Category Archives: NBA Playoffs

NBA Preview: Awards, Hype, Prediction Edition

With the NBA Season getting ready to start it’s only right that we answer a few questions in regards to awards, playoff seeding, finals predictions etc…. Please be sure to sound off and voice your opinions and enlighten us on your predictions.

Statistical Predictions:

Who will lead the league in scoring?

  
Hornback: Kevin Durant

Fort: Kevin Durant

Carter: Kevin Durant

Who will lead the league in rebounds?

  Hornback: Andre Drummond

Fort: Hassan Whiteside

Carter: Deandre Jordan

Who will lead the league in assists?

  

Hornback: John Wall

Fort: John Wall

Carter: Chris Paul

Who will lead the league in PER? (Player Efficiency Rating)

    
Hornback: Anthony Davis

Fort: Anthony Davis

Carter: Chris Paul

Who will lead the league in usage percentage?

  Hornback: LeBron James

Fort: Carmelo Anthony

Carter: James Harden

What will be the top 5 offenses?

   
Hornback:

  1. Warriors
  2. Clippers
  3. Thunder
  4. Hawks
  5. Spurs

Fort:

  1. Warriors
  2. Clippers
  3. Thunder
  4. Hawks
  5. Spurs

Carter:

  1. Clippers
  2. Warriors
  3. Thunder
  4. Rockets
  5. Heat

What will be the top 5 defenses?

    
Hornback:

  1. Jazz
  2. Warriors
  3. Bucks
  4. Grizzlies
  5. Wizards

Fort:

  1. Warriors
  2. Wizards
  3. Cavaliers
  4. Bucks
  5. Thunder

Carter:

  1. Bucks
  2. Bulls
  3. Pelicans
  4. Warriors
  5. Jazz

Awards Predictions:

Who will be this season’s Coach of the Year?

  

Hornback: Alvin Gentry

Fort: Erik Spolestra

Carter: Jason Kidd

Who will be this season’s Executive of the Year?

  
Hornback: R. C. Buford (San Antonio)

Fort: Pat Riley (Miami)

Carter: John Hammond (Milwaukee)

Who will be the season’s Rookie of the Year?

  Hornback: Jahlil Okafor

Fort: Emannuel Mudiay (Winslow very close 2nd)

Carter: Karl-Anthony Towns

Who will be this season’s Most Valuable Player of the Year?

  Hornback: James Harden

Fort: Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook

Carter: James Harden

Who will be this season’s Defensive Player of the Year?

  Hornback: Rudy Gobert

Fort: Dwight Howard

Carter: Anthony Davis

Who will be this season’s Sixth Man of the Year?

  Hornback: Isaiah Thomas

Fort: Louis Williams

Carter: Isaiah Thomas

Who will be this season’s Most Improved Player?

  
Hornback: Derrick Favors

Fort: Jordan Clarkson

Carter: Rudy Gobert

All NBA 1st Team

Hornback:
Steph Curry
James Harden
LeBron James
Anthony Davis
Dwight Howard

Fort: 
Russell Westbrook
James Harden
LeBron James
Kevin Durant
Anthony Davis

Carter:
Chris Paul
James Harden
LeBron James
Blake Griffin
Anthony Davis

All NBA 2nd Team

Hornback:
Chris Paul
Russell Westbrook
Kevin Durant
LaMarcus Aldridge
DeMarcus Cousins

Fort: 
John Wall
Steph Curry
Paul George
Lamarcus Aldridge
Blake Griffin

Carter:
Steph Curry
Russell Westbrook
Kevin Durant
LaMarcus Aldridge
Demarcus Cousins

All NBA 3rd Team

Hornback:
John Wall
Jimmy Butler
Kevin Love
Blake Griffin
Marc Gasol

Fort: 
Chris Paul
Jimmy Butler
Kawhi Leonard
Chris Bosh
Marc Gasol

Carter:
John Wall
Jimmy Butler
Kawhi Leonard
Pau Gasol
Marc Gasol

All NBA Defensive 1st Team

Hornback:
John Wall
Tony Allen
Draymond Green
Anthony Davis
Rudy Gobert

Fort: 
John Wall
Jeff Teague
Kawhi Leonard
LeBron James

Carter:
Chris Paul
Jimmy Butler
Anthony Davis
Rudy Gobert

All NBA Defensive 2nd Team

Hornback:
Chris Paul
Jimmy Butler
Kawhi Leonard
Serge Ibaka
Marc Gasol

Fort: 
Chris Paul
Jimmy Butler
Paul George
Anthony Davis
Deandre Jordan

Carter:
Michael Conley
Tony Allen
Draymond Green
Serge Ibaka
Deandre Jordan

All NBA Rookie Team

Hornback:
D’Angelo Russell
Emmanuel Mudiay
Mario Hezonja
Stanley Johnson
Jahlil Okafor

