The first round of the NBA Playoffs isn’t over yet. The winner of the LA Clippers and Utah Jazz series will be decided this afternoon. So why rush to preview round two? Because there’s no time like the present? No one has ever said that about something they actually wanted to do. For example, there was no time like the present to do taxes a little less than two weeks ago. So why now? It’s because the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards actually begin their second round series right before the Clippers and Jazz finish theirs.
First, a recap of round one predictions:
(1) Celtics vs. (8) Chicago Bulls. The Celtics won in 6 games just as predicted. The Celtics also broke the Bulls’ home win streak on TNT in game 4. Predicted that one too so, you know, bonus points for that.
(2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (7) Indiana Pacers. Predicted Cavs in 4. Cavs won in 4. Enough said.
(3) Toronto Raptors vs. (6) Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks winning the first game was a good sign for those of us who predicted Bucks in 6. About that. The Raptors went on to win four of the next five meaning I got the number of games right, but the team wrong. Shame on me.
(4) Wizards vs. (5) Atlanta Hawks. Wizards in 5 was the call. Wizards won in 6 . That’ll have to be close enough.
(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (8) Portland Trail Blazers. This one was even less suspenseful than the Cavs’ series. Predicted Warriors in 4 and they did, but only because the rules prohibited them from winning in less.
(2) San Antonio Spurs vs. (7) Memphis Grizzlies. Just like the Wizards, I predicted a Spurs win in 5. Just like the Wizards, the Spurs made me wait one game longer than anticipated.
(3) Houston Rockets vs. (6) Oklahoma Thunder. The NBA passed on the idea of announcing the NBA MVP right before this series kicked off. All other possible story lines were edited out by the Thunder’s general inability to play basketball. Predicted Rockets in 6. They won in 5.
(4) Clippers vs. (5) Jazz. Predicted Jazz in 7. With game 7 this afternoon, I’m half way there.
Without further ado, on to round two:
(1) Celtics vs. (4) Washington Wizards
Neither of these teams are perfect. The Wizards starting five is as good as any in the NBA. John Wall, Bradley Beal, Marcin Gortat, Otto Porter Jr., and Markieff Morris are all playing about as well as they ever have. Their bench players are also playing about as well as they ever have. Unfortunately for the Wizards, their bench is Bojan Bogdanovic, Jason Smith, Kelly Oubre Jr., Brandon Jennings, and worse. The Celtics’ team chemistry, from top to bottom, was good enough for the best record in the East. Unfortunately for the Celtics, their depth comes with tradeoffs. With no where to hide him on defense, no tradeoff will be bigger than that of Isiah Thomas’ offense for his defense. With Thomas’ play up and down after his sister died on the eve of the last series and her funeral on the eve of this series, it would be easy to pick the Wizards. Then again, these teams split the season series 2 to 2. The home team won each game and the Celtics have home court advantage in this one. Celtics in 7.
(2) Cavaliers vs. (3) Raptors
For all the talk of how bad the Cavs defense is this year, they still have LeBron James. So far this postseason feels like more of the same for James: he had won 17 first round games in a row entering the Cavs series against the Pacers and has now won 21. He has also gone to six straight NBA Finals. A lot of people will say “I told you so” if the Cavs defense blows up in their face. I won’t be one of them. At least not in this series. Raptors give the King and company more trouble than the Pacers but still bend the knee. Cavs in 6.
(1) Warriors vs. (4) Clippers or (5) Jazz
It would be too tough to call most series without knowing who the teams would be but this is not most series. My only concern is if the Warriors get bored after sweeping the Trail Blazers. I’m guessing that happens in the Conference Finals. Warriors don’t go 16-0 this postseason. In this series though: Warriors in 4.
(2) Spurs vs. (3) Rockets
This series features two teams playing completely different styles of basketball. During the regular season, the Spurs won three of four over the Rockets. If only it were that simple for the Spurs. Their biggest win was by 6. The other three games were all decided by 2 points. Considering the record pace at which the Rockets take and make threes, no one East of Golden State is as well equipped to steal a 1 point victory from the jaws of a 2 point defeat. Last postseason the Spurs lost to the Thunder in 6. Different year and opponent but same result: Rockets in 6.