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2015 NBA Playoffs: Round 1

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Yah sure two games have already started including a Wizards overtime win over the Raptors, but some of us have to work for a living so this is a little bit late. Regardless the NBA playoffs really bring out the best basketball has to offer us. If you are a fan of the sport you should be watching as many of these playoff games as humanly possible.



Raptors vs Wizards

Game 1 saw the Wizards run out to a nine point lead after the 3rd quarter only to allow the Raptors to come back and allow them to gather some hope headed into overtime. But Paul Pierce scored five of his game high 20 in overtime leading the Wizards to a game one victory.

These two teams had high hopes headed into the 2014-15 season especially the Wizards with their young budding core and they brought in Pierce as the wily vet that can lead these young guys into the playoffs. They made it but not by that much. The second half to their season really left you wondering which team we would see in the playoffs. From January 21st through the end of the regular season the Wizards went 17-23, including 4-13 against playoff teams (0-2 vs the Raptors in that stretch) dropping them out of a possible home court situation in the first round into the 5th seed.

The Raptors also really struggled down the stretch albeit for a month less than the Wizards as they went going 12-16 from February 21st through the end of the season. But the Raptors really play well at home and luckily for them they played well enough to earn that for at least this series. If you just go by the stats the Raptors should be able to take care of the beat down Wizards seeing as to how they have a home record of 27-14 while the Wizards road record is a putrid 17-24. That being said the playoffs are in large part about the matchups and in my opinion the Wizards should really dominate this series… provided they aren’t as beat up and tired as they seemed to be down the stretch.

While neither team is all that deep the Wizards in my opinion have a much better playoff roster from top to bottom than the Raptors. They are bigger, stronger and deeper up front and even have a more athletic back court. While they need to overcome their road struggles, that’s why they brought guys like Paul Pierce in, and he proved why he was an important aquisition already during game 1.

Wizards in 6

Warriors vs Pelicans

While the Warriors are really taking care of business here as game 1 winds down, it remains to be seen how good they are in the playoffs. Two years ago they pushed the Spurs to the edge but then last year they lost in the first round. While they haven’t proven they can win it all they also haven’t had this squad at this point in their respective careers. On top of their #1 ranked offense they boast the #1 ranked defense and arguably the #1 home court advantage and they should also have a sense of urgency knowing that Draymond Green will very likely be on his way out of town after this playoff run.

While the Pelicans certainly aren’t poised for a deep playoff run this year they certainly have some nice pieces in place. I think it’s safe to say the Warriors weren’t exactly thrilled that the Pelicans beat out the Thunder for that final playoff spot, so that should tell you something, maybe something small but it’s still something. This could be the beginning of something great in New Orleans as Anthony Davis is on the verge of becoming a superstar. This could just be his first step towards being the best basketball player on the planet.

Anthony Davis should be good enough to get one win but there is no way this series is going back to New Orleans for a game 6.

Warriors in 5

Bulls -900 (series price) vs Bucks +600

This may be the most interesting playoff matchup on the board. The Bulls are in a spot where they could lose a top 5 coach in Thibs after the season. Five years ago we all thought the Bulls would be battling for the Eastern Conference every year for the next decade. Instead Derrick Rose has been battling his own knees/mind and things have gone downhill quickly. There was a point in this season where the Bulls didn’t look good enough to be in the playoffs even in the Eastern Conference. Yet they come out of it all with the #3 seed and home court advantage over the Bucks.

Yes the Milwaukee Bucks. Yes the same team that finished with 15 wins last year and got themselves the 2nd overall pick. Yes the same organization that quickly lost their 2nd overall pick for the season due to injury. Yet they finished .500 and earned their highest playoff seeding for the first time since 2009-10.

As far as on the court matchups go, both the Bulls and Bucks have glaring advantages. The Bulls have too much size and depth up front for the Bucks to really handle without the aid of foul trouble while the Bucks have the Greek Freak. There is no one on the Bulls that can guard Giannis Antetokounmpo, that took me four tab switches to spell that name so let’s just stick with “Greek Freak” or just “Giannis”. At 6’11 217lbs Giannis can score from anywhere on the floor. Sometimes he may need a fire lit under his ass but this is the playoffs and he is on the verge of becoming a superstar. A matchup against a fading veteran team with a coach on his way out of town could be exactly what he needs to make that next leap to superstardom. Of course it’s also going to take some serious foul trouble from the Bulls frontcourt.

Bulls in 7

Rockets -240 vs Mavericks +200

The Rockets really played exceptionally well down the stretch to jump all the way up to the #2 seed in a loaded Western Conference they played so well that they earned themselves a date with the Dallas Mavericks, who might be the team everyone in the West wanted to play. Unfortunately for the Rockets the Mavericks might be the end of the road. Just go down the line as far as the on court matchups… The Rockets have Dwight Howard, the Mavericks have Tyson Chandler to guard him. Would you rather have Dirk or Josh Smith? With the Rockets being without Montiejunas and Beverly, would you rather have Rondo, Monta and Parsons slotted in at 1-3 or Jet Terry, Harden and Ariza? Ya this series is far closer than most think of at first glance. The Mavs can put Parsons on Harden and tell him not to worry about scoring much especially since Ariza will be defending him on the other end anyway. But at the guard positions I don’t see how the Rockets can match up defensively. They play pretty good team defense but the playoffs is another animal. This playoff series is going to see James Harden guarding Monta Ellis A LOT and that really bodes well for the Mavs on both ends of the floor. The entire Rockets offense runs through James Harden so if Monta can get it going he can either tire Harden out or Harden will allow him to get whatever he wants. Then toss in the biggest wildcard of them all in Rajon Rondo. Rondo isn’t the same guy he was five or so years ago, that’s obvious. But Rondo is the kind of player that really gets up for big games, like he did so many times when the Celtics played against Lebron or someone else on national TV or when he played the Celtics for the first time after being traded to Dallas. He lives for these moments and he has a reputation to repair. If he wants it bad enough we will see vintage Rondo this series simply because there is nothing Houston can do to slow him down even if they needed to.