Fort: 
Emmanuel Mudiay
D’Angelo Russell
Justice Winslow
Karl-Anthony Towns
Jahlil Okafor

Carter:
Emmanuel Mudiay
Mario Hezonja
Stanley Johnson
Karl-Anthony Towns
Jahlil Okafor

Playoff Predictions

  
DeShawn Hornback:

  1. Warriors
  2. Spurs
  3. Rockets
  4. Clippers
  5. Thunder
  6. Grizzlies
  7. Pelicans
  8. Jazz

Ryan Fort

  1. Thunder
  2. Warriors
  3. Rockets
  4. Spurs
  5. Clippers
  6. Grizzlies
  7. Pelicans
  8. Mavs

Tyler Carter:

  1. Spurs
  2. Warriors
  3. Clippers
  4. Rockets
  5. Thunder
  6. Grizzlies
  7. Suns
  8. Kings

  
Hornback:

  1. Cavaliers
  2. Hawks
  3. Wizards
  4. Bulls
  5. Raptors
  6. Heat
  7. Bucks
  8. Detroit

Fort:

  1. Cavaliers
  2. Hawks
  3. Wizards
  4. Heat
  5. Bulls
  6. Raptors
  7. Bucks
  8. Pistons

Carter:

  1. Cavaliers
  2. Bulls
  3. Heat
  4. Raptors
  5. Wizards
  6. Bucks
  7. Hawks
  8. Pacers

Final Four

Hornback: 

Spurs vs Warriors
Cavaliers vs Wizards

Fort: 

Thunder vs Rockets
Cavaliers vs Heat

Carter:

Spurs vs Clippers
Cavaliers vs Heat

Finals Predictions:

  
Hornback:

Spurs vs Cavaliers Cavaliers in 7

Fort: 

Thunder vs Heat Thunder in 6

Carter:

Spurs vs Cavaliers Cavaliers in 6

Warriors (1) vs Cavaliers (2) The Finals Are Here

It’s all been coming down to this moment. The NBA Finals. All the storylines will come to an end with each team looking to capture the Larry O’Brien trophy with just 4 more wins. The Golden State Warriors are looking for their first title in over 30 years, and the Cleveland Cavaliers are looking for their first one ever. We have the most entertaining and best team by record for the entire NBA season against the best player in the world.
The Cavs have had to go through multiple injuries throughout this years playoffs but still have managed to come out on top in the East; all because of one player by the name of LeBron James. With Love completely out of the picture, they’ve had Tristan Thompson step up and make plenty of noise this postseason. Thompson’s offensive rebounding has sparked the Cavs and it looks like Cleveland could be even better than before if Kyrie can get back to 100%. Kyrie will have to be huge for the Cavs to have a chance against their opponents.

 

The Warriors have looked like the best team in the league all season long and that includes the postseason. Outside of two losses, (that have only helped the Warriors) they have steamrolled through all of their competition so far. Curry has been nothing short of spectacular this postseason, and Kerr has proven time and time again of how great of a coach he has the potential to be.

STARTERS:

PG: K. Irving vs S. Curry

SG: JR Smith vs K. Thompson

SF: LB. James vs H. Barnes

PF: T. Thompson vs D. Green

C: T. Mozgof vs A. Bogut

Keys:

Cleveland has to be perfect in this series. The Warriors are just too good at too many things for Cleveland to be anything but perfect in this series. Thompson needs to destroy on the offensive boards because that could cause Golden State to rotate out of their small lineup quickly. A lineup that has taken out many teams quickly.

Next, someone has to help LeBron. LeBron is going to have Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes, Shaun Livingston, Klay Thompson, and Andre Iguadala all rotating on him. This series is going to be hell for LeBron with all those guys guarding him, so someone somewhere has to step up and help releive the pressure off the man. If they don’t, the series could look very similar to the prior Finals of 2007 or 2014.

This is Kyrie’s time to shine. The focus will be 100% on LeBron and this is when this man should be earning his paycheck. Golden State has tremendous defense all around, but it’s going to be centered on LeBron and Kyrie HAS to take advantage of that. If Cleveland is to have a chance Kyrie has to step up and score big time buckets for them.

