The storylines in the Western Conference could carry interest alone.
Will the defending champion San Antonio Spurs get back to the NBA Finals as a road underdog? Will the Los Angeles Clippers continue to underachieve in the playoffs? Will MVP candidates Stephen Curry and James Harden lead their teams on long playoff runs? Speaking of Curry, will the Golden State Warriors validate its historic regular season with an appearance in the Finals?
The storylines in the East are a bit more interesting than last year’s playoff showing.
Will LeBron James help take Cleveland to the promised land and deliver a title? Will the Atlanta Hawks validate their stellar regular season with a deep playoff run of their own? Will Derrick Rose remain healthy throughout these playoffs? Will the sorry-ass bottom half of the playoff field go the hell away quickly?
Inquiring minds want to know.
As this preview is concerned, this will include very quick, straight-to-the-point analysis on each series. Since I have a day job and am doing this shit for free, this won’t be but so in-depth.
So without further ado, here is how I have things shaping out in the NBA Playoff’s first round (in a rather quick fashion)…
1. Atlanta Hawks vs. 8. Brooklyn Nets
Analysis: The Hawks had its best regular season, playing as a team with no superstar but rather as a collection of stars. Led by coach/former Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer, Atlanta has become “San Antonio East”. Brooklyn is the typical underachiever, having players that should speak to a better record. Look for the Nets to flop their asses out of the playoffs – quickly.
Prediction: Hawks in 5
2. Cleveland Cavaliers vs. 7. Boston Celtics
Analysis: James, Kyrie Irving, and to a lesser extent Kevin Love are on a mission. The Cavs have gelled together at the right time and should demolish the Celtics on their way to a second round date with the Bulls. The Celtics will use this playoff appearance as a teachable experience.
Prediction: Cavaliers in a sweep
3. Chicago Bulls vs. 6. Milwaukee Bucks
Analysis: The Bulls have the luxury of playing at least four home playoff games. Milwaukee is only a short drive from Chicago, and the Bucks’ fan support has been lacking to say the least. The only thing that would prevent a Bulls’ sweep is something happening to Derrick Rose.
Prediction: Bulls in a sweep
4. Toronto Raptors vs. 5. Washington Bullets
Analysis: In what should be the most competitive series in the East, both squads are young and talented. The Raptors are exciting and well-coached, while the Bullets have veteran leadership (Paul Pierce, Nene, Marcin Gortat) mixed with good young talent (John Wall and Bradly Beal). Now if Pierce’s critique of the team prevents the Bullets from moving forward, it just speaks to the team’s lack of heart. That said, I don’t think Pierce will allow Washington to fizzle in the first round.
Prediction: Bullets in 6
1. Golden State Warriors vs. 8. New Orleans Pelicans
Analysis: I am happy to have an opportunity to watch Anthony Davis in his first playoff series. Too bad it will be a quick series. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Co. will make sure of that.
Prediction: Warriors in 5
2. Houston Rockets vs. 7. Dallas Mavericks
Analysis: While he does not historically play well in the postseason, James Harden will flex his muscles and get his boys past the veteran Mavs. While I think Mavs’ coach Rick Carlisle is one of the best in the business, too much internal friction (ahem, Rajon Rondo) will be an impediment to Dallas advancing to the second round.
Prediction: Rockets in 6
3. Los Angeles Clippers vs. 6. San Antonio Spurs
Analysis: This will be the most competitive first round series in the playoffs, period. It will be competitive to the point that the winner of this series will represent the West in the NBA Finals (sorry Golden State). The Spurs and Clippers are coached by the two best in the sport in Gregg Popovich and Doc Rivers, respectively. While I almost NEVER like to pick against the Spurs, I’m going with the Clippers. Not only will homecourt make a difference, I think that Chris Paul and Rivers are motivated off of their second round series loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder last season. So early congrats are in order for the Clippers on making the NBA Finals (something tells me I will regret picking against Pop and the Spurs).
Prediction: Clippers in 7
4. Portland Trail Blazers vs. 5. Memphis Grizzlies*
*Grizzlies will have home-court advantage
Analysis: As much as I like Memphis and their style of play, I must pose the following question: will ANYONE outside of both Oregon and Tennessee give a damn about this series? I’m not saying both teams aren’t nice. In addition to my earlier comment on Memphis, Portland has a bevy of talented cats. I think this is a bad matchup for the Blazers, who are not ready for the Grizzlies’ physicality.
Prediction: Grizzlies in 6