Don’t let the return of baseball season distract you from the fact that the NBA Playoffs draw closer and closer every day. I’m here to continue my predictions from Part One, and to tell you who I think is going to win it all!
Western Conference Second Round:
#1 Rockets vs #4 Pelicans
The Rockets deserve that #1 seed, the seed they’ve officially clinched as of March 29th. Their high-powered offense of James Harden, Chris Paul, and Clint Cappella, accompanied by copious amounts of wing scoring, is too much for many teams to handle. The Pelicans (ironically) have a glaring lack of wings, and thus wing defense. Anthony Davis is good, but they’ll have trouble defending against Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza, Gerald Green, Joe Johnson, PJ Tucker, and Luc Mbah a Moute. All those guys are competent shooters, and the Pelicans don’t have the shooting guards and small forwards to even attempt to defend that three-point onslaught.
#2 Warriors vs #3 Blazers
This semifinal matchup will be an incredibly high-scoring affair. Two of the best backcourts in the NBA duking it out for dominance. But, the Warriors are the Warriors. Steph Curry will (hopefully) be back by the second round, Klay Thompson is a lockdown defender and holds up well against the smaller McCollum, Kevin Durant isn’t getting shut down by Al-Farouq Aminu, and Draymond Green and Jordan Bell can and will defend Jusuf Nurkic. This series will be a must-watch, but the Warriors will come out on top. Also, Game Seven! Cue pre-Warriors Zaza!
Eastern Conference Second Round:
#1 Raptors vs #5 Pacers
With Joel Embiid out at least two weeks, my theory about the Sixers holds a little more water. As I talked about last week, the Raptors bench is just an onslaught of talented scorers, great defenders, and Jakob Poeltl (RIP Paul Millsap, cause of death: Poeltlized). The Pacers have a talented squad, but a squad that doesn’t match up great against the Raptors. The long arms and strength of Demar DeRozan will match up well with Vic Oladipo, and Valancunias (who’s been playing out of his mind this season) has some inches on Myles Turner. The Pacers will also be tuckered out from a decently tough first round matchup, while the Raptors should breeze through their first opponent. All these factors add up to a second-round bounce for Vic and company. Bummer.
#2 Celtics vs #3 Cavs
Oh. Oh no. This was hard. This choice was hard. Can both win? Can we have a three-team Eastern Conference Finals? I hate to say it, but LeBron is LeBron. I’m on the MJ side of the GOAT argument (don’t even get me started on that one), but playoff LeBron is so magical that there’s just no chance anybody can stop him. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum would have to play the defense of their lives in order to stop him. The guy is on pace to play 82 games for the first time in his career AT AGE 33. STOP. It’s just unfair. He’s the king. Sorry Celtics. Next year, I promise.
#1 Raptors vs #3 Cavs
UGH! This is hard! The Cavs just beat the Raptors the other day and LeBron had 17 assists and ZERO TURNOVERS! The guy is so good! But Dwayne Casey is a COTY candidate and the Raptors would win the most improved team award that I just made up. They play amazing team basketball, and I’m all in on that bench being a HUGE part of an NBA Finals push. Give me Finals Fred Van Vleet! Please! I want the patch on his jersey!
P.S Zaza (I love this clip so much)
#1 Rockets vs #2 Warriors
Let me get the obvious out of the way: Zaza. Anyway, I hate to be THAT guy, but this is the most vulnerable the Warriors have looked in a long time. Mike D’Antoni has never made it past a WCF, and Chris Paul has never even set foot in a WCF, but this year is the year for both of them. Chris Paul is a constant All-Defensive point god, James Harden is this year’s MVP, Clint Capella can steamroll most Warriors bigs, and SOMETHING the Rockets throw at Kevin Durant has to stick. This WCF result isn’t necessarily because the Rockets are consistently better, I just think they’re in a full-tilt sprint into the playoffs while the Warriors are definitely limping.
#1 Rockets vs #3 Cavs
This one isn’t as hard. LeBron has a finite amount of gas in the tank, and Mike D’Antoni will fast break it all out of him. As incredible as LeBron’s season has been, I just can’t see them beating out the Rockets on more than one occasion. Another year, another Finals loss for LeBron, despite the King ruining people’s lives at age 33. Paul and Harden and Capella vs. LeBron and Kevin Love is just too one-sided of a fight. Paul and Harden get their rings, and LeBron gets to go to the Lakers with a decent enough excuse. 2018 season over. Bring on the NBA Draft.