JR Smith can be ridiculously good and ridiculously bad as most know. If he gets hot he can match some of the 3pt shooting on Golden State, but if he’s off he’ll shoot his team out of the game really quick. Cleveland fans are hoping for the former because if you have JR being efficient, LeBron doing his thing, and Kyrie taking advantage of his opportunities, then that’s a recipe for success.
In game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, we saw just how bad ISO ball can get in Cleveland. If they fall back on that like they do so often, then the Cavs simply won’t win. A solution? Move the ball. LeBron needs to do what he does best and that’s penetrate and kick to the open guy. If they fall back on running an ISO offense late in games, then the team will fall apart.

The Warriors are going against a tall task. Playing against LeBron James. Only 2 teams in the last 5 years have been able to beat him, and both times they were the championship winning teams those years. If the Warriors truly want to win, they will have to go through LeBron to do so. The Warriors need to rotate defenders on LeBron constantly. Never give him the same look and get fresh bodies that are able to at least give him trouble.

Steph Curry needs to continue what he’s done all postseason. Pick his spots, don’t force anything, and continue to be the vocal leader of this machine. If Curry can continue doing so, then the Cavs won’t have an answer for him. He’s too quick around screens, has the fastest release in the league, and his handles are on par with Kyrie’s.

The lineup situation will be very interesting. Tristan Thompson should be able to trounce the small lineup with his offensive rebounding, but Cleveland likes to fall on a small lineup of their own with LeBron at the 4. This will be a chess match between coaches and Kerr has won those all season long. Kerr cannot be anything less than what he’s been all season long which is one step ahead of the competition in preparing his team for what they must face.

Klay Thompson has to get his offense going. He was able to get through the Rockets without being needed to score too much, but this is the Finals. Klay has to hit his shots for the Warriors to be comfortable. To make things easier on Steph, Klay’s scoring efficiency is a must.

Prediction: Curry raises the trophy for Golden State after beating LeBron and the Cavs 4-1. The Warriors as an entire organization are on a completely different level right now. From the front office all the way down to the players; the Warriors are a beat above all their competition. I believe in the end, ISO ball will kill the Cavs while the Warriors thrive off of ridiculous Steph shots and precise ball movement. Regardless of what happens in this series, this is a successful season for both franchises as they both have gone farther than they were suppose to. We should all be entertained by these two superstars, LeBron and Steph, engaging in amazing basketball for the trophy.

You can see the other writer’s predictions below.
Ryan Fort: Warriors 4-1 but if Kyrie is 100% Cavs in 6.
R’Mon Allen: Cavs 4-2
Tyler Carter: Warriors 4-3
Jonathan Ayala:Warriors 4-2
Hashim Ashimi: Warriors 4-2

Warriors (1) vs Rockets (2) MVP Faces the Runner Up

Even though James Harden was in everyone’s MVP ballots as either 1st or 2nd, nobody expected to see Houston still a factor in the playoffs at this point. Now the Rockets are only one series left against the powerhouse Golden State Warriors, who went through the test that most representatives in the finals have to face at some point in the playoffs; which is a team that will beat you up.

As soon as the Warriors got past all those beatings, they came back and completely dominated the Grizzlies in the final 3 games of that series with Curry doing what he does best and making things look so easy. Kerr has proven time and time again that he will be destined to be a great coach, making the perfect adjustments that allow his team to do what they want. The #1 reason for the Warriors taking control of that series was because of his move to place Bogut on Tony Allen. This then forced the Grizzlies to shoot less than 40% in the paint for the rest of that series.

The Rockets were not expected to be here 1 or 2 games ago but nonetheless, the Clippers eventually had the demise so many prayed upon. What the Rockets proved best with that last series is that they have a lot more depth than anyone is willing to talk about. Josh Smith is the X factor for this team, and when he’s going and gets his playmaking going it’s all but over for almost any team they’ve faced. The game that saved the Rockets’ season had the MVP runner up on the bench for pretty much the entire 4th quarter.

The Rockets are 0-4 in the regular season against the Warriors but of course 2 of those are without Dwight, so I’m going to be apart of the “it’s not the playoffs; it doesn’t matter” group for now.

STARTERS:

PG: S. Curry vs J. Terry

SG: K. Thompson vs J. Harden

SF: H. Barnes vs T. Ariza

PF: D. Green vs T. Jones

C: A. Bogut vs D. Howard

Keys:

The Warriors have to not get baited by Harden’s lunges. They cannot let them live at the free throw line like they try and do. Also, somebody has to keep Howard off the glass because: 1. It allows Houston to get up multiple shots, and 2. If they can get the defensive rebound, they can get out and run since Houston’s transition defense leaves much to be desired.

