NBA Playoff Preview 2018

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Folks, it’s #PlayoffSZN, and I couldn’t be happier. After Wednesday’s dramatic regular season conclusion, I’m amped up and ready for some playoff action. “But who cares,” you’re asking. “The NBA is a joke. We already know who’s going to be in the playoffs. If you really want drama you need to watch the NHL playoffs, where every single lower seed is always favored to win and teams don’t win back-to-back titles.” Fair point. I couldn’t imagine living in a world where an NHL team went back-to-back and is currently seeking their third in a row. That’d be crazy. But I do agree that the NBA playoffs tend to be void of surprise, but that doesn’t mean there’s no drama. And this season, well, you better throw out the record books. Anything can happen. Not really anything, but you get my meaning. There’s so much parity (i.e. everyone’s the same level of bad) that I wouldn’t be surprised if almost every lower seed advanced. But, as you know, I’m not in the business of being surprised. I’m in the business of being right. So, without any further ado, might as well dive right in to all eight first round matchups. As always, my predictions can be written in pen, set in stone, and taken to the bank. I don’t think I’ve ever been wrong.

EAST

1. Toronto Raptors vs. 8. Washington Wizards

I’ve never hidden my disdain for the Wizards. I hate their false bravado and sense of entitlement. I hate Kelly Oubre and his “fakest-tough-guy-in-the-history-of-fake-tough-guys” routine and his quest to overcompensate for the fact that his name is Kelly. I hate the fabricated chip on their shoulder they all have from a series of perceived incidents of disrespects, when in reality it’s just everyone acknowledging that they’ve never won anything. I love how mentally weak they are and how they lose to every bad team they play. I love how they boast that the Cavs wanted to avoid them in the playoffs last year before they turned around and lost to the Celtics before they could, you know, play the Cavs. Still, even the hater in me recognizes that, at full strength, they’re one of the most talented teams in the East. And they’re playing the Raptors. At this point anticipating a Raptors choke has kind of jumped the shark. Look, I know they’re still the Raptors and aren’t going to make a Finals run or anything, but they were still the best team in the East this season. By far. Sure, a healthy John Wall would be the best player on the court and the Raptors are the second most mentally weak team in the NBA, but don’t overthink this. The Wizards are the most mentally weak team in the league.

Prediction: Raptors in 6

2. Boston Celtics vs. 7. Milwaukee Bucks

As I said when Kyrie went down, this is kind of a weird spot to be as a Celtics fan. Despite the massive hype coming into the season and the fact that they’re the 2-seed, there’s virtually no expectations for them in the playoffs. It would be disappointing to lose in the first round, yes, but with so many injuries, how upset can you be? Win a round and everything’s gravy. Still, though, this Bucks team is bad. Very bad. In their last game of the season, with potential seeding on the line, they lost by 40. 40! Maybe they were playing possum and didn’t want to face the Sixers in the first round, but still. The way to beat the Horford Celtics is to pound them on the glass and muck up the offense. The Bucks finished dead last in rebounds per game and had the third worst rebound percentage in the league. Not ideal. They certainly have the lengthy athletes to make scoring impossible for the limited Celtics, but the Bucks can’t shoot. Bottom third of the league in 3-point shooting. Listen, Giannis is impossible to prepare for. There’s going to be one game, maybe two, hopefully not three, where he just decides no one’s stopping him and he gets 45+ and fouls the whole team out. But if that doesn’t happen, I don’t see how the Bucks score enough. And if you can’t score enough to keep up with this Celtics roster, you’re in serious trouble. Not to mention the severe coaching mismatch. I had to Google who the Bucks coach is. It’s Joe Prunty. That’s not the name of a coach that wins playoff series.

Prediction: Celtics in 5

3. Philadelphia 76ers vs. 6. Miami Heat

It’s so hard not to get caught up in the Process hype, but outside an Erik Spoelstra magic trick the likes of the world has never seen, I can’t see Miami winning more than one game. They just don’t have the talent. Joel Embiid won’t play in Game 1, but assuming he comes back in Game 2, the Sixers will just overwhelm the Heat. If Embiid is playing, the Heat’s only hope is that Whiteside can get him to pick up a couple technicals. It’s absurd we’re even talking about the Sixers like this as early as 2018, but here we are. I will say, though, it would be very funny if the Sixers lost in the first round.

