2017 NBA Playoffs: First Round – A Little Preview
Hey! You made it! You made it to the end of the NBA 2016-17 season! People seem to complain constantly that the NBA regular season is too long and it’s a slog, but I don’t know, feels like yesterday when Anthony Davis reintroduced himself a la Jay-Z with one of the lines of the year on OPENING NIGHT!
Also, real quick: we see you, Jimmy Butler, Isaiah Thomas and John Wall with your 50-point outings! Dame Dolla was scorching with a career-high 59 point!! Yo… Klay dropped 60 points in 29 minutes!!! Devin Booker had 70 FUCKING POINTS!!!!
And we can’t forget that the two leading MVP candidates, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, were just messing around putting up 50-point triple-doubles and all.
No big deal, I guess.
I honestly don’t want to hear how the season is too long or, better yet, nobody should care about the season's length; there was ALWAYS something to talk about day in and day out, good (the insane MVP race) or bad (the behind-the-scenes drama of the Lakers and Knicks). For the daily NBA shows that have to drum up content, I’m sure there were days that were slower than others, but not that slow.
This has easily been one of the best NBA seasons we have witnessed from a fan perspective (excluding the primetime games that star players sat out), and hopefully, it gets capped off in extravagant fashion with an entertaining post-season.
There are some first-round series less interesting than others, but there’s something to look for in each one of them. With that said, let’s get down to business and look at this first-round!
Before we do that though, I might as well get my NBA Finals prediction out of the way, and we’ll then see how everything shakes out along the way. I expect the “The Trilogy” to occur with the Golden State Warriors facing off against the Cleveland Cavaliers for the third straight time in the championship round. My head says to pick the Dubs, but my gut is imploring me to not bet against LeBron James and to pick the Cavs in 6.
(I’ll be going from least to most interesting match-ups, in my opinion, with these analyses. Also, I’ll try refrain from using too many stats and just go off the top with my reasoning and picks.)
EASTERN CONFERENCE QUARTERFINALS
Washington Wizards (4) vs. Atlanta Hawks (5)
Sure, the Hawks have been one of the best defensive teams in the league this year, and they say that “Defense Wins Championships”, which is true.
But-I-mean, Atlanta becomes less and less scary year after year, and now they have Dwight Howard, which kind of feels like a curse they’ve brought upon themselves. Plus, the Wizards have one of the best backcourts with John Wall and Bradley Beal, and they always seem scary in the playoffs for whatever reason. This is easy, but I like Paul Millsap so it won’t be that easy.
Wizards in 5.
Boston Celtics (1) vs. Chicago Bulls (8)
Chicago has been oddly disappointing even though, considering the roster’s construction, they shouldn’t have been highly touted. And as an 8-seed, they shouldn’t really have a chance against the 53-win Boston Celtics. But I’d be lying if I didn’t think about the Bulls possibly, possibly, upsetting the Celtics.
This thought mainly stems from Brad Stevens never having won a playoff series, and Dwyane Wade having 3 rings and (Crazy Stat Alert!) having played more playoff games than the ENTIRE Celtics roster. Also, Rajon Rondo has closed the regular season on a good note (don’t forget about Playoff Rondo), and Butler has the potential to be the best player in this series. Ultimately though, the Celtics are too deep, have better shooting, better defenders, and the Bulls have Fred Hoiberg.
Celtics in 6.
Toronto Raptors (3) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (6)
I was texting with my friend the other day, and he mentioned that he wouldn’t rule out a Bucks upset (I should note he's a Raptors fan) and that the Raptors losing would be such a Toronto sports thing to happen. As I was texting back and forth with him, I swear to you that I was talking myself into believing that the Bucks could win the series. (I should note I’m not a Raptors fan.)
Giannis Antetokounmpo will have his coming out party this year by stuffing the stat sheet to everyone’s bewilderment, and Khris Middleton has some “unsung hero” vibes revolving around him. As much as I would find it hilarious to see the Raptors and their predictable-as-fuck offense get stalled and lose, I just can’t do it. DeMar DeRozan has been balling all year long, and Kyle Lowry should have his way with the opposing point guards seeing as how he should be fresh coming into the playoffs after missing more than a month.