Otherwise they just have to play their game and not allow Houston to get going off of ugly basketball. It seems like when things are going horribly wrong for both teams, that Houston always comes out on top, and I honestly have no idea why that is. Probably something to do with the 31 3-pointers they shoot per game.

Houston has got to find a way to slow down Curry. I don’t know personally where that answer lies, because Ariza will probably be guarding Klay most of the time, but Jason Terry just has no chance against Curry. Houston can’t allow Curry to be so casual and to just pick whenever he wants to get going. Running guys off the 3 point line won’t be enough because out of everyone else left in the playoffs, GS leads everyone in points in the paint. They’re excellent at making that one extra pass for easy layups. Harden has to focus on defense as well as his offense for this series. GS has too many weapons for him to be hidden on defense. Even though his defense isn’t as bad as it once was, Harden still isn’t the most reliable guy on defense, which is totally understandable with the load he has carried offensively all year long; however, NBA champions have to power through things like this, and in the WCF there’s no way Houston can win without Harden fulfilling his potential on both sides of the floor.

Dwight is an unstoppable force when he’s engaged. He’s the one thing GS doesn’t really have an answer for. His athleticism on both sides of the floor can wreak havoc, but if he’s not engaged then Houston’s championship hopes are all but gone. Dwight needs to average at least 5-6 offensive rebounds a game for this team to have a chance.

Prediction Golden State represents the western conference after beating the Rockets 4-1. GS just has too many options: more depth, better defense, offense, and just everything needed to win a basketball game. If Beverly was actually still healthy, then this could be a little bit interesting, but the current matchup just calls for embarrasment on behalf of Jason Terry. The Warriors just faced the toughest defense in the playoffs and walked away with essentially 3 blowouts. This will be interesting to see how these playoffs conclude.

Hawks (1) vs Cavaliers (2) 

1964 was the last time the Cleveland Cavaliers won a championship. Also, it has been 51 years since the Cleveland Browns won this city it’s last championship. Can LeBron change that? For Atlanta, it’s been a long time as well. It’s been 20 years since the Atlanta Braves won a championship, and for the Hawks it’s been even worse as this is their first time in the conference finals in 45 years.

These two teams are so vastly different in their makeups. You have Cleveland, a team who relies on many ISOs from their main two guys Kyrie Irving and LeBron James. While the Hawks on the other side rely on heavy spacing, ball movement, and 3 point shooting. Cleveland has had to deal with many injuries while the Hawks have been completely healthy for the most part this post season.

During the regular season, Atlanta won the series 3-1 which included one blowout, but that was early in the season when Cleveland still had Dion Waiters on their team.  We’ve seen these two styles clash before in the postseason, so the question is: how will it play out? Let’s break everything down.

Starters:

PG: K. Irving vs J. Teague

SG: JR. Smith vs K. Korver

SF: LeBron vs D. Carroll

PF: T. Thompson vs P. Millsap

C: T. Mozgof vs A. Horford 

Keys:

Atlanta has to keep the ball moving. Ball movement is what got Atlanta the #1 seed in the East and there have been too many times this postseason where they have gotten stagnant in stretches. If the ball isn’t moving, especially against Cleveland, then this will be a very quick series.

Their defense is not up to par with anyone else left in the playoffs and they will get exposed unless that changes. LeBron and Kyrie could really kill this team in ISOs as they don’t have outstanding defenders to match up with either player, especially LeBron. Teague might give issues to Kyrie at times, but they have absolutely no answer for LeBron in this series.

Kyle Korver is the life of this team on offense. If Korver is off for most of this series, then it will be over quickly. Korver takes on so much attention from the defense with his shooting that he has to be knocking down shots to open things up for Carroll, Teague, and Horford.

Cleveland has to run the 3pt shooters off of the 3pt line. The Hawks rely on their spacing to create everything and if you take that away, they become an average team. If they don’t run those shooters off, then they will slaughter the Cleveland defense with their pinpoint ball movement.

This is a series meant for LeBron and he should take advantage of it as much as possible. This could be one of those series that defines LeBron’s greatness because he could easily dominate each of these games from beginning to end on the offensive side of the ball.

Although JR Smith is starting in this series, I wouldn’t be surprised if Shumpert ended up playing more minutes. The last thing they can allow is Korver to get off easy 3s, and I just don’t like that JR vs Korver matchup. Don’t be surprised if they move Shumpert on to Korver to run through the infinite screens he’s going to have set..

Prediction: Cleveland wins 4-2. I believe for two games Atlanta will be hot, and when they’re hot they’re nearly impossible to beat. I believe at some point there will be an adjustment made that takes Korver out of the equation, and if that happens game over. LeBron should dominate Carroll, and despite Carroll improving a lot on defense, he should have no chance against the best player in the world.

