This years playoffs will likely be the most interesting in recent memory, the West is log jammed with numerous superstars, the process has finished processing, and the Warriors look vulnerable with no Steph. Let’s take a look at each first round matchup.
Houston Rockets vs. Minnesota Timberwolves — Rockets in 6
This is a very intriguing series in my eyes, many may think this could be a quick four or five game series, but I personally think the Timberwolves, with a healthy Jimmy Butler have a shot at taking this six or seven games. With strong on ball defenders, and the ability to slow the pace down on offense, the Wolves provide a true first round obstacle for the surging Rockets.
Key to an upset: Karl Anthony-Townes plays like the best player on the court all series
Golden State vs. San Antonio — Warriors in 6
With both Steph and Kawhi both likely out for this series, it’s tough to really predict how this could turn out. The warriors have significantly more talent across the board, but Popovich is a magician. I place this series at six because the Warriors without Steph do not play with any discipline, they are reckless with the ball, and their offense isn’t nearly as smooth, which Pop will be sure to take advantage of. The Spurs still play mistake free basketball, so I see a chance of the spurs stealing one of the first two in Oracle and then winning game 4 at home. This should be a fun series to watch end to end.
Key to an upset: Slow down pace, and keep the Warriors under 100 ppg.
Portland vs. New Orleans — Portland in 7
This series is likely the most lackluster in the West. I could see either team coming away with this, but I think the Pelicans May be a bit too short handed for playoff basketball. I feel obligated to give the pelicans a shot just because Anthony Davis has the ability to take over a series like this, and I think he actually will. Much like what Aldridge did to Houston back in 2014 (scoring 46 and 43 in the first two games), and wrapping up the series in 6, I believe AD will post ridiculous numbers, but fall short in a game 7 in Portland. I feel that Lillard and McCollum will be able to offset the brow down the stretch.
Key to an upset: Absolute domination by Anthony Davis
OKC vs. Utah — OKC In 5
Simply put, I don’t see the Jazz having much success against OKC. Even though Donovan Mitchell is very good, and has shown he isn’t afraid of the spotlight, and Gobert is a great defender who is completely healthy now, I don’t think this team has enough talent to really put up much of a fight against Westbrook, George, Melo, and Adams. I have a feeling that we may also see a resurrection of playoff Melo, which would result in a quick wrap of this series. If the Thunder decide to play just iso ball and don’t play smart, they could end up in an extended series with a physical and tough team.
Key to an upset: Hope the Thunder beat themselves.
Toronto vs. Washington — Wizards in 7
This is very likely me having way to much faith in the team I have religiously watched for the last 18 years, but I truly think the Wizards can pull this series out in 7. The Raptors have a better team overall, and are significantly deeper on the bench. But are known for their slow starts come playoff time. The reason I can see this happening is because the wizards play with confidence, they truly feel that they can beat anyone in this league in 7 games (they sat Wall and Porter last game against the magic, when a win would have matched them up with the kyrie-less Celtics). This obviously is not true, but playing against a team that start slow and is known for not showing up come playoff time makes the wizards a true threat to take down this years top seed in the east. The wizards play best when their backs are up against a wall, and when they feel they are doubted, so don’t be surprised if Wall and Beak find a way to take over this first round matchup.
Key to an upset: Otto porter needs to play like an all-star calliber player on both ends of the floor.
Celtics vs. Milwaukee- Milwaukee in 6
The loss of Kyrie put the nail in the coffin for an already depleted Celtics team. Even if they slip through this matchup, I don’t see them going any further against a better team. Giannis will be tough to handle, and I don’t think the Celtics have enough motivation left in the tank to really push themselves the rest of this year. Even with Brad Stevens coaching at an elite level, I don’t see the Celtics stopping Giannis, who can control the game on both ends of the floor.
Key to an upset: Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum both avg. 20+ per game.
Philadelphia vs. Miami- 76ers in 5
This could easily go 4, but I will give the heat a game at home because of sheer experience. In reality, the 76ers have more talent across the board, are younger, more athletic, and just quite simply put better at basketball. Ben Simmons has shown he is an absolute monster, and his ability to make everyone around him significantly batter makes this team very tough to beat. The Heat will have a tough time matching up against this team and I don’t see this being a competitive series.
Key to an upset: If Embid misses more than one game, the heat have a small chance to push this further than 4 or 5.
Cleveland vs. Indiana — Lebron In 5
Lebron and company see this as an opportunity to get some rest between first and second round, I think they come out aggressive against a young/inexperienced team and wrap up quickly. As we have seen in the past, James may try to use this as a statement series, where he reminds everyone that no matter the seeding, the east runs through him until proven otherwise. I don’t think the Cavs gave a cake walk to the finals, but they should take care of the pacers quickly in the first round.
Key to an upset: The Monstars steal Lebron talent for the entire series.