Thursday, April 21, 2016

NBA Playoffs 2016 Predictions

I am a passionate fan of the NBA, and simply love anything basketball. Why NBA? Well, because I grew up on a staple of Michael Jordan and the Bulls, followed by Kobe-Shaq and the Lakers, then TimmyD-Robinson's Spurs, Shaq-Wade Heat, and now the Splash's Warriors. I am a Lakers fan, and have been for as long as I can remember. I write this blog specifically talking about my views on the Playoff seasons as they stand now, and who I think might go on to win this. I have seen 2 games being played by each side in the playoffs thus far. Before I start talking, let me list the match ups in both the conferences as of R1 in the playoffs. 


GSW vs the Houston Rockets
SA Spurs vs the Memphis Grizzlies
OKC vs the Dallas Mavericks
LAC vs The Portland Trailblazers 

Cleveland Cavaliers vs Detroit Pistons
Toronto Raptors vs the Indiana Pacers
Miami Heat vs Charlotte Hornets
Atlanta Hawks vs the Boston Celtics

Steph Curry is uncertain for the rest of the series following his mysterious “foot” injury, and that raises a lot of questions on how the playoffs will unravel itself. There are many interesting opportunities this raises on what the NBA will look like post-playoffs.

Western Conference
Had Curry been playing, there would have been no doubt in my mind that the GSW would win over the Rockets 4 – 0 but now, I am going to watch closely. Yes, they might sweep the series at Houston, but hey, you never say never. Yes, I know what you’ll probably comment after seeing the first Curry-less game at Oakland, that the GSW has a firm handle on things. What worries me is the fact that GSW takes terrible shots when playing against a physical team. Beverly, Ariza can do that to you. In my opinion, all the Rockets have to do is, put a body on Klay Thompson, and Draymond. The rest of the team will make sucky passes, and turn the ball over. But on the offensive end, the team has to create empty spaces, and get more points in the paint. Which is, as of now, GSW’s Achilles heel. Yes, they are excellent at defense, but a couple of good hard screens, and tall players distributing the ball can create a whole lot of trouble for the Warriors.
The Spurs Grizzlies match-up is a foregone conclusion. My heart goes out to the Grizzlies because they lost two of their stalwarts Gasol and Conely to injury mid-season. Poor Randolph can only do so much, and the way the Spurs are guarding him, it seems like a tough ask of them to put anything resembling a fight. Spurs are the underdogs this season, mark my words, and are the only team that can stop a healthy Warriors.
The Thunders are the Arsenals of the NBA. They have the fire power, they have the potential, but somehow, they lose matches. Just plain bad luck. I can only imagine how Arsene Wenger and all Arsenal fans around the world feel about their team. I can only imagine how OKC fans feel. Not the ones in Seattle of course. I am sure there were some Supersonics fans cheering their loss to the Mavs by a point in Game 2. However, I do not see this series going anywhere else but the OKCs way, unless, they pull an Arsenal in the next game, and lose to Mavs at Dallas.
The Clippers series is set. I mean, I have never seen a poorