Wow! This first round has been nothing short of unpredictable! If you would have told me that Chris Paul AND Blake Griffin would succumb to playoff ending injuries in the first round, I would have called you a liar! This has drastically changed the outlook in the west. With Curry now out from his knee injury against the Rockets, he will miss at least the first 4 games in the second round. This now allows, dare I say it, the Portland Trailblazers a somewhat chance to make the western conference finals! This is the playoffs where nothing is promised, a time where teams must adapt and capitalize on the opportunities that present themselves, there’s nothing like it!
1. Cleveland Cavs vs. 4 Atlanta Hawks
Cleveland enters this series with more than 5 days of rest; whenever King James gets more than a few days rest in between a series means bad news for the opponent. The Hawks were just in a competitive series with an injured Boston team and believe they will give Cleveland a run for their money. Sorry not this year. Lebron has the Cavs clicking on all cylinders as of late. Kyrie is exercising his scoring powers and K. Love is making the most out of his inside and out game. Atlanta will have a big task trying to slow down the big three. Lebron will be a match-up nightmare simply because Paul Millsapp is to slow to guard him and Sefelosha isn't big enough. This will then allow King James to open up passing lanes for his 3 point specialists, as he always does so well. Kent Bazemore and Dennis Schroeder will be the only bright spots for Atlanta simply providing energy but don’t count on much more. Cleveland will win this in 5. Cavs 4-1.
2 Toronto Raptors vs. 3 Miami Heat
The Heat and Raptors, winners of two frantic game 7s on Sunday, will square off in another epic semi finals match-up. This series will have its ups and downs mainly because the Raptors don't have a patented brand of basketball they want to play in the playoffs. They barely beat an undermanned Pacers squad. And as for Kyle and Demar Derozan, please! Don’t get me started. Neither one of these cats have found their rhythm yet, shooting a combined 35% in the first round. These are all weaknesses that the Miami Heat will capitalize on. D Wade will be more focused this round and I believe Dragic will give us more 20 point performances. Whiteside will be the X factor in the paint however, disrupting shots and making life miserable for the Raptors big men. I expect Joe Johnson to play a big role as well. D wade is one of the best in the league at seizing an opportunity when given. This shaky Raptors squad will be just what the Heat needed. Miami wins 4-2.
1. G State vs. 5 Portland Trailblazers
With Chris Paul and Blake Griffin suffering severe injuries in the first round, this now opens the pathway for the Portland Trailblazers who beat the Clippers 4-2. Now they will face a Curry-less Warriors team who is still fully capable of executing their run and gun game plan. Portland will make this a competitive series with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum running up big numbers once again. Draymond and Klay will be too much for them to handle on the other end however. Portland doesn't have anybody who can physically match up with Draymond and that will ultimately cost them in this series. He’s arguably the best playmaker on the team and steps up to any task on the court when needed. Klay will continue to torch guards behind the arc as he proves that he is a superstar in his own right. And with the help of a Curry return in game 6, they will finish off the Blazers. G state 4-2.
2. San Antonio vs. 3 OKC
In a rematch from the 2012 and 2014 western conference finals, which both these teams split, my heart is saying OKC but my gut feeling is the Spurs will take this one. With the Spurs playing nearly perfect basketball at home, it will be hard for OKC to knock them off. However if they can at least steal one game then it will be a great series. Ultimately I believe it will be a game 7 played in San Antonio and the crowd will help them pull through with the likes of Kawhi and LaMarcus Aldridge. I expect KD and Russ to put up huge numbers but the lack of an adequate shooting guard will leave the Thunder exposed. Consequently their one-on-one style of basketball will only take them so far once they match-up with the team oriented ball moving spurs in a 7 game showdown. Spurs 4-3