The NBA Playoffs are finally here and the matchups are officially set! I'm going to give you a quick preview of each series and my picks.
Western Conference First Round Series'
(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (8) Houston Rockets
On the last day of the season, the Houston Rockets found a way to sneak into the playoffs. James Harden has had a great individual season by averaging 28.9 points per game, 7.5 assists per game, and 6.1 rebounds per game. Harden has carried the Rockets into the playoffs, and I believe he will play great in the series and maybe even have one epic game. But the only problem is . . . they're playing the Golden State Warriors. The Golden State Warriors have had one of the best regular seasons in NBA history, and set the record for the best record at 73-9. Steve Kerr won't allow his players to let the series last very long. Golden State Warriors in 5 games.
(2) San Antonio Spurs vs. (7) Memphis Grizzlies
If it wasn't for that team in Oakland dominating the basketball world, the Spurs would be the best team in the NBA hands down. Their addition of Lamarcus Aldridge has given them a huge boost from last year, even tying the NBA record for the most home wins in a regular season with 40. They still have Gregg Popovich at the helm, so thats an instant advantage. The Memphis Grizzlies have been decimated by injuries this season, but they do have the greatest dunker in NBA history in Vince Carter so it'll be fun to see him play one last time. This one won't be close, ever. San Antonio Spurs in 4 games.
(3) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (6) Dallas Mavericks
The Dallas Mavericks had an extremely tough offseason, but their head coach Mark Carlisle is very good at his job. And owner Mark Cuban was able to get his coach some players that could put his team in a good position to win basketball games. Dirk Nowitzki may have some magic left in those legs, but it may not be enough to beat this star-powered Thunder lineup. Russel Westbrook tied the record for the most triple-doubles in a single NBA season with 18. Kevin Durant is still #NotNice. And new Thunder head coach Billy Donovan has continued his winning ways as he always has in his coaching career. Thunder in 5 games.
(4) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (5) Portland Trail Blazers
The Los Angeles Clippers are a very talented basketball team. They have plenty of shooters, they have great defenders, they have a legendary coach, and they play in a beautiful arena. But they are annoying and they are very Hollywood, they love to act. They could beat just about any team in a one game playoff, sadly for them the playoffs are 7-game series. Damian Lillard has been slept on for too long now. The Blazers lost 4 of their 5 starters from last season, and Lillard still managed to take his team to the playoffs yet again. Lillard will be magnificent and nearly unstoppable. Blazers in 7 games.
Eastern Conference First Round Series'
(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (8) Detroit Pistons
Stan Van Gundy has changed the entire culture of basketball in Detroit. Adding Reggie Jackson to this young lineup has paid huge dividends for the team on the court. He has brought that winning experience to a Detroit team that has struggled since their Chauncey Billups days. BUT, the Cavs have Lebron James and it is the Eastern Conference playoffs which he has dominated for the bulk of his career. Cavs in 4 games.
(2) Toronto Raptors vs. (7) Indiana Pacers
The Raptors have been running through the 6 with their woes all season long. They have an absolute all-star lineup, and they have played like a team with a chip on their shoulder all season long. Adding Cory Joseph has given them the championship experience that their young team needed. But Paul George is back, and better than he has ever been. After his horrific injury he had with the Olympic team, it is great to see him back and ready to remind the NBA who he is. I smell a huge upset in this one. Pacers in 6 games.
(3) Miami Heat vs. (6) Charlotte Hornets
The Miami Heat and the Charlotte Hornets ended the season with the exact same record, but because of a bunch of different scenarios, the Heat ended up with the 3 seed while the Hornets had to settle for the 6 seed. Both teams have had great seasons. Miami still has Dwyane Wade, and we will see the vintage Wade that we are used to seeing. Injuries have forced them to pick up seasoned veterans like Amare Stoudemire and Joe Johnson who have brought leadership to the locker room. But the Hornets are very deep. They drafted Frank Kaminsky who has come in and had an immediate impact on the team, and they added Jeremy Lin as their backup point guard who has played well above expectation. The Heat have experience, but the Hornets have youth and depth. Hornets in 7 games.
(4) Atlanta Hawks vs. (5) Boston Celtics
I don't think I have ever seen a closer matchup in a first round series in my life. The Hawks and Celtics both ended the season with the same record. They both have point guards who are undersized that can dominate the game. They both have coaches that have improved their franchises in ways nobody expected they could. This one is honestly a toss up. On the last game of the season the Celtics came back from a 26 point deficit to defeat the Miami Heat, while the Hawks lost by double digits to a horrendous Wizards team. If I'm being forced to choose a winner, I am going to go with the team with the deeper bench. Celtics in 7 games.
Just a man trying to make the most of his time on this planet.