The National Basketball Association Playoffs technically start tomorrow, with four of the eight First Round Series tipping off. This is where I am supposed to say that this is the start of a second season and that any team could win. I will not, since the NBA Playoffs expanded to include sixteen of the league’s teams at the start of round one in 1983-1984 the lowest seed to win the NBA Finals was the six-seeded Houston Rockets for the 1994-1995 season.
Every other champion has been a 3-seed or higher and every other finalist minus the 1998-1999 New York Knicks has been at least a 4-seed. The fact that those Knicks were an 8-seed is to be taken with a large grain of salt, years seeing as the 1998-1999 season was shortened to 50 games versus the normal 82 games and it is unknown if they would have overtaken any or all of the teams higher seeded than them in the standings. The reason for this lack of parity is pretty straight forward. There are only 15 roster spots on each NBA team which means that a team only needs 2 or 3 good to great players to succeed, anything more than that and a team may find itself in salary cap trouble and have to lose one or they will be given silly nicknames like “The Death Lineup” of year’sGolden State Warriors. Without further here are the first round match-ups and predictions with seeding being placed by each team’s name. Cheers!
Boston Celtics (1) vs Chicago Bulls (8): Boston cannot score without Isaiah Thomas on the floor but Chicago has been consistently poor in that department as well, ranking 23rd out of 30 in points per game. Boston in 6.
Cleveland Cavaliers (2) vs Indiana Pacers (7) : LeBron James is still LeBron James and Indiana is a thoroughly mediocre team sans Paul George and despite their awful defense this March LeBron and whoever his company is have managed to win six straight Eastern Conference Finals. Cleveland in 4.
Toronto Raptors (3) vs Milwaukee Bucks (6): Toronto runs a lot of Iso-Ball plays, but they have they best point differential in the Eastern Conference at +4.1. While the “Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokoumpo has been phenomenal this year leading the Bucks in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks per game a supporting cast of Khris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon does not inspire fear, this series could stretch out though. Toronto in 7.
Washington Wizards (4) vs Atlanta Hawks (5): The Wizards have been 33-15 since January 5th, the Hawks ranked 18th in Field Goal Percentage and 22nd in Scoring this season and with star Paul Milsap injured it is hard to envision this series being competitive. Washington in 5.
Golden State Warriors (1) vs Portland TrailBlazers (8): The so-called “Death Lineup” of Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green faces a Portland side whose two best scorers; Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum have been turnstiles on defense all year. Golden State in 4, I would say less if it was possible.
San Antonio Spurs (2) vs Memphis Grizzlies (7): San Antonio has started off the Post-Tim Duncan era smoothly winning 61 games behind two-time Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard’s emergence as an Most Valuable Player (MVP) Candidate ranking second in points per game given up. Although Memphis has the third best defense right on the Spurs tail in that department they also have the second worst offense in the entire league by points per game.San Antonio in 4, again I would say less if possible.
Houston Rockets (3) vs Oklahoma City Thunder (6): James Harden has blossomed into an MVP candidate himself after struggling last season and under Mike D’Antoni’s three-point bonanza offense with the additions of snipers Eric Gordon, Lou Williams, and Ryan Anderson paying huge dividends. There is however one obstacle to Harden’s MVP chase as well as the Conference Semifinals. His name? One man wrecking crew Russell Westbrook who broke Oscar Robertson’s single season triple doubles record with 42 as well as matching Robertson as the only men to average one over the course of a season. Although the Thunder roster is vastly inferior to Houston’s I have a sneaking suspicion that the man nicknamed “The Brodie” can will OKC to upset. Oklahoma City in 7.
Los Angeles Clippers (4) vs Utah Jazz (5): Despite my allegiance to Utah and the breakout season Rudy Gobert has had for them and their Number 1 Defense in points per game the potential swan song of the “Lob City” generation of basketball will probably prove too much. The reason? Aside from Chris Paul and Blake Griffin potentially having to break up the Clippers band (both are impending Free Agents) the Jazz offense is the second worst in the playoffs, only Memphis scores fewer points. However for all the excitement Lob City has brought Los Angeles’ junior club their inability to succeed in the playoffs has haunted them, because of this Utah may steal a couple games. Los Angeles in 6.
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