EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
#4 Washington Wizards vs. #1 Boston Celtics
I will admit that I am writing this preview after the conclusion of Game 1. However, as someone who was there in TD Garden to watch them play, I can promise you that my thoughts and predictions on this game remain the same. This series will produce arguably the best back court matchups in Round 2 as John Wall and Bradley Beal’s dynamic scoring will match up against Avery Bradley’s stifling defense and the NBA’s 3rd leading scorer Isaiah Thomas. I think the Wizards big man Marcin Gortat will be a big X factor in this series. The Celtics have had rebounding problems all season and if Gortat starts to collect offensive rebounds and kicks them out for Bradley Beal threes, the Wizards could have an advantage down low. It will also be an interesting coaching matchup with Brad Stevens, who struggled in Round 1 vs. Chicago, against playoff veteran Scott Brooks. Celtics win a hard fought 7 game series.
#3 Toronto Raptors at #2 Cleveland Cavaliers
In a rematch of the 2016 Eastern Conference Finals, Kyle Lowry and Demar Derozan face off against Lebron James and Kyrie Irving as the Raptors battle the Cavaliers. Cleveland won last year’s series in 6 before eventually winning the NBA title, but Raptors have a different look than last year. Toronto acquired both Serge Ibaka and PJ Tucker during the season to boost their defense. Demar Derozan has been a star on the offensive end with 27 PPG and the NBA’s fifth leading scorer. However, Lebron James is having another great season and the Cavs are rounding back into form after a mediocre regular season. I think series will end up looking similar to what happened last year in the Eastern Conference Finals. Toronto will win a couple games at home, but ultimately Cleveland overwhelms them and wins in 6.
WESTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
#5 Utah Jazz at #1 Golden State Warriors
One of these teams will be much more well-rested than the other. Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and the Golden State Warriors had the opportunity for a long rest after sweeping away the Portland Trail Blazers. Meanwhile, Gordon Hayward and the Utah Jazz just capped off a long seven game series against the Clippers. The Jazz have the opportunity to give the Warriors some trouble with their defense, anchored by big man Rudy. However, even Joe Johnson’s resurgence won’t be enough to give the Jazz any hope in this series. The Warriors Big 4 will be overwhelm the inexperienced Jazz, and Golden State will cruise to a sweep in this series.
#3 Houston Rockets at #2 San Antonio Spurs
The battle of Texas may be the best series of the 2nd round as the second and third best teams in the NBA face off against each other. MVP candidate James Harden leads Mike D’Antoni’s hire powered offense while fellow MVP candidate Kahwi Leonard heads up Gregg Popovich’s Spurs. This should prove to be an interesting series with two veteran teams and two veteran coaches who have been there in the playoffs before. San Antonio stumbled in this spot last year while falling to the Thunder, and the Rockets failed to make it to the second round. James Harden struggled at times against the Thunder in the first round, but had enough around him to help out. Meanwhile, Kahwi Leonard played out of his mind against the Grizzlies and has been on a tear since March. I think the Spurs have the better team and Houston cannot defend Kawhi. While the Rockets may shoot themselves to a couple of victories, San Antonio wins the series in 6 games.
Let me know your thoughts and predictions in the comments down below.