NBA Playoff Predictions: Round 2
The second round of the NBA playoffs have already begun, but I had to wait it out and see if either Toronto and Indiana wanted to advance last night after taking their series to a seventh game. We finally did get a winner in the Raptors and I finished with a 5-3 record in first round predictions. I was correct on Golden State, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Cleveland, and Toronto. The Clippers failed me in large part to injuries to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. The Celtics fought valiantly, but did not have enough firepower to combat the Hawks (and the injury to Avery Bradley was a blow). While the Hornets made the mistake of letting Miami get back into the series in Game 6 and that led to us seeing a Dwayne Wade that we haven’t seen in years! But that is all over now and it is time to move on to predictions for round two.
#1 Golden State Warriors
#5 Portland Trail Blazers
The Golden State Warriors advanced with relative ease against the Houston Rockets despite losing MVP Steph Curry. The Rockets are a dumpster fire and it showed in this series. But that’s not to take away from the Warriors. Even without Curry, the Warriors looked like a championship team at most times. Draymond Green is one of the best all-around players in the NBA right now and, along with Klay Thompson, led this team into round two.
The Trail Blazers seemed over after a few games against the Clippers. But after huge injuries to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, Portland took control of the series and knocked out Los Angeles. This has been an amazing season for the Blazers and I couldn’t be happier for them. Damian Lillard and C. J. McCollum helped lead to a team to the postseason that no one expected who be where they are now. But with that said, I believe their magical season ends in this series (Portland is already down 1-0), as they just do not have enough firepower to handle Golden State. Even if Curry misses this series, Golden State’s depth is far superior than the Clippers and they will band together to advance to the conference finals.
Winners: Golden State Warriors
#2 San Antonio Spurs
#3 Oklahoma City Thunder
The San Antonio Spurs made easy work of the Memphis Grizzlies in round one. The Grizzlies looked like they didn’t even belong in the playoffs and that helped the “Big 3” of the Spurs gain some valuable rest. But what also helps Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker is the great play of Leonard and free agent signing LaMarcus Aldridge. Between these five stars and a great cast of role players on the bench, the Spurs now focus on the Thunder, a series in which they already have a 1-0 lead.
Oklahoma City began their series with Dallas looking like the team we had seen through most of the regular season. They had a tough time closing games out and their stars struggled at times. But the Thunder put it together and finished the series off strong, eliminating the Mavericks. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook took control of the games and now must keep it going if they want to beat the Spurs. I believe they have the tools to do it, but I just cannot see it happening. The Thunder are too inconsistent and the Spurs will take advantage of their mistakes more than Dallas ever did. I like what the Thunder can do, but Durant and Westbrook cannot carry them past a team as great as the Spurs.
Winners: San Antonio Spurs
#1 Cleveland Cavaliers
#4 Atlanta Hawks
The Cavaliers swept Detroit in the first round despite a great effort by the young Pistons team. But for as dysfunctional Cleveland was during the regular season, the Cavs turned it up in their first series and I am sure we will see more of the same throughout the postseason. LeBron James looked the best he has in a long time. And, unlike last year, the Cavs have a healthy Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. Cleveland is now setting their sights on finishing what they didn’t last year and anything short of a championship would be considered a failure. And quite possibly the end of the Cavaliers that we know.
The Atlanta Hawks on the other hand had to come back and finish their series against the Boston Celtics. They took an early series lead only to see Isaiah Thomas help lead the Celtics back in the series. But once the series was tied 2-2, the Hawks bounced back and finished off the hungry, young Boston team. Kyle Korver bounced back to help Atlanta, but Millsap, Teague, and others need to step up more to have a chance against the Cavs. But right now, I see the Cavaliers moving on with ease as the Hawks, much like the Thunder, are too inconsistent to advance in this series.
Winners: Cleveland Cavaliers
#2 Toronto Raptors
#3 Miami Heat
The Raptors had to go to a seventh game against the Pacers to survive and advance. I never would have thought that the Raptors would struggle this much, but they have not looked like the same team that they were in the regular season. For as good as DeRozan and Lowry are, they have really been average so far in the postseason compared to what they did during the season. And while the Pacers played a great series, I don’t think it should have been this tough for a team that won 56 games this year. And if they want to advance to the conference finals, they will have to play way better against a hot Miami team.
The Heat also looked to struggle in their first round series against the Hornets and even allowed Charlotte to tie the series up. And with my upset pick looking pretty good, Miami exploded and won the series in pretty dominating fashion, even with Kemba Walker playing amazing. What help the Heat combat Walker’s play was a reinvigorated Dwayne Wade. Wade knocked down some big shots, and along with Whiteside, Johnson, and Dragic, helped propel Miami to the second round. But I still am not a full believer in Miami yet. As good as it would be to see a Cavs-Heat matchup in the conference finals, I think the Raptors will show what they can do and eliminate the Heat in this series.
Winners: Toronto Raptors
Daryl Karpinski, Jr.