NBA Playoff Preview – Round 2

ROUND one is in the books and let’s be honest it was pretty boring overall. With just eight teams remaining in the hunt for Larry O things should start to get interesting now though. Can anyone stop the Cavs or Warriors? Can the Rockets torch the Spurs? Which Celtics and Wizards outfit will show up? With so many questions that we want answered get ready for things to kick up yet another notch.

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WEST – #1 Golden State Warriors vs #5 Utah Jazz

Why the Warriors will win…
I honestly thought that the Trailblazers could have taken one of the games when Durant was sidelined. Instead they laid an egg and the Dubs swept them while still looking scarily dominant. 16-0 is an actual possibility. Fuck.

Why the Jazz will win…
IF Utah is going to stand any chance then Rudy Gobert needs to control the game. His defensive capabilities are obvious but the Jazz will need him on the offensive side if they are going to make a series of this matchup. He had a solid output in Games 4 & 6, so it isn’t impossible.

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X-Factor – Iso Joe
I want nothing more than there to be a close game in this series where Joe Johnson can decide the outcome. The willy vet came alive against the Clippers and if he can deliver in the clutch and score points with regularity maybe Utah can pinch one or two.

Prediction – WARRIORS IN 4
GOOD news Utah fans, your team won it’s first playoff series in seven years. The bad news? Your win column will remain at four for this year. Golden State are just too god damn good and while Utah possesses the talent and cast to take a game from them, the Dubs are a bull in a china shop right now.

#2 San Antonio Spurs vs #3 Houston Rockets

Why the Spurs will win…
FRESH off a grit and grind series against the Grizzlies, the Popovich led Spurs are seemingly on auto pilot. They face a tougher task in stopping Houston’s potent offense and will need more big games from the likes of Tony Parker and LaMarcus Aldridge if they want to win.

Why the Rockets will win…
HOUSTON didn’t play very well against OKC and yet they still made the Thunder look 2nd rate cruising to 4-1 series win.The team shot under 25% from three and James Harden didn’t look very MVPish. That’s a scary sign though, because if they can click this could be over very quickly.

X-Factor – Who Is #2 For The Spurs?
AS mentioned above San Antonio really lacks a true 2nd scoring option and Kawhi Leonard had to don his Superman cape to help them beat the Grizzlies. Tony Parker wound back the clock scoring big in a few games, but if they can’t establish a consistent 2nd scorer things may get ugly.

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Prediction – ROCKETS IN 6
IT’S time for our annual ‘let’s count out the Spurs’ moment. Will we see them eat our words for the 37th time and get past the Rockets? Maybe. Although I don’t see it happening. Houston have so much room for improvement from their OKC series and San Antonio don’t have the scoring punch to stop them or the defenseive prowess to slow them.

EAST – #1 Boston Celtics vs #4 Washington Wizards

Why the Celtics will win…
THE Celtics clearly have the deeper squad, but does that mean they have the better squad? After forgetting how to basketball in Games 1 & 2 of the Bulls series, they flipped the switch reeling off four straight wins. If they are going to defeat the Wiz they will need Al Horford to keep up his insane production. Through seven games he is averaging 16.1 PPG, 8.6 RPG and 7.0 APG and seems to be the barometer for Boston’s success.

Why the Wizards will win…
MOST people would admit that the team with the best player wins the playoff series the majority of the time. Now is the time for John Wall to stake his claim as the best PG in the game. Big call? Not if you look at his numbers. Going at 28/11 to date Wall needs to carry this team on his back if they are going to win, something he is more than capable of doing.

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X-Factor – Bench Play
CHALK and cheese. That’s the best way to summarise the Celtics and Wizards bench. Washington is very thin while the Celtics use their bench as one of their strengths. When the likes of Wall, Thomas, Beal and Horford are on the pine players from both team will need to step up. Whoever rises to the occasion can potentially swing the entire series.

Prediction –WIZARDS IN 7

I kind of cheated here, due to the fact that Game 1 (a 123-111 Celtics W) between these two has already been played. I honestly think that John Wall can help the Wizards lay their claim as the 2nd best team in the East. If they can get at least something fromt heir bench and their star studded backcourt can shine they will be moving on. Just.

#2 Cleveland Cavaliers vs #3 Toronto Raptors

Why the Cavs will win…
CLEVELAND made easy work of the Pacers in round one, sweeping Indiana and earning close to an extra week off. The well rested, poised veteran squad will be looking to make light work of the Raptors and they are now full of confidence. Gulp.

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Why the Raptors will win…
DEFENSIVELY Toronto offers the best chances of slowing down the Cavs in the East. The versatility they can throw at them could potentially mess with the mojo from Cleveland and if they are able to achieve this they could pounce.

X-Factor – Which Lowry & DeRozan Will Show Up
DEMAR DeRozan and Kyle Lowry have copped plenty of flack for their uninspiring performance in the Milwaukee series. With both struggling to score regularly and their team suffering asa result if they repeat those types of performances against the Cavs they stand no chance.

Prediction – CAVS IN 5
THIS will be a real chance for Lebron and Co to silence all the naysayers and send a message to the rest of the competition. Their defense still remains a question, but if they can put 120 on the board each night it may not matter. I think that the inconsistencies of the Raptors int he 1st round will be on the forefront of their minds and if I’m guessing they take Game 3 in front of their home crowd but still go down in five.

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