NBA Playoffs: Previews & Predictions – Round 2

NBA Playoffs: Previews & Predictions – Round 2

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Atlanta Hawks 
Evan: Cleveland swept Atlanta in last years’ playoffs, and that was WITH their best defender in DeMarre Carroll. This year, Kent Bazemore (I think?) would be the Hawks’ number one option to cover James, which tells you what kind of time they’re going to have dealing with him and Kyrie as Cleveland’s one-two punch. The Cavs swept the season series, beating ATL by at least 10 points in two out of their three meetings. Cleveland looks poised to make it to their second straight conference finals appearance, and should have no problem disposing of the Hawks to get there. PICK: Cavaliers in 5 

Andy: This one is apple pie. Cleveland swept the season series, winning all three games by an average of almost 10 points. The Cavaliers swept the Hawks last year in the Eastern Conference finals. Cleveland has a healthy Kevin Love this year, while the Hawks are basically the same team, minus DeMarre Carroll (the one guy on last year’s team that could slow down LeBron James). To quote the legendary Chuck Swirsky, “bring out the salami and cheese.” This series is over before it starts. PICK: Cavaliers in 4

Toronto Raptors vs. Miami Heat

Evan: Dwayne Wade scares me. Goran Dragic kinda scares me. Joe Johnson still scares the hell out of me. It’ll be interesting to see how the Raps fare against one of the most experienced teams in the playoffs. Miami is a much better team than Indiana, and you better believe that Lowry and DeRozan are going to need to be key contributors for the Raps in this series. I’m glad Casey finally realized that he’s got a great asset in Powell, and hopefully we’ll see him used throughout the series. Unless Bosh somehow returns, I can’t see Miami being a problem for the Raps. Demar should have a great series now that he’s not matched up with George, and although I am still (and always will be) weary of Joe Johnson, Demarre Carroll should be able to shut him down. I don’t see this being an easy win for T.O, but I think they take it. PICK: Raptors in 6 

Andy: You’d think I would’ve learned my lesson after the first round. I picked a Raptors sweep over the Pacers, and completely overlooked their inability to shut down Paul George. Luckily for Toronto, Miami has nothing in the form of George. While Dwyane Wade can still go-off offensively, as we saw him take over Game 6 in Charlotte, he doesn’t have the 3-point prowess or defensive abilities of George. This should let DeMar DeRozan flourish; he’ll be able to create and hit more open jumpers, and won’t have nearly as miserable of a time shooting (0.319 FG% in the first round). With DeMarre Carroll wearing the Raptors red, Joe Johnson won’t be nearly as large of a factor as he was two years ago with Brooklyn. The Raptors match up against Miami better than most teams, having won five of their last six games against them. Barring a Chris Bosh surprise return the Raptors will romp. If Bosh does make a return, I’m calling an audible. PICK: Raptors in 4 

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Golden State Warriors vs. Portland Trail Blazers 
Evan:
With or without Steph Curry, it doesn’t matter – Golden State should demolish the Trail Blazers. Portland had absolutely no business beating the Clippers. The only reason they won was, obviously, because of the devastating Chris Paul and Blake Griffin injuries. These two teams played four times this year, with the Blazers winning once off of a 51-point performance from Lillard. Also, in that game, Curry played just over 25 minutes, Thompson just over 28, and the Warroirs as a team shot under 40%. That won’t happen again. Portland’s playoff ‘run’ will end fairly quickly, as Golden State should laugh their way to the conference finals. PICK: Warriors in 4 

Andy: Now a lot has been made of Stephen Curry’s MCL sprain. He was in and out of the line-up in Round One, and isn’t due back until May 9. Will he actually be back by that date? Who knows. The only thing we do know is that the Warriors looked vulnerable without the MVP playing. Luckily for Golden State, they get the easiest second round opponent out there in the Portland Trail Blazers. The Blazers were down 2-1 in the series before both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin left injured in Game 4. If even one of those two stay in the series, I don’t see Portland getting out of it. But they did, and now they’re fodder for the Warriors. PICK: Warriors in 4  

San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Evan:
This is going to be one hell of a series. These teams met four times in the regular season, splitting 2-2, with the home team winning all four times. This will also be a battle of three of the top-10 players in the NBA in Westbrook, Durant, and Leondard. Also, don’t forget Durant has criticized Leonard before, so that’ll add a little more fuel to the fire.Honestly, it’s hard to pick against San Antonio at this point, even though OKC probably does have the best player in the series. We’ll see how this one plays out, but unless we end up seeing a San Antonio/Golden State conference finals, this will probably be the best series of the playoffs. I’ve got the Spurs, but not by a lot. PICK: Spurs in 6

Andy: While many are calling this the matchup of the playoffs, I’m calling their bluff. Looking at it straight up, you will see they tied the season series at two games apiece. They finished second and third in the Western Conference. Seems like they’re headed for a seven game series, right? Wrong. Dig a little deeper, and you’ll see a different story. The Spurs won 67 games (12 more than the Thunder). San Antonio put up absolutely historic numbers in doing so. Opponents averaged 81.0 points per game against them, more than 10 points below the second lowest in Golden State. That’s astonishing if you ask me. If there’s one team that can shut down both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, it’s the Spurs.I want to say the Spurs in 4, but I feel I’m a little too sweep-happy. PICK: Spurs in 5 

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