I can’t tell if time seems to be going quicker as I get older or the NBA season is also starting as quick as its ending. When the Christmas day game between the Warriors and Cavaliers had ended I must admit I wanted to fast forward to the playoffs and finals right away. As usual though, I reminded myself why we watch the regular season and that it sometimes goes by extremely unappreciated.
However, as I write this (April 3rd) playoffs prediction/preview the standings could change as the East decides its fate with teams being 1 game or less apart from each other. The West on the other hand is more or less decided and so far this years playoffs teams look to be vey exciting with some of the better first round match-ups in the last few years.
Golden State Warriors (1) vs. Portland Trailblazers (8)
Revisionist history will tell us that last years second-round playoff meeting between the Dubs and Blazers wasn’t a real concern for the then 73-win Warriors. Besides, since that series the Blazers have added Jusuf Nurkic who has produced tremendously for the Blazers since arriving from the Denver Nuggets. The Warriors also now have Steph Curry at optimal health, and oh yeah that guy called Kevin Durant who on the flip-side may or may not suffer the same fate that Curry did last year in terms of health.
Regardless if Durant is 100% and ready, I’ve got this series going to the Warriors in 5 games, with a showing of generosity towards the Blazers giving them a win in one of their 2 home games in the 2-2-1-1-1 format. The Dubs should handle this team as easily or even easier than last year helped even further by the news of Nurkic’s leg injury recently. The Warriors have also looked unstoppable lately without Kevin Durant (sans shades of last years regular season wrecking crew) – so if not for that reason alone, the first round shouldn’t be too difficult for the Bay Area Bullies.
Los Angeles Clippers (4) vs. Utah Jazz (5)
I don’t hate the Clippers.
I just thought I’d use that as a preface for what I want to happen in this series but my basketball logic will try to repress. Nothing would excite me more than seeing the Jazz pull off it’s first playoff series win in a very long time, but at the same time I would feel sorry for any real Clipper fans out there who have genuinely stuck with this team throughout the years.
The diehard Clipper fans deserve the outcome of a win, however do I think it will come as easy as a 4-1 Clippers victory – not entirely. The variable in all of this is that the Jazz will be hungry as they get there first taste of the playoffs, and that alone should reward them with 1-2 wins. Ultimately these wins won’t be blowouts but will serve as tough fought wins most likely residing at home.
The Clippers should survive this series purely for the fact that they’ve been fighting for a deep playoff push for what seems like forever, so a 6 game series should give them enough confidence to claim their stake in an interesting second-round appearance, but only time will tell if the Clippers curse is for real.
Houston Rockets (3) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (6)
In a moment of honesty I can proclaim that I had James Harden as the MVP in early October before the season started off a whim that I thought he’d drastically improve with the departure of Dwight Howard and arrival of new coach Mike D’Antoni and players like Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon. That small roll of the dice turned out to be quite the prediction as Houston have the 3rd seed comfortably secured whilst boasting the title of one of the leagues highest volume 3-point shooting team wiht a strong 3P% to back it up.
On the other side of this contest we have the Thunder who at this point in the season currently possess the leagues MVP on their roster in Russell Westbrook. I have conceded my very strong position on this award and if I’m being completely honest it has bled into my thoughts on the playoffs for the Thunder as displayed in the above graphic.
Yes you are seeing that correctly, I believe that if the standings hold and the Thunder don’t somehow jump the Clippers that this meeting with the Rockets will go the distance and perhaps be the best series the West will offer in the first round. With the never say die attitude of Westbrook I have the Thunder stealing one in Houston and ultimately tying the series 3-3 with a win back at Chesapeake Arena to reach a Game 7.
I must admit that I would have liked to be bold with this one and give the Thunder an early playoff shocker that would knock out a somewhat favourite to make the Western Conference Finals. However, the machine that is Russell Westbrook has given me many reasons lately to not bet against him, but at the same time barring a complete collapse from the Rockets they should escape the series with the aid of home-court advantage.
San Antonio Spurs (2) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (7)
Once again the Spurs will see the Grizzlies in the playoffs and while I don’t see this series going too much differently from last seasons playoff sweep in terms of the Spurs ease of winning, the Grizzlies won’t be swept this time. Unlike last year the Grizzlies aren’t dealing with a large volume of injuries but a the same time haven’t upgraded talent-wise enough to beat the 2017 Spurs.
The Spurs have changed since the previous playoffs and even with the teams historic player gone and the others showing their ages, the Spurs still manage to have enough to muster a 60+ win season and remain looking as dangerous as ever as a championship contender. As far as this series goes, I see the Spurs handling their business with ease but much like the Trailblazers against the Warriors, I’d like to spot the Grizzlies a cliche ‘Grit and Grind’ performance in the FedEx Forum to give the fans of Memphis something to feel good about this season.
ON THE FRINGE: Denver Nuggets (9th Seed)
6 Games remaining:
|@ New Orleans Pelicans|
|WIN | 134 – 131 (.5 Game behind Portland Trailblazers for 8th seed)|
|@ Houston Rockets|
|LOSS | 110 – 104 (1 Game behind Portland Trailblazers for 8th seed)|
|[HOME] New Orleans Pelicans|
|WIN | 122 – 106 (1 Game behind Portland Trailblazers for 8th seed)|
|[HOME] Oklahoma City Thunder|
|LOSS | 106 – 105 (ELIMINATED FROM PLAYOFFS)|