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NBA Playoffs first round predictions

Grayson Heflin

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Another historic NBA season comes to a close, last year the Golden State Warriors broke the long standing 72 wins record, but this year Russell Westbrook commanded the spotlight, and  broke Oscar Robinsons 41 triple doubles in one season  record. These last two years have been fun for fans but when it comes down to it, what every player is chasing isn’t a record, or the MVP ,  they are chasing an NBA finals trophy. The stage is set, 16 teams individually  ready to fight and claw their way to NBA glory, the first round of the playoffs kick off this weekend with four games on Saturday and four on Easter Sunday. The favorites of the playoffs, just like the past few years, are the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers, but the Boston Celtics and the San Antonio Spurs can be put in the same conversation. Any team can win on any given night which makes this bracket a tough one to pick, but without further ado, let’s get into it.

Indiana Pacers vs Cleveland Cavaliers

Starting off Saturday, one of the more intriguing match-ups of the first round, Lebron James and Kyrie Irving will look to repeat last year with another NBA title but their road to the finals will be much harder this year, starting off with Paul George and the pacers. The Cavaliers re dangerous from three, with Kyle Korver, and Kyrie Irving both shooting above 40% while they have the scoring threat and lower presence of Lebron, Kevin Love, and Channing Frye. On the other side, the Pacers just got Lance Stephenson back and along with George and Jeff Teague they will be able to score the ball quickly. Myles Turner and Thaddeus Young will be big for them on the defensive boards and contesting shots. In the NBA Playoffs teams play in a best of seven series, for this pairing I like the Cavs in five, slipping up once but otherwise dominating this match-up.

Boston Celtics vs Chicago Bulls

The top seeded Celtics have certainly played well down the stretch, and hope to carry their recent success into the playoffs. Isaiah Thomas has emerged as one of the most clutch players in the NBA and along with Avery Bradley create a quality backcourt that combined average 45 points per game. Boston also has Al Horford that can be for them on offense as well as on the defensive end. Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo will have to carry the bulls if they want to move on, I don’t trust Lopez down low against Horford and think that if Thomas, Crowder and Bradley all play like they usually do the Celtics can take this series in four.

Toronto Raptors vs Milwaukee Bucks

This is my favorite match-up in the first round because I think that it will be the closest. The Bucks have struggled at times this year and losing Parker for the year for sure hurts, but with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton the Bucks still have athletic scorers to keep the score high. Malcolm Brogdon and Greg Monroe have great chemistry and Brogdon has emerged as a favorite for NBA rookie of the year, with his return to the starting lineup after dealing with back pain and sitting out some of the last few games of the season, the Bucks look healthy and ready to go. On the other side however, Toronto just got back star point guard Kyle Lowry which is a dangerous combination when paired with DeMar DeRozan, both guards are very athletic, great shooters, and hard to match up with. Lowry is a great passer and DeRozan can slash and score, I’m thinking the Bucks take this one in six.

Washington Wizards vs Atlanta Hawks

A great pairing here, the athletic guards of Washington versus the dominant big men of Atlanta. John Wall and Bradley Beal will have to plan a very high-level to keep the game close, while they are both great ball handlers and shooters on their own, they wont be guarding  the Atlanta big men. Dwight Howard and Paul Millsap, specifically, will do damage down low and be a match a problem for Gortat.  Tim Hardaway Jr. and Dennis Schroder both can score very well and have good court vision, they will be able to match up well with the Washington guards and while John Wall is the best player on the court I don’t think that the wizards will have enough to win this one. Hawks in seven.

Golden State Warriors Vs Portland Trail Blazers

This is the most intriguing and my favorite matchup of the first-round also possibly the most overlooked team in the playoffs, the blazers. Over the off-season the golden state warriors added superstar Kevin Durant and seem to be invincible when they’re all playing at their best, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson both can shoot the lights out while Draymond Green has been one of the best defense of players all year. With Kevin Durant coming back from injury it looks as though Golden State might return of the NBA finals for the third straight year. on the other side the Portland trailblazers are extremely underrated and in my opinion have the best backcourt the whole NBA with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. With McCullen and Lily are both averaging over 23 points a game they have no problem with scoring and bunches however in this match up the big man will decide victor, both teams have such great guard play that will come down to who can get it done down low and on the glass. Mason Plumlee on Portland is a great big man and is big for them on the defense of end of the floor just as well as offense (averaging 11 points a game) but Draymond Green and Zaza Pachulia will be more than capable of getting it done on offense.I’ll take Golden State in five.

Memphis Grizzlies Vs San Antonio Spurs

Greg Popovich and the Spurs are always a dangerous threat to make a deep run in the playoffs, with Kawai Leonard being one of the best defensive players in the NBA as well as an elite player on the offense of and the Spurs have a dangerous combination of defense and offense that will end many teams seasons. LaMarcus Aldridge Is similar to Kawai Leonard he averages over 17 points a game as well as seven rebounds and one block, Leonard and Alldredge will be able to hold the Grizzlies and check on the defense of end as well as score in bunches with the assistance of Patty Mills and Pau Gasol. On the Grizzlies side their bigs are also dangerous, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol both averaging over 14 points and over six rebounds each per game, while the guard play of Tony Allen and Mike Conley will be tough to slow down. Overall this is a much closer match up that it appears, but nevertheless  I’ll take San Antonio in five.

Houston Rockets Vs Oklahoma City Thunder

The match-up of the two MVP candidates Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Both elite players with great passing abilities as well as the ability to drop 40 points on any given night. Westbrook and the Thunder lost Kevin Durant but have still found a way to slide into the playoffs. After finishing his historic season, everyone now knows that Russell Westbrook is a triple double machine. In the playoffs the Rockets will have to somewhat hold him back from his usual  production if they want the chance to win and move on. Overall Victor Oladipo, Steven Adams, and Russell Westbrook won’t be enough to beat a Rockets team that shoots extremely well and is just more balanced overall. When you have 10 players averaging over nine points a game, the options on who can score the ball are limitless it seems James Harden will easily lead the Rockets into the second round taking this series in five.

Los Angeles Clippers Vs Utah Jazz

And finally the Utah Jazz and the Clippers, the Jazz headlined by their  best player Gordon Hayward, averaging 22 points a game, Hayward is the real deal and then elite scorer, However Hayward won’t be able to take on the Clippers alone and even with the help of Rudy Gobert and George Hill, I still can’t see the Jazz beating the them. While the Jazz do have a fairly complete lineup, with Rodney Hood, a solid shooting guard, and Derrick Favors at power forward, I just don’t think they’re starting five can compete against Chris Paul DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin. JJ Redick and Jamal Crawford are also match of problems that I just don’t think the Jazz can compete with this was one of the easier games for me to pick and unfortunately for Jazz fans I predict the clippers rolling over them in five.

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NBA Playoffs first round predictions