Raptors in 7. (But I honestly would not be shocked if the Bucks pulled through)
Cleveland Cavaliers (2) vs. Indiana Pacers (7)
12 days ago, the Cavaliers and Pacers faced off in one of the games of the year, thanks largely in part to LeBron (41 points, 14 rebounds, 11 assists, 2 steals, 1 block) and Paul George (43 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 steals, 1 block) clashing like the titans they are for the win. And that’s it! That’s all you need to know and that’s all we need for this series to enthrall us.
LeBron and George have had their moments before in the playoffs, and I cannot wait to see them face off again, seeing as how George nearly took down the Raptors last year in the first round. Having said that, the Raptors aren’t the Cavaliers, the Pacers aren’t that good, and this series should end rather quickly. But I’m giving PG-13 a game here out of respect, and I expect the Cavs to gear up and get their shit together in these playoffs.
Cavaliers in 5.
WESTERN CONFERENCE QUARTERFINALS
San Antonio Spurs (2) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (7)
Most fans will take a pass on this series, but I won’t! I love me some Grit-N-Grind Grizzlies basketball, and the Spurs have been playing some of the best team basketball for the last two decades under Gregg Popovich’s stewardship. Now, I won’t lie, there may be some games finishing in the low 80s that won’t be pretty, but I’m here for it!
Mainly because a lower-seeded Grizzlies team beat the Spurs in a 2011 first-round series, yet the Spurs returned the favor by sweeping them in the conference finals in 2014. The Spurs also swept them last year in the first-round, but if memory serves me correctly, I’m pretty sure that Memphis were missing some of their best players since Mike Conley and Marc Gasol were out due to injuries. These teams seem to always play each other and I expect another tightly-contested series between these two rivals.
Spurs in 6.
Los Angeles Clippers (4) vs. Utah Jazz (5)
These teams are so close (no really, they both finished with 51 wins each) that most people are picking the Clippers simply because they have home-court advantage. That’s it.
And that’s a lot of credit given to a Jazz team who hasn’t been to the postseason since 2011. Utah is one of the slowest teams in the league, if not the slowest, but their benefit could be that their style will perfectly match up with the slower paced teams they play in the playoffs. It also helps that the Jazz are not only one of the better defensive units in the NBA, but they also possess an above-average offense.
We can joke about the postseason's misery and follies the Clippers have undergone during the last few years, but they still have Chris Paul (one of the best point guards, just FYI), Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and J.J. Redick, who have been playing together for half of their lives, it seems. Continuity and experience are not only essential, but they’ll also be the difference in this series. Oh, and the Clips having Chris Paul helps, too.
Clippers in 7. (It ain’t Utah’s year, this year.)
Golden State Warriors (1) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (8)
Technically, I should’ve had Clips-Jazz ahead since I believe that’ll be a more interesting and longer series, but I had Warriors-Blazers ahead for two reasons: 1) Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum trying to snatch the Best Backcourt Title away from the Splash Brothers, and 2) the Warriors playing in the playoffs, WITH KEVIN DURANT!!
The Dubs are finally back in the postseason, focused and ready to avenge their loss in last year's Finals by playing some of the most beautiful basketball any of us may ever witness with their 4 All-Stars. This series will be competitive, as their second-round clash from last year was, but it’ll be short. I’m giving Lillard and McCollum the same respect Paul George gets by giving them a game as well.
Warriors in 5.
Houston Rockets (3) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (6)
James Harden vs. Russell Westbrook.
MVP favorite vs. MVP favorite.
The Beard vs. The Brodie.
Do I really need to say more?? I mean, fine, I think the Thunder’s lack of shooting will be their downfall, and I know people say the Rockets don’t guard people, but they’ll tighten up their D enough to survive and advance in the playoffs, as they’re already the best 3-point shooting team in the league.
Let’s be real, though. It’s all about Harden vs. Westbrook. We actually got a preview of these two going at it in this Thor: Ragnarok trailer. You thought that was to promote the new Marvel movie coming in November? Nah, son; we already have our own Thor and Hulk facing off this Sunday.
Rockets in 7.
Enjoy the first round, everyone!
written by The W