that with the storybook ending to the legendary career of Kobe Bryant. Bryant ended his run with the Lakers franchise scoring 60 points on 50 shots.

But, now that the dust has settled, it’s time to talk about the most exciting time for an NBA fan; the chaotic and extremely entertaining postseason.

Let’s begin with the first round match-ups.

Golden State Warriors vs. Houston Rockets

Houston has been a hot mess this season. After firing head coach Kevin McHale before the 12th game of the season, the Rockets barely snuck into the playoffs.

Both James Harden and Dwight Howard underperformed, and trade rumors about both players ran rampant. The Warriors, on the other hand, were a well-oiled machine dominating the league. Steph Curry had one of the best single seasons of any player in NBA history. Klay Thompson continued his great shooting, and Draymond Green was a walking triple double on a nightly basis. I’ll give The Beard one game, but the Warriors take the series in five.

San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies

With the addition of Lamarcus Aldridge, the Spurs were one of the favorites to win it all. They looked dominant for most of the year behind Kawhi Leonard’s MVP level play. Unfortunately for Memphis, health has been their achilles heel. Both Marc Gasol and Mike Conley have gotten bit by the injury bug, and they are most likely out for the playoffs. I’ll take Pop’s Spurs in a sweep.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Dallas Mavericks

The top-heavy Thunder look a little different than they did last postseason with a healthy Kevin Durant. But, it’s been Russell Westbrook taking the league by storm with over a dozen triple doubles. The Mavericks play tough against whoever team they play, but they don’t compare to the fire power of Durant, Westbrook, and an above-par bench. Dirk Nowitzki won’t go away without a fight, but the Thunder take the opening round in five.

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Portland Trail Blazers

The point guard matchup between Damian Lillard and Chris Paul sells the series by itself. But, the return of Blake Griffin just adds to the drama. Are the Clippers better without him? Is Blake going to hurt the team more than he helps them? Even with the LA drama swirling, I still cannot get the seven game series the Clippers took from the Spurs last year out of my head. The Clippers beat the Blazers in six games because of dominant performances from LA’s front court.

Now, it’s time to shift to the Eastern Conference.

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Detroit Pistons

The Cavs come into the playoffs playing the best basketball in the league over the last 10 games. But, Detroit can give them a bit of a scare for a game or two with Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond. However, I cannot go against a man who has won the East for the last six seasons in LeBron James. James, Irving, and Love are too much to handle. Cavs in five.

Toronto Raptors vs. Indiana Pacers

Kyle Lowry and DeMar Derozan with a strong front court headlined by an improving Jonas Valanciunas make the Raptors a very formidable team. But, I wouldn’t sleep on Paul George and the Indiana Pacers. Sure, they are not the Pacers of old but the expectations are very low. I think Indiana takes two games, and I would not be surprised if they won the series.

Miami Heat vs. Charlotte Hornets

Before the season started, I predicted the Heat would face the Cavs in the Eastern Conference finals. I don’t think I’m going to waver from that prediction. Don’t get me wrong, the Hornets are a good young team, and Kemba Walker is transitioning into one of the best guards in the NBA. But, with the addition of Joe Johnson, the interior prowess of Hassan Whiteside, the youthful energy from Justise Winslow, the reinvigoration of Amare Stoudemire’s career, and playoff mode Dwyane Wade, the Heat look primed to surprise a lot of people. Not to mention that they are playing without Chris Bosh and still hot. Heat in six.

Atlanta Hawks vs. Boston Celtics

The Celtics this year are what the Hawks were last season: the best T-E-A-M in the East. Isaiah Thomas is one of my favorite guards in the league with his illusive handle. Combine that with young talent like Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, and Jae Crowder. The Hawks will put up a fight with almost the same roster as last year with Al Horford, Paul Millsap, and Jeff Teague. I’ll take the Celtics in six, maybe seven. A compelling series for sure.

Let’s fast forward to the Conference finals and NBA finals match-ups. I’ll make this easy.

San Antonio beats Golden State in seven. Cleveland beats Miami in seven. The Cavs and Spurs meet in the finals where Pop gets his sixth title as a head coach. Spurs in six.

I’ll be rooting for LeBron and the Cavs, but I don’t see them bringing a title to Cleveland this year; especially with the other top two teams in the West.

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