While the Rondo in Dallas experiment hasn’t exactly gone to plan, the playoffs is really all that matters. If he can provide the Mavs with even a sliver of what they were expecting from him, in this series they can absolutely win it.

Mavs in 6

Cavs -6000 vs Celtics +2750

Everyone seems ready to write off the Celtics and advance the Cavs and don’t get me wrong I understand why, the Cavs have Lebron and the Celtics don’t. But, the Celtics have heart, the Celtics play team hoop, and the Celtics have Brad Stevens. The Cavs don’t have any of those. While they have torn it up since Lebron returned from his two week vacation they haven’t proven they can win in the playoffs. In fact Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving will be playing the first playoff game of their careers tomorrow afternoon and Kevin Love may have his focus more on what the Celtics are doing/have done than the Cavs care to admit.

I don’t mean to sound too much like a homer but the Celtics have far more depth than the Cavs do. They have far more/better role players too. Plus who knows maybe Kendrick Perkins will pull a Kevin McHale and try to help his old squad out. I mean if Perk starts every game off 0/4 who would think something funny is up anyway?

Joking aside, the Celtics actually do match up really well with this Cavs team except for one glaring weakness, rim defending. While Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley should be able to lock up Kyrie Irving and what I expect to be a rather shy first playoff series, Jae Crowder and Evan Turner may be able to check Lebron as well as anyone really can, Kawhi Leonard aside.

The Celts just match up well with this Cleveland team and I truly think they will give them a run for their money, if not win this series outright. If the combination of Smart and Bradley can stifle Kyrie and put almost all of the load on Lebrons shoulders the Celts have a legitimate shot as long as they can continue to get the eventual 6th man of the year winner, Young Zeke, to find his own offense and carry this team emotionally.

I don’t care if it’s viewed as a homer pick I’m pulling the trigger based on matchups. If Lebron and Kryie can get past their primary defender it should be a quick series that looks like a layup line, but I believe Brad Stevens is too good of a coach to allow that to happen.

If you can explain to me why Cleveland will win this series/the Eastern Conference/the NBA Championship without being super condescending while just mentioning Lebron, Kyrie and Kevin Love, I am all ears but I don’t think anyone can because it’s all biased assumptions.

Celtics win in 6 and then Kevin Love comes to Boston during the offseason  

Hawks -1300 vs Nets +850

There aren’t many folks that believe the Hawks are a legitimate threat to Cleveland in the East. I am not one of those people and I’m certainly not one of those people that think the Nets belong in the playoffs. The Nets are a team full of lifelong losers that don’t work hard enough to succeed at the highest level. They’re a bunch of guys that have made careers based on their natural talents but never really wanted to be great. Just go read Paul Pierce’s recent comments if you don’t agree. The Hawks on the other hand are probably the best coached group in the NBA and play so well together that they should roll through the Nets.

Hawks in 4

Grizzlies -240 vs Trailblazers +200

The Grizzlies are a real sleeper in the Western Conference. They draw the Blazers in the first round who have LaMarcus Aldridge who has been putting off surgery on his hand all year and who lost their third best player, and best defensive player in Wesley Matthews a few months ago for the season. However the 2014-15 season has been a tale of two halves for the Grizzlies. For the better part of the first half of the season the Grizz were competing with the Warriors for the top seed and Marc Gasol was a real MVP candidate. The second half of the season they faded. Some might blame Jeff Green, I do anyway, others might blame fatigue and injuries, others could blame disinterest (it’s a long season it makes some sense). But if the Grizzlies can get back to fighting on the court like they did for the first half of the season they have an advantage up front over every other team in the NBA. The other problem they have faced is that Mike Conley has looked like a shell of himself. They really need their front court to get back to dominating form and part of that rests on the shoulders of Mike Conley who is the kind of point guard every NBA owner should dream of having. He is the unselfish type of point guard that is constantly thinking about how to get others involved and how to get them fired up and how to get them to play better on both ends of the floor. In order to make a deep run those three guys need to be firing on all cylinders but in order to beat the Blazers they just need Jeff Green to be competent or they need to keep him away from the rest of the team.

Grizzlies in 5

Clippers +155 vs Spurs -175

I can’t help but laugh out loud every time I hear people, especially the talking heads, mention the Clippers as a real threat in the West. The Clippers are a joke. Sure they have some nice pieces but Blake is not a real power forward and he can’t check guys like Duncan, or Splitter or even Boris Diaw for that matter. Chris Paul can’t seem to get over the hump and Doc Rivers might not even be a good coach, in one season he has already proven that he is certainly not a good GM. The Clippers are easy to hate with all their whining and crying to the refs and all the flopping from Paul and Blake, but the easiest reason to dislike them is that they get put up on this pedestal like they are a legit title contender. Sorry Billy Crystal, your team has NO SHOT.

Spurs in 4


Saturday, April 18, 2015

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