Rockets(2) vs Clippers(3) Legacies On The Line

This should be a very fun series all the way around. The Rockets have the runner up in the MVP ballot against a very determined squad led by two superstars; Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Both teams were very close in their regular season production, but the Rockets did it without their 2nd best player in Dwight Howard. Howard is healthy now and has been looking like the prime Dwight Howard that led Orlando to the finals.
  Throughout the year the Clippers have been desperately trying to find a way to help their bench deficiencies but to no avail. They had Nate Robinson for a minute who ended up being injured, Glen Davis isn’t the worst thing in the world, and Jamal Crawford’s +/- hasn’t been pretty this year either. Oh, and there’s Austin Rivers who gives every Clipper fan a heart attack when he steps out onto the floor. Depth is key in the playoffs and it’s been awhile since we’ve seen a true contender rely on their starters as heavily as the Clippers do. One injury to that lineup would completely tear them apart. Even if it was Matt Barnes, the +/- takes a significant drop.
  On the other side you have the Rockets who basically have been playing like Harden and everyone else up until the playoffs. Dwight Howard has been the best Rocket in the playoffs for 10 of the past 11 (excluding Harden’s 40+pt performance) games now, and I don’t see that disappearing. Despite how many feel about Howard, there is no denying that he turns it on when playoff time comes around. Josh Smith was extremely effective against the Mavs in the last round but he does that every time he faces them so it wasn’t too big of a surprise. If they rely on Harden to be 44% of the offense like he was all regular season, then I doubt they’ll have a chance to win.
STARTERS:
PG: J. Terry vs C. Paul
SG: J. Harden vs J. Reddick
SF: T. Ariza vs M. Barnes
PF: T. Jones vs B. Griffin
C: D. Howard vs D. Jordan

KEYS:
  Outside scoring has been difficult for the Clippers as of late. That outside shot will be key to opening things up for Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to create inside. They need at least 8-12 3-pointers a game to have a chance at winning.
  Jamal Crawford needs to be a positive factor for them off the bench. Anytime he shows up it’s usually a win for Los Angeles. If Jamal can have at least 2 or 3 explosive games, then it won’t be good for Houston.
  The Rockets have to find someone to guard Chris Paul. Jason Terry will get torched if he’s the best answer. Harden has the skill set but it has completely vanished since coming to Houston, and Ariza just doesn’t seem fast enough. Losing Beverly hurt a lot because they need him especially right now.
  If the entire team contributes the way they did against the Mavericks, I don’t know if the Clippers have a chance. The Rockets definitely have more valuable bodies to throw at them while the Clippers will be draining themselves if the Rockets can keep fresh bodies out there.
  I have the Clippers beating the Rockets 4-2. It’s crazy every logical thought in my brain says that Houston is the right pick, but seeing Chris Paul willing his team through that game 7 victory has taken me over. Another part of it is that I’m not sure if I trust Harden in the playoffs quite yet. Oh, and don’t worry about missing the games as they’ll probably last all night long with hack-a-Howard, hack-a-Jordan, hack-a-Dorsey, hack-a-Smith, etc…man that’s an exciting rule.

Cavaliers (2) vs Bulls (3) Once again the Bulls face LeBron

 

  This is obviously the series that everyone is looking forward to. It is believed by many to be the series that determines who will be representing the Eastern Conference in the Finals. There are great storylines everywhere in this series. LeBron trying to bring his hometown its first championship in 40 years, the rise of Jimmy Butler from role player to superstar, Rose playing in his first playoff games since 2011; showing us what he has left after multiple injuries, or even Pau Gasol, who was thought to be way past being an essential piece to a championship team, but is easily the most important player on the team now. However, the question is: Which of these storylines will have an ending worth telling?

