It’s that time of year in the NBA. 16 teams will battle it out for the 2016 Larry O’Brien trophy starting today. Here are my predictions for this year’s NBA Playoffs.
EASTERN CONFERENCE QUARTERFINALS
#1 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. #8 Detroit Pistons
The first round is a mere formality for Lebron James at this point. Drummond and Reggie Jackson will put on a show to steal Game 3 but Cavs close it out in 5.
#2 Toronto Raptors vs. #7 Indiana Pacers
The Raptors look to finally win a playoff series, but they will have to do so against a revitalized Paul George and veteran Indiana team with Eastern Conference Finals experience. This one is a battle until the end, where Toronto pulls off a Game 7 win.
#3 Miami Heat vs. #6 Charlotte Hornets
The Heat enter the playoffs without Chris Bosh but playoff veteran Dwayne Wade has been great this season for Miami. However, a healthy Charlotte team with Nicolas Batum and Al Jefferson healthy in the front court will cause problems for Miami. Whiteside will be in foul trouble constantly and Kemba Walker will be clutch in this series. Hornets in 6.
#4 Atlanta Hawks vs. #5 Boston Celtics
The Hawks have given the Celtics trouble this season, but Boston has shown it has the capability to beat anybody, home or away. Isaiah Thomas will help make this a close series for the Celtics but Horford and Millsap will be too much for Boston’s front court to handle. Atlanta wins series in 7 games.
WESTERN CONFERENCE QUARTERFINALS
#1 Golden State Warriors vs. #8 Houston Rockets
A rematch of last year’s Western Conference Finals, but this year’s will not be as close. Harden will score 45 in Game 4 but the Warriors will do their thing and win in 5 games.
#2 San Antonio Spurs vs. #7 Memphis Grizzlies
Memphis has been decimated by injuries this season, and can finally be put out of their misery against San Antonio. A balanced offensive attack and solid team defense led by Kawhi Leonard will help the Spurs sweep this series.
#3 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. #6 Dallas Mavericks
Overshadowed by the Warriors and Spurs, the Thunder still have the best duo in the NBA in Westbrook and Durant. Dallas surprised many by making the playoffs this year, but Dirk won’t have enough left in the tank to push Dallas into the next round. Thunder sweep the series.
#4 Los Angeles Clippers vs. #5 Portland Trail Blazers
Something about the Clippers seems off this year. They still have the talent led by Chris Paul but have been dysfunctional at times, while the backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum have helped the Trail Blazers exceed all expectations. Portland wins this series in 6 games.
EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
#1 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. #4 Atlanta Hawks
The Cavs swept the top-seeded Hawks in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, and although the Hawks aren’t any better this year, Cleveland has been vulnerable times so I’ll give Atlanta a game and say Cavs in 5.
#2 Toronto Raptors vs. #6 Charlotte Hornets
With a playoff series finally under their belt, the Raptors start to play to their potential. The Hornets will be feisty in this series but Toronto will vanquish them in 6 games.
WESTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
#1 Golden State Warriors vs. #5 Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers turned some heads by annihilating the Warriors shortly after the All-Star Break, but Steve Kerr won’t let Damian Lillard catch him off guard again. Golden State overpowers Portland on their way to a sweep.
#2 San Antonio Spurs vs. #3 Oklahoma City Thunder
The Spurs have been invincible at home this year, but the Thunder only need to take one to have a shot in this series. I think Westbrook and Durant will once again be dominant and the Thunder seize their opportunity to clinch the series at home in Game 6.
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
#1 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. #2 Toronto Raptors
Everyone has defaulted the Cavs into the NBA Finals once again, but if there’s a team that has a chance to match up well and play the Cleveland tough, it’s the Raptors. Demare Carroll could be key defensive force on Lebron in this series as he returns to full health. Raptors shock the Cavs in 7.
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
#1 Golden State Warriors vs. #3 Oklahoma City Thunder
If it plays out this way, this series may be the most exciting of the playoffs. Loaded with superstars and talent, OKC will put a valiant effort against Golden State. The Warriors Big 3 will show up for the occasion however, and their depth will be too much for the Thunder to handle. Warriors in 6.
#1 Golden State Warriors vs. #2 Toronto Raptors
Stephen Curry and the Warriors get the chance to validate their 73 win season and close out the greatest single season in the history of the NBA with a championship. Warriors sweep the Raptors, and Draymond Green posts a triple-double in Game 4 to take MVP honors.