The Santa Clara
April 13, 2017
(1) Boston Celtics vs. (8) Chicago Bulls
Don’t let the No. 1 seed fool you—the Celtics are still a seriously flawed team. Boston’s biggest shortcoming is their tiny point guard Isaiah Thomas, who stands just 5’9” off the ground and looks even smaller among the giants. The Celtics shouldn’t be considered real championship contenders, but they’re lucky they don’t have a worthy opponent waiting for them in Round 1. Chicago’s been a mess all season and will be lucky to get a game off the Celtics.
(2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (7) Indiana Pacers
LeBron James doesn’t lose in the first round of the playoffs. I could go on about how it’s impossible for the four-time MVP, three-time NBA Champion to lose to Indiana, but we already know it’s not going to happen. Even though the Cavs have struggled down the stretch, this series is merely a formality. It’ll get interesting in Conference Semifinals though against the Raptors.
(3) Toronto Raptors vs. (6) Milwaukee Bucks
Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the most exciting young players in the league, but his time for playoff success will have to wait at least another year. With no Jabari Parker by his side, the Greek Freak doesn’t have the supporting cast to contend with a Raptors squad that is determined to prove that last year Conference Finals run was no fluke. With Kyle Lowry back and shaking off more rust by the day, the Raptors have a real chance at reaching the Finals.
(4) Washington Wizards vs. (5) Atlanta Hawks
Scott Brooks has worked wonders in his first year coaching the Wizards and Washington’s magical season will continue past the first round. The Wizards have one of the best backcourts in the game with John Wall and Bradley Beal, and forward Markieff Morris should be able to at least contain Paul Millsap.
(1) GS Warriors vs. (8) Portland Trail Blazers
Since you care enough about basketball to read this article and have at least a speck of common sense, you know that the Warriors will sweep the Trail Blazers. Last year Golden State took care of Portland in five games despite missing Stephen Curry for most of the series. Now Curry’s healthy and has Kevin Durant by his side. The Warriors are the best team in basketball and there’s not a close second. There’s simply no way this series reaches a Game 5.
(2) San Antionio Spurs vs. (7) Memphis Grizzlies
The Spurs are the more talented team and Gregg Popovich is a legend. San Antonio easily has the best player in this series in Kawhi Leonard, who’s having an MVP caliber season. Still, Memphis has played the Spurs close this season, splitting their season series with San Antonio. This series won’t be a cakewalk for the Spurs, but they’ll still live to fight another day.
(3) Houston Rockets vs. (6) OKC Thunder
It’s unclear who will win the MVP among James Harden and Russell Westbrook, but there’s no question that Houston is the better team. The Rockets play a better brand of basketball, sharing the ball instead of relying on their superstar to bail them out. The same cannot be said for the Thunder, who must watch Westbrook hog the ball. Houston ranks third in the league in assists; the Thunder are 24th. It doesn’t matter if Westbrook notches a triple-double every game; Harden will be the one advancing.
(4) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (5) Utah Jazz
The core of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan has never gotten past the second round of the playoffs and this year they won’t make it past Round 1. Led by Rudy Gobert and Gordon Hayward, the Jazz have emerged as one of the top teams in the West and their ascent will continue into Round 2.
Contact Andrew Slap at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852.