  The Cavs were struggling early on this year, but made some great moves in the middle of the season which has changed them from an average team to a team that could take the Eastern Conference. JR Smith and Iman Shumpert look reborn after leaving New York, and Timofy Mozgof has literally become the most important player on the team with the best +/-. The Cavs are an athletic team and they try to use that as an advantage every time down the floor. On offense at times they are unstoppable when they move the ball. On defense though, without Mozgof in, it can get real ugly real quick.
  For The Bulls this year, we honestly don’t know what to expect. The playoffs so far this season have been the only time the Bulls have had everyone healthy. They have so many players capable of taking over games if needed that it’s ridiculous. Whether it’s Jimmy G Buckets hitting a dagger 3, Mirotic dropping 20 in the 4th, Rose hitting a mean crossover pull up jumper at midrange, or even players like Etuwan Moore; the Bulls seem to always have someone willing to step up and make the big shots when it counts. The defense Chicago is normally known hasn’t been up to their standards of the past years, but the team still has the pieces to lock down when they absolutely need them to.
STARTERS:
PG: K. Irving vs D. Rose
SG: J. Butler vs JR. Smith
SF: M. Dunleavy vs L. James
PF: P. Gasol vs T. Thompson
C: J. Noah vs T. Mozgof
Keys:
  It will be interesting how things go down the stretch for the Cavs and how they choose to run their offense. Near the end of games it gets stagnant and becomes a whole lot of ISOs which can be bad if the Bulls play it right. The Cavs need to keep the pick & rolls going to make the defense pay attention to the other guys. If you don’t keep them on their toes and run a lot of ISOs, then the Cavs will end up getting burned by it.
  This series will be mainly determined by not the best player in the world, but the best two point guards. If Rose ever outplays Kyrie in a game, the Cavs will lose plain and simple. If Rose beats Kyrie, this series will end quickly. Kyrie needs to score at least 25-30 for his team to win especially with Kevin Love out for the entire playoffs.
  Jimmy Butler by the stats is easily the best defender in the NBA to put on LeBron but the part that should worry the Bulls is if he can lockdown on the defensive end while still being able to drop 20 points on the offensive end.
  The Cavs are coming in hurt. Kevin Love is out and even though he has been far from the “best power forward in the league” many people thought him to be before; the team relies on the spacing he gives them because defenses still can’t leave him open.
  LeBron just needs to keep everyone involved and Mozgof needs to be in the game as much as possible. Tristan Thompson is the X factor in this series. If he can come into the starting lineup and prove to be a valuable asset against starters, it will be a huge boost in favor of Cleveland.
  Bulls win the series 4-2. The Bulls are coming at full throttle and the battered Cavs will have a lot of problems keeping up. JR Smith has potentially doomed another one of his teams making a stupid decision that has forced him out of 2 games. Derrick Rose needs to shine and show us the Rose we remember from his MVP season, because if he can win his matchup, the Cavs will have no chance of winning this series. Oh and the Noah versus LeBron, and Noah versus Cleveland rivalries should be fun.
To see Noah’s thoughts on Cleveland click below.

Hawks (1) vs Wizards (5) A Battle of Emerging Stars

This may be the series with the least buzz around it, but may very well be the most important. Both feature teams with emerging star point guards, and both teams are very evenly matched. This will be a series of skill vs coaching.

The Hawks had a slight struggle getting out of the first round due to the odd resilience the Nets showed in the first round. Initially the series looked like a sweep until Atlanta’s offense began sputtering in games three and four. What I took away from that performance is that the Hawks have trouble executing in high intensity games on the road. The doubts they’ve faced all season of not having “that guy” will arise again throughout the series. However, Atlanta does have the ability to score through their amazing offense, and can cause many problems by using Korver to remove an extra help defender. Watch for Atlanta to move the ball swiftly and attempt to create easy buckets to create a rhythm for themselves.

The Wizards showed pure dominance over a decent Toronto team. John Wall has been dazzling through this playoff run and will continue to display it through this round. Paul Pierce has also returned to his vintage ways by hitting big shots when the team needs them. The Wizards have stepped up their defensive play, and only allowed Toronto to score more than 100 points just once in the series. It seems as though they’ve peaked at the right time. However, their issue will be on offense. Depending on John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Paul Pierce won’t be enough. Their bigs, Nene and Gortat, will need to establish themselves going forward.

Starters:

  1. J. Wall vs J. Teague
  2. B. Beal vs K. Korver
  3. P. Pierce vs D. Carroll
  4. Nene vs P. Millsap
  5. M. Gortat vs A. Horford

Keys:

The biggest factor is who will win the point guard battle. If John Wall is able to have another great series, then we can chalk this up as a win for the Wizards. However, if Jeff Teague is able to slow him down and play as an emerging star, then this will be a win for the Hawks.

The Wizards need Bradley Beal to play huge in this series. John Wall helped against Toronto, but this matchup is for him to win. He’s struggled in the playoffs, so this is the perfect time for him to get out of that slump. I see him needing to score 20+ per game to win.

Defense is the last big factor. Both teams play good team defense, but for the Wizards, Gortat and Nene will need to find a way to keep up with Paul Millsap. Being a stretch 4, he has the ability to knock down shots on the perimeter. One of them has to neutralize him.

