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There are few things in life I look forward to more than playoff basketball, and I imagine you feel the same way. The playoffs are the time we truly separate the boys from the men and the contenders from the pretenders. This might be the most interesting year for the Eastern Conference we’ve had in awhile, but we all pretty much know how it’s going to end.
With Lebron wreaking havoc as he always does. The west, however, has developed a level of unpredictability that I for one did not foresee when Kevin Durant signed with the Warriors. Thankfully, the NBA is a more complex machine than I imagined and has given NBA fans a glimmer of hope that we might not see a Lebron vs Warriors/Spurs final once again. Let's take a look at the best possible outcomes of each first round playoff series from the perspective of a neutral fan.
1 v 8: Golden State Warriors vs Portland Trailblazers
As much as I really want this to be Denver, I don’t think it will be. I’m excited to see playoff Joker, but I guess we’ll all have to wait a year or two for that. This series seems pretty set in stone as far as its outcome. At best, Portland takes a game off the Warriors but even that is iffy at this point. Golden State is red hot, and Kevin Durant is coming back. Damian Lillard and CJ Mccullom will play great, as they usually do but it won’t be enough to matter.
Prediction: 4–0 Golden State
2 vs 7: San Antonio Spurs vs Memphis Grizzlies
I love this. I love this so much. This will be without a doubt the most boring playoff series maybe ever? I mean, if you’re not a Spurs or Grizzlies fan are you even going to watch this? I love these teams, but both at the same time is just too much. It’s the basketball equivalent of eating a spoonful of salt. There’s no finesse, very little excitement, just plain ol basketball, and if that’s what you’re into then have at it. The reason a series like the Clippers vs the Grizzlies was so exciting (aside from the fact that they hate each other) is that their styles were so different that it was exciting to watch. It was fun to watch Z-Bo destroy Blake on the offensive glass every possession, and it was fun to watch literally anything interesting happen while the Grizzlies were playing.
Despite all that, I think the Grizzlies might strike a bit of fear into the hearts of the Spurs if just for a moment. I can see old man Tony Parker and Patty Mills struggling to guard Mike Conley, and I can see Mike Conley having no problems guarding old man Tony Parker and Patty Mills. The biggest problem here is that no one can guard Kawhi, which will ultimately be the Grizzlies downfall.
Prediction: 4–2 Spurs
3 vs 6: Houston Hardens vs Oklahoma City Westbrooks
All in favor of giving MVP to whoever advances? I see no other alternative. This might be the best playoff series for all of the first round and I am very excited, but not for reasons you might think. You might be excited for Westbrook vs Harden, and that’s all well and good, but you’re missing the bigger picture.
Playoff Taj Gibson. The greatest phenomenon in all of sports.
Okay maybe I need to calm down, but I’m still very excited about the return of Taj Gibson to playoff basketball, and in all seriousness I could see him having a huge series against a smaller Houston front court. Obviously the Westbrook vs Harden situation is going to be amazing, and when you have a series like this where it seems to be a game of one on one with 8 other guys on the court, it actually comes down to which of those 8 are actually on your team.
That’s why I’m leaning towards Houston, but I don’t feel great about it. I wouldn’t be completely surprised if Oklahoma City pulled off an upset, but I feel better about a supporting cast of Eric Gordon, Lou Williams, Ryan Anderson, Clint Capella, Trevor Ariza, and others than I do with Oladipo, Adams, McDermott, Kanter and Roberson. Gun to my head, give me Houston.
Prediction: 4–2 Houston
4 vs 5: Utah Jazz vs LA Clippers
Just when we all think the Clippers have completely shot themselves in the foot, they turn it around. I feel for Clipper fans I really do. A team that has had such high expectations, and such high amounts of talent that only their own health has prevented them for reaching the greatness they strive for each year. I have more bad news, I’m not sure this is their year either. Despite being on a four game win streak, their fate is relatively sealed to face Utah in the first round, and Golden State in the second. So even if they can get past Utah, a well rested Warriors team awaits to blast the Clippers back into the playoff mediocrity they’ve been lathering in for so long.
If I had an NBA awards vote (which I don’t) Gobert would have my vote for defensive player of the year. 2.7 blocks per game is insane, and Gobert has been the anchor for one of the best defensive teams in the league allowing only 96.5 ppg, which is number one in the NBA. Utah is legit, and should be treated as such. They have a legitimate perimeter scoring threat in Hayward, they can take it in the low block with Favors, and they have the front court size to compete with Blake and Deandre on the boards. Throw in LA’s ability to choke playoff games and we have recipe for a Utah playoff run. Something those fans so desperately deserve.
Prediction: 4–3 Utah