Prediction: Sixers in 5

4. Cleveland Cavaliers vs. 5. Indiana Pacers

Alright, I can’t make this scenario up: I’m writing this in a Starbucks because there are people filming a movie or something in my apartment. Like, a legit crew with expensive equipment, not like my videos where it’s some guy with an iPhone. And normally I wouldn’t mind. After all, I’ve already declared that I’m looking to get into the film industry. I figured I’d stick around, maybe meet some people, maybe get a hook up down the line. But, for some reason I still can’t figure out, the director proclaimed that the WiFi router needed to be moved. So, they unplugged it and then, this is the key part, they never plugged it back in! I was sitting in my room like an idiot waiting for some strangers to give me my internet back for like, 20 minutes to no avail. And I couldn’t say anything, either, because it would have been about thirty against one (of course my roommate that set this up already left, too). So I had to relocate, because I’m foolish and care more about delivering content to my handful of readers than building potential professional relationships. Besides, anyone who doesn’t prioritize WiFi is no friend of mine. But yeah, I’m in Starbucks sitting on a stool, and I just can’t do backless chairs. I don’t know if that makes me old or just out of shape or what, but this is seriously killing my back. I hope everyone appreciates the lengths I’m going to here.

Prediction: Cavs in 4

WEST

1. Houston Rockets vs. 8. Minnesota Timberwolves

I actually think this series could be interesting. Who can stop Towns when he gets going? What if Jimmy Butler starts hitting shots, getting to the line, and locking up on D? What happens if Derrick Rose- actually, yeah, never mind. Rockets are just too good. Don’t worry, though. The choke is coming.

Prediction: Rockets in 5

2. Golden State Warriors vs. 7. San Antonio Spurs

It’s weird to me how the image file Wikipedia uses for the Warriors is so much smaller than the one from every other team. Are they trying to say something? Hmm. Also weird to see the Spurs as the lower seed, but that’s what happens when your star player decides he doesn’t want to play basketball anymore. Tough to recover from that if you’re a professional basketball team. No Steph Curry for the Warriors, but that shouldn’t matter. Maybe, maybe, Pop and LaMarcus Aldridge combine to steal a game, but this won’t last long.

Prediction: Warriors in 4

3. Portland Trail Blazers vs. 6. New Orleans Pelicans

Two words: Anthony Davis. Don’t know if you were aware, but he plays for the Pelicans, and he’s very good. Sometimes things are easier than what we make them out to be: these are two of the most evenly matched teams in the league. Blazers finished with one more win. Whoever has the best player usually wins. The Pelicans have a better chance of defending Lillard and McCollum than the Blazers have of defending Davis. If he gets going (and he will) I don’t know how the Blazers plan on dealing with him. Spoiler alert: they won’t.

Prediction: Pelicans in 7

4. Oklahoma City Thunder vs. 5. Utah Jazz

This one’s pretty cut and dry to me. If the Jazz wear their City jerseys every game, they win. If they don’t, well, good season. I’ll be curious as to whether Russell Westbrook or Donovan Mitchell doesn’t care about winning this series or various awards more. Both those guys are so reserved and totally don’t care about recognition or proving people wrong. Mitchell’s starting to push it, though. Like, dude, you’re not as good as Ben Simmons. It’s okay. I’m not either, and I’ve accepted it. It’s not that hard! Anyway, the Thunder have the better roster. Steven Adams can cancel out Rudy Gobert and Paul George can cancel out Mitchell. I like Russell Westbrook’s chances of singlehandedly winning games over Joe Ingles’. No offense, Joe.

Prediction: Thunder in 6

So do they even need to play the game, anymore? I’m kind of thinking no. I mean, I already accurately described everything that could possibly happen in the first round, so let’s just save everyone a couple weeks and move up to the second round. No? Fine, I guess I’ll watch some playoff basketball. You’re really twisting my arm, here.

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