May. 06, 2018
NBA Playoffs Second Round Predictions
After a wild opening round to the playoffs, be prepared to settle into a very predictable second round.
Houston Rockets vs. Utah Jazz
This matchup sees the league’s best offense take on the league’s best defense. And if Sunday’s opening game is a preview of things to come, the league’s best offense has a clear advantage. We saw in the first few games of the Rockets-Timberwolves series that the Rockets can sometimes struggle to find a rhythm - but when they do -- like in the third quarter of Game 4 -- watch out. Ultimately, Utah's lack of offensive creators will doom the Jazz. What will get the Jazz a win or two will be the fact that they’re well coached and know how to deal with adversity and playing against a talent gap. But ultimately, their efforts will be in vain.
Prediction: Rockets in 5
Toronto Raptors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
I said it about the Bulls in 2015, and I’ll say it about the 2018 Raptors. This is it. This is their best chance to knock off
LeBron James. They have the depth advantage, the coaching advantage, the backcourt advantage, a player that can guard Kevin Love wherever he goes, and home court advantage. The only advantages they don’t have is having the best player in the series and of course the mental advantage. We saw the Raptors roll over as LeBron toyed with them during the playoffs last season. The year before that, Kyle Lowry had to “decompress” during a game just to deal with the pressure. The short version is LeBron owns them mind, body, and soul. To see how much the Cavs had to struggle to get through Indiana and LeBron having to avenge 42 points in the four wins, I’d excuse anyone picking the Raptors to win. But history tells a different story. When the going gets tough against LeBron, the Raptors quit. They will fold once again.
Prediction: Cavs in 6
Golden State Warriors vs. New Orleans Pelicans
After watching game one, it’s clear as day that the Pelicans need to switch up their strategy. Trying to run with the Warriors is a recipe for defeat. Since 2015, only the 2016 Cavs solved the riddle. They made the series ugly with physical play aimed at the Splash Brothers and winning the 50/50 balls. I expect the proper adjustments to be made, but Steph Curry will eventually return. With Curry, the Warriors go from a very good team to a team in its own class. The Warriors have already proven they can take their defense up a couple of levels. If they can get Steph back into flow seamlessly, this will be a short series. The Pelicans have the ability to match up with Golden State. Jrue Holiday is elite on the perimeter and can check Klay Thompson and/or Curry. Nikola Mirotic showed he can defend high as a switcher/shader on pick and rolls, and you'll see Anthony Davis on Kevin Durant plenty. But each one of those matchups is a little bit of a stretch, and by the end of games and the series, it'll just be too much for the Pelicans to maintain to keep up with Golden State.
Prediction: Dubs in 6
Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers
The Celtics overcame a talent disadvantage against the Bucks because of coaching and cohesion. It’s a shame they aren’t healthy. Now they have to deal with Jaylen Brown being less than 100%. But as great of a story as the resilient Celtics have been, Philly is just far too talented on both sides of the ball. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid present matchup nightmares, and Boston just won't be able to score enough to keep up. The Celtics' defense and grit will get them two and maybe even three wins, but ultimately it'll be the Sixers in the Eastern Conference finals. I do however look forward t seeing this matchup for many years to come
Prediction: Sixers in 7