NBA Playoffs Preview and Predictions

Sports  /  by Nico Ellis '19  /  April 14, 2017

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As the 2017 NBA regular season comes to a close, the favorites, the Cleveland Cavaliers (Cavs) and the Golden State Warriors, remain at the top despite recent struggles and injuries. With Kevin Durant injured, the Warriors went through a losing spell in early March losing five of seven games, but now the Boys from the Bay Area are on a 14-game win streak, the longest of the season. At the conclusion of the season, the surprise Celtics are the top team in the East, while the Cavs sit as the number two seed for the playoffs, followed by the Toronto Raptors and the Wizards. In the Western Conference, the Warriors have clinched home court throughout the playoffs, followed by the talented San Antonio Spurs, the Houston Rockets, and the Los Angeles Clippers.

Eastern Conference Playoff Predictions

In the first round of the playoffs, the Celtics are expected to win handily against their eighth-seed opponent the Chicago Bulls, while the two-seed Cavaliers should also trounce the Pacers in the first round. One of the more interesting first round series will be between the Toronto Raptors and the Milwaukee Bucks; the Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Bucks, standing 6’ 11’’ yet having the skills of a smaller guard, is a matchup nightmare for any opponent. He is one of five players in NBA history to have the highest averages for the five major statistical categories on his team: points per game, rebounds per game, assists per game, steals per game, and blocks per game. However, the Bucks are a young team and could be hurt by the loss of 22 year-old Jabari Parker. Meanwhile, the Raptors are playing well lately with the return of star player Kyle Lowry to play alongside fellow superstar Demar DeRozan. This series has the potential to go to six games with the Raptors coming out on top, or it could end more quickly if the young Bucks can’t handle the spotlight. In the final first round matchup between the Atlanta Hawks and the Washington Wizards, John Wall will lead the Wizards to the next round.

In the second round, the Celtics-Wizards game should be entertaining, given the stardom of each team’s point guard, John Wall(WAS) and Isaiah Thomas(BOS). Both teams are talented, but the Celtics should have the upper hand due to Isaiah Thomas’s fourth quarter scoring average of 10.5 points per fourth quarter, the highest in the league. Therefore, the Celtics should be able to defeat the Wizards in no more than six games. The Cavs-Raptors series has two teams going in opposite directions, a struggling Cavaliers team against a surging Raptors team. However, something just clicks for LeBron in the playoffs. He somehow rediscovers his “best player in the world” form, and he should lead the Cavaliers to victory over the Raptors. In the Eastern Conference Finals, LeBron’s prowess and Cleveland’s ability will lead them to beat the Celtics and advance to their third straight NBA Finals.

Western Conference Playoff Prediction

The star-studded Warriors, now playing their best basketball of the year, will prove too much for any competition in the playoffs, outside of some contention from the Spurs.

In the first round, the Warriors will demolish their opponent: the Portland Trailblazers. The Spurs should have equal ease against the Memphis Grizzlies. The first round matchup that has the potential to be the most exciting is that between the Houston Rockets and the Oklahoma City Thunder. This is the battle of MVP candidates Russell Westbrook (OKC) and James Harden (HOU). Westbrook is the first player since Oscar Robertson to average a triple double for an entire season, while James Harden is averaging 29 points and 11 assists per game. While I do believe that the Rockets are the better term, never count out Russell Westbrook, as he was the highest player efficiency rating in “Clutch Time” (time in the last five minutes of the game when the score is within five points) in NBA history. However, the Rockets are the better overall team and should prevail over the Thunder in a five-game series. At the same time, the Clippers should not have too much trouble with the Utah Jazz’s helping them return to the second round.

In the second round, the Warriors will take down the Clippers in five games, while the Spurs will defeat the Rockets based on the Spurs’s strong veteran leadership and the two-way superstardom of Kawhi Leonard. In the Western Conference Finals, the series may make its way to two games a piece, but the talent of the Warriors will overwhelm the Spurs, leading the Warriors to return to the Finals for their third straight season to face the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Finals Preview

For the third time in three years, the NBA Finals will most likely be between the Cavaliers and the Warriors. While the Cavaliers could find a way to win, it’s unlikely that another 3-1 miracle will occur. The talent of the Warriors will prove too strong this year; the Warriors should take the series in six games.

The action starts tomorrow, Saturday, April 15th, at 3 PM ET with the Cleveland Cavaliers against the Indiana Pacers, followed by three more games that day and more throughout the weekend.