Prediction: The Wizards beat the Hawks 4-2.

The Wizards have much more firepower than the Hawks and a better point guard. As long as John Wall stays aggressive, and the Wizards continue playing at their peak; I don’t see the Hawks really beating them.

Warriors (1) vs Grizzlies (5) A Struggle for Control

This a series that I personally have been really looking forward to. I’ve said multiple times if anyone is going to take out the Warriors this year, it would be this Memphis Grizzlies team.

The Grizzlies have been doing what they do every year; except Gasol and Conley have stepped up tremendously this year making the transition from an annoying bottom seed, to a legit championship contender. They’ve surprisingly not only held up without Lionel Hollins, but have actually exceeded anyone’s expectations this year. David Joerger should gain a lot more attention than he already has due to proving many doubters wrong, including myself. They study every opponent very carefully and force them into uncomfortable, long midrange, contested shots. They won’t be beaten with pure athleticism despite their deficiencies in that area. They will make you pay if your team is not fundamentally sound.

Bad part for Memphis is the opponents they have in front of them have both of those attributes. Kerr has made this offense run just as beautifully as I always thought it should when Mark Jackson was running the squad. They went from a lot of isolations and basic set ups to this beautiful well oiled machine. There are multiple possessions where every player will touch the ball, and the communication with everyone on the court is something to behold. This is how basketball should be played. Now add in the best shooting back court of all time with an outstanding bench and a man who just seems to make everything happen out on the court, and you have yourself a favorite to win it all in the very tough Western Conference.

Starters

PG: M. Conley vs S. Curry

SG: C. Lee vs K. Thompson

SF:  T. Allen vs H. Barnes

PF:  Z. Randolph vs D. Green

C:    M. Gasol vs A. Bogut

Keys

The most interesting matchup of this series has to be at the point guard position. The impact each of these two point guards had an equal amount of importance in their two prospective series’. Curry was exactly what every MVP voter in his favor expected him to be. He absolutely dominated and did whatever he wanted to against whoever attempted to guard him.

Conley on the other hand had a different kind of impact for his team, locking down one of the most explosive guards in the game, Damian Lillard. Lillard was made completely irrelevant against the Grizzlies, which was partially do to the entire team, but 90% of that was Conley being an unshakable wall in front of Lillard every chance he got.

Normally I would say that there is no way in hell anybody can lock down Curry, but if we are to be honest we have seen it before. Specifically from the Spurs who stick Danny Green on him and make him nearly completely ineffective. Conley has that same ability to do the same things Danny Green did to Curry. That matchup alone could determine the series.

You have a high paced ridiculous well ran offense against the grind of the Memphis Grizzlies. Finesse versus power. This series will depend a lot on the control of the pace. Golden State has been the best team in the league at running up and down the court while the Grizzlies are notorious for there slow methodical beat down on teams.

Injuries play a huge factor as well with Conley constantly having nagging injuries along with Allen and Lee playing hurt as well. The Warriors are fresh and at 100%. In terms of health, things are definitely in Golden State’s favor.

Prediction: The Warriors beat the Grizzlies 4-3. It’s hard as I can see things going either way in this series. It should be a great playoff series that comes down to the wire.

Clippers (3) vs Spurs (6) Preview : Too Early

Los Angeles Clippers (56-26) vs. San Antonio Spurs (55-27)

Los Angeles Clippers v San Antonio Spurs

This series will easily be the most anticipated series of the first round. Before the season started no one saw this as a potential 1st round match-up…. And I repeat NO ONE.

In this series we’ll have star power in Blake Griffin, Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Chris Paul. We’ll have two great coaches in Doc. Rivers & Greg Popovich. We’ll also have two DPOY candidates in DeAndre Jordan and Kawhi Leonard competing in this match-up. Oh, and i didn’t even get a chance to mention all of the shooting we’ll see or the guys coming off of the bench.

During the early portion of the season the Clippers were a nice team. Once Blake Griffin got injured and missed over a month of play Chris Paul elevated the Clippers to new heights. He was scoring, defending, rebounding as well as facilitating. His play during that stretch was reminiscent to his days in New Orleans. When Blake Griffin returned the Clips continued to ball and surged to the finish line winning 14 of their last 15 games.

For a majority of the season the Spurs weren’t healthy. Injuries to Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard had the team looking older and slower. After all-star weekend the Spurs switched gears and resembled a team trying to repeat as champs. They were the best team in the league over the last portion of the season.

Having played four times the Spurs and Clippers split the season series 2-2. The Clippers had one 20 point victory while the rest of the games were within ten points.

