Your All-Purpose Guide to the NBA Playoffs
The match-ups, the small things to watch for, and, of course, predictions. It’s all here.
30 teams entered the season. 82 games and 6 months later, 16 now have a chance to compete for a place in history. The NBA Playoffs are finally here, and here is everything you need to know.
Warriors (1) vs. Blazers (8)
In their own different ways, this series is going to be a litmus test for both teams. For Portland, it’s a test of how good a Lillard-McCollum-Nurkic (assuming Nurkic returns in-time) trio can really be. For Golden State, it’s an opportunity to work out any kinks they may still have from re-integrating Kevin Durant.
Lowkey Question: How many quarters before Nurkic and Draymond get into it (presumably because Draymond takes a kick at Nurkic’s manhood)?
Prediction: Warriors in 5.
Spurs (2) vs. Grizzlies (7)
There’s a lot of history here. Since the 2010–2011 season, the Spurs and Grizzlies have met three times, including once in the Western Conference Finals, and the last two encounters have seen Memphis be swept. This will be the first time Tim Duncan will not be in uniform, with former-Grizzly Pau Gasol in his place facing off against his younger brother Marc.
Lowkey Question: Who is more underrated: Kawhi Leonard or Mike Conley?
Prediction: Spurs in 6.
Rockets (3) vs. Thunder (6)
This will be the most entertaining first round match-up. Former teammates and now do-it-all MVP candidates are going to duke it out, but Harden’s Rockets are a more cohesive team and it’s safe to say Westbrook is going to rely on his teammates less now that there are real stakes. Houston won 3 of the 4 regular season meetings; expect a similar result.
Lowkey Question: Will the real MVP please stand up?
Prediction: Rockets in 5.
Clippers (4) vs. Jazz (5)
This is a tale of two teams trending in opposite directions, but both teams have stakes that go beyond wins and losses. Gordon Hayward’s free-agency, and in turn fellow Indiana-native George Hill’s free-agency, might hinge on this playoff run. Similarly, this could be the last year of the CP3-Blake-DJ-Redick core four if they peter out once again.
Lowkey Question: Can you legitimately challenge for the title if Hayward is your best player?
Prediction: Clippers in 7.
Celtics (1) vs. Bulls (8)
With Rondo returning to Boston, where he won a title, and D-Wade magically returning, this series can potentially rival the legendary 2009 Celtics-Bulls series that saw seven total overtimes. This might come down to rebounds: Boston has trouble with good rebounding teams and Chicago is 3rd best in the league in that area. The pressure is on Boston to finally win a playoff series.
Lowkey Question: Will the Celtics regret not trading for Jimmy Butler?
Prediction: Bulls in 7.
Cavaliers (2) vs. Pacers (7)
This is an underrated series. Paul George is one of the few men in the league who can hold his own against LeBron, and the Cavaliers have shown a few cracks. The Pacers are happy to be here, but the history Paul George and the now-returned Lance Stephenson have with LeBron could give them the irrational confidence they need to make this an interesting match-up.
Lowkey Question: Will Lance Stephenson blow in LeBron’s ear, again?
Prediction: Cavaliers in 5.
Raptors (3) vs. Bucks (6)
Maybe it’s because I just don’t believe in a Lowry-DeRozan backcourt in the playoffs (both have playoff-career FG%’s below 40%), but I smell a potential upset. The Bucks are long, man. They have defenders who can stick with Lowry and DeRozan, and they’re hungry. That being said, I think playoff experience matters, and the Bucks lack it.
Lowkey Question: Will Giannis morph into an Indominus Rex that dominates the Raptors?
Prediction: Raptors in 7.
Wizards (4) vs. Hawks (5)
Remember a few playoffs ago when the Wizards were about to upset the 60-win Hawks team until John Wall got injured? I guarantee you John Wall remembers, and I guarantee you he’s out for revenge. He had his struggles against the Hawks during the season, probably due to Dwight Howard guarding the rim, but Washington still won 3 of their 4 meetings.
Lowkey Question: Can Washington show that they’re a true challenger to LeBron?
Prediction: Wizards in 6.