Western Conference Semifinals
This matchup is enhanced somewhat because of how well the Pelicans have played and the uncertainty of Stephen Curry’s injury. The Pelicans better win Game 2 in order to swing the Warriors home court advantage towards their way through 6 games.
This hack-of-a-scribe is willing to go out on the ledge by predicting the red-hot Pelicans will win this series if Curry doesn’t play or is clearly limited. Jrue Holiday is playing like an all-pro and demands a lot of attention to ease some pressure off of the do-it-all Anthony Davis.
The biggest mismatch of the series tilts to New Orleans in the Davis versus multi-purpose Draymond Green. Davis needs to exploit that matchup without playing hero ball.
It won’t be a walk in the park, but with a healthy Steph Curry, better talent overall mixed with experience, it is more than enough to pick the Warriors.
Houston vs. Utah
Defense wins championships and the Utah Jazz are one of the best defensive teams. The Rockets can be amazing on offense but rely on the 3-point shot at beyond an alarming rate. However, they’ve improved dramatically defensively by adding important pieces like Chris Paul, P.J. Tucker, and Luc Mbah a Moute. Those parts have blended well as a fit with Trevor Ariza and Nene Hilario.
This will be a hard-fought battle, at times a defensive struggle, as we saw in each team’s first-round series. Look for Utah to make a few games interesting and competitive, but ultimately lack of offensive firepower will be their undoing. The better overall squad will advance to the Western Conference Championship round. The length of this series depends on if Ricky Rubio’s hamstring can heal quickly enough.
Philadelphia vs. Boston
It’s very difficult not to think that the 76ers have a clear path to the Eastern Conference finals. Philadelphia has raised their level of play as the season has progressed. Let us not forget the strides made by a very young team in the Celtics either, considering they are missing major pieces. It’s very impressive they’re in the 2nd round.
Bottom line is both teams have outstanding youthful talent but the length of the starting 5 for the Sixers is a tough ask for most teams in the NBA. Boston is a team to be reckoned with in the near future, once they get their two best players back in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. For the time being Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, combined with several outside shooters, will be too much for the undermanned Celtics.
Toronto vs. Cleveland
Is it me or have we seen this movie before? It will be 3 straight years the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors have met in the playoffs. The Cavs have eliminated Toronto in each of the last two years, however, we can’t forget the roles are reversed in 2018 and Toronto having the home court could help them finally break thru.
Step one for Toronto you must-win Game 1 at home in front of a ruckus crowd in the building and outside. If the Raptors squander a game out of the gates they will be mentally affected. The pressure mounts, the players, and fans begin to get tight and then King James takes over.
Outside shooting, consistent defense, and depth will be the main keys for Toronto. The inconsistency of the Cleveland Cavaliers role players and Kevin Love makes this a crap shoot outcome, so flip a coin.
Written by Chris Carlson Host of the NBA Playoff Banter Podcast available at blogtalkradio.com/ropeadoperadio & TheGruelingTruth.Net. Follow on Twitter @RopeADopeRadio