Starters:

PG: C.Paul vs. T.Parker

SG: J.Redick vs. D.Green

SF: Matt Barnes vs. K.Leonard

PF: B.Griffin vs. T.Duncan

C. D.Jordan vs. T.Splitter

In the postseason the Spurs are 8-3 against Chris Paul all time. In their previous match-up the Spurs swept the Clippers.

Beating the Spurs will be no short order for the Clips this time around. The Spurs have a plethora of shooters, guys who can defend and a lot of willing passers. Playing an up-tempo style fits right into the hands of the Spurs as well because that’s their game.

A lot of things ride on this series for the Clippers as well. They won’t have to deal with a distraction in Donald Sterling like they did last year. If the Clippers lose this series Rivers’ job will be at stake, a roster split up would be pondered and Chris Paul’s legacy would be tainted more. They have to make something happen now.

Keys:

Los Angeles

In this series the Clippers need to defend the three ball. If Chris Paul can lock-up Parker and Jordan continues his play on the defensive end it’ll be hard for the Spurs to generate points. If Parker is having his way, getting to his spots and distributing the ball the Clippers are going to have hell. Off the bench Crawford, Davis and Turkoglu need to be dominant. Especially Jamal Crawford. If JC isn’t on his game the Clips won’t have enough firepower.

San Antonio

Make Jordan beat you from the freethrow line. Contain Chris Paul. Go at Blake Griffin on both ends of the court. If Duncan can take Blake off his game and Leonard can defend Paul like he does every other guard/wing the Spurs will be alright. The Spurs know how to win on the road and they own a piece of the Clippers mentally. (Doc. Rivers is already panicking. On offense the ball can’t be stagnant either. Parker needs to be able to penetrate inside and give his shooters some open and easy looks. If he’s getting to his spots and shots are falling the Spurs will cruise to the 2nd Round.

Prediction Clippers beat the Spurs 4-2. It’s about time CP3 gets over the hump. The Clippers are better than ever and Chris Paul seems to be on a mission. Paul-Blake-DJ-JC will show why they’re ready to make that leap. Fun Fact: The Spurs don’t ever advance after winning the championship in the previous year. No repeating for them.

Grizzlies (5) vs Blazers Preview (4) : Injury Riddled

Portland Trail Blazers (51-31) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (55-27)

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Portland and Memphis are two of the most compelling teams out West. Every year they have stretches during the regular season where they look unbeatable and then around playoff time they become super vulnerable. During the offseason both teams improved their bench to a certain extent and during the season made moves that were supposed to propel them to the top of the conference.

In order to beat certain teams in the West Portland had to upgrade their bench. They swung a deal with Denver that allowed them to bring in shooting guard Aaron Afflalo, a nice two-way player. Memphis on the other hand needed a wing player who could create their own shot, score and defend. They made a trade with Boston who sent them small forward Jeff Green. Both of these moves catapulted each team to newer heights. Each team improved depth wise, scoring wise and defensively. But it only lasted for so long.

Starters

PG: D.Lillard vs. M.Conley

SG: A.Afflalo vs.  C.Lee

SF: N.Batum vs. T.Allen

PF: L.Aldridge vs. Z.Randolph

C: R.Lopez vs. M.Gasol

As the season went on both teams were derailed by injuries. Batum and Aldridge have been ailing and missed a few games here and there. Aaron Affalo has an injured shoulder and starting shooting guard Wesley Mathews is out for the season due to an Achilles injury. Memphis on the other have been dealing with injuries that have pertained to Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and Tony Allen. Both teams are still formidable to say the least.

Memphis won the season series 4-0. Most of the games were competitive but Memphis proved to be the better squad.

Keys:

Portland

Despite being the 4 seed the Blazers will be playing this series on the road where they have struggled. In order to beat Memphis the Blazers need to push the tempo. The Grizz often go long periods without scoring and if Portland can hit shots they’ll have Memphis playing from behind. On the defensive side of the ball Aldridge and Lopez must find a way to stop Memphis’ big men. If they get dominated in the paint the Blazers can hang it up.

Memphis

The Grizzlies smothering defense gets a chance to go up against a depleted Blazers. If Conley can contain Lillard and Gasol can disrupt Aldridge’s flow the Blazers will have to find scoring else where. On the offensive end Memphis just needs to pund the rock inside. There isn’t a team in the league that can contend with Memphis’ front court and that should be on full display this series.

Prediction Grizzlies beat the Blazers 4-1. Both teams are dealing with injuries but Memphis is the healthier squad. If Z-Bo and Gasol are dominating the series will end quickly. Having homecourt advantage also is Memphis’ favor.