(Written before Saturday April 14)
Round One is here. Prediction Time!
Raptors (1) vs Wizards (8):
The Raptors are good this year, maybe better than they have even been. This season the Raptors won their division, the Eastern Conference, home-court for almost all of the playoffs, and a franchise-record for regular season wins. It has been a historic year for Toronto and the Raptors are focused on doing what they couldn’t in franchise history, get to the NBA finals.
“Journey’s not over. Next question.” – Kyle Lowry on regular-season accomplishments
“It’s gratification but you’re not satisfied, that’s the way I like to put it. We haven’t got to where our ultimate goal is.” – Dwayne Casey on regular-season accomplishments
The Raptors have the confidence in this team to get to the Finals and the Wizards are their first obstacle. I say obstacle because I think the Wizards are honestly just standings in the Raptors way. As much as I want the dinosaurs to lose, they aren’t going to (at least in the first round). The Wizards might be able to steal a game, but this one will end quickly.
John Wall and Bradley Beal are among the stars and notable names on the Wizards team and they can produce good offense. But the Raptors have one of the best offenses in the league and can pace the game very well, which the Wizards will not be able to defend for the entire game.
The Raptors could win their first Game 1 ever, and I think they will.
Raptors in 5
Celtics (2) vs Bucks (7):
The obvious storyline of this series is the Celtics injuries. Yes, yes, we all know. No Kyrie. No Smart. No Theis. So, the Celtics shouldn’t be able to win. Wrong. We’ve all seen them win throughout the season without these three, and this series shouldn’t been too different.
The regular season series split 2-2. The Celtics scored about 103 points on average, while the Bucks had 101. The Bucks shot 49% from the field, and the Celtics shot 47%. Boston outrebounded Milwaukee by about five rebounds. Giannis, however, scored 33.5 points per game. (Two of these games were early in the season when the Celtics were pretty much healthy).
It’s plain and simple. Without Giannis, the Bucks cannot do much. Giannis has to play at a high level every game if the Bucks want to win this series. If Giannis wasn’t scoring that many points a night, would the other players, like Bledsoe and Middleton, be able to pick up their game? I don’t think so. And that will be the key for Boston in this series, either shut down Giannis, or hope he has an off game.
The Celtics are 14-7 without Kyrie. Not bad, huh? The Celtics averaged only 99.8 points without him though. Their defense was slightly better, giving up one less point on average. The Celtics ability to win will help them in this series against a good Bucks team.
Sure, you could say the Celtics aren’t going to win because of the injuries, but I don’t like to use that as an excuse. The Celtics have the ability to win with Brad Stevens (potential coach of the year) at the helm coaching and other key guys, like Tatum, Brown, Horford, Morris, etc (I honestly could have named at least three more guys). We’re going to miss the players, and we might lose some key offense (without Kyrie’s ability to easily score when the Celtics are in a slump) or some key defense (like Smart’s ability to lockdown a player for the whole game or Theis’s ability to protect the rim).
“He was really, I thought, one of those glue guys for that defense. When you look at them without him in the lineup, they’re just not the same. They don’t have that guy that can really impact the game and not necessarily put up points. So they’re going to miss him a lot. They really are.” – Celtics Expert, A. Sherrod Blakely on Marcus Smart
I’m really hoping someone like Semi Ojeleye can come up big in this series. He is the one guy on the team who was able to shut down Giannis for a few possessions in the regular season, and maybe he can do the same in the playoffs. His offense picked up towards the end of the season, and I have the feeling Brad is going to trust Semi more. Semi and last year’s Jaylen Brown have some similarities, and maybe Ojeleye can flourish in the playoffs like Brown did last year. If Ojeleye can clean up his shooting, he can become a good player.
Celtics in 6
76ers (3) vs Heat (6):
The 76ers are going to throttle the Heat.
Unless, we see the PLAYOFF GOAT KELLY OLYNYK! or playoff D-Wade. But, this series is going to the Sixers.
76ers in 4
Cavs (4) vs Pacers (5):
I think this is one of the most underrated serieses in the playoffs. Many experts and people I have talked to have the Cavs, but I think the Pacers could give them a run for their money.
Oladipo and the Pacers have something to prove. If they want to pull off this upset, Oladipo and one of the smaller names on the team is going to have to come up big, like Young, Turner, Bogdanovic, or Stephenson.
The Pacers have the potential to steal a game or maybe two, but that will only be until this Cavs team learns to play together in the playoffs. Most the players on this team are new this season, and it took a bit of time for them to get comfortable in the regular season. I think they will have to get comfortable with each other in the playoffs and how to play against a good team every day.
I think the Pacers can do well in this series, but it will take a lot from this team. But, if they do upset, they’ll lose in the next round.
Who else is excited for another edition of Stephenson vs LeBron?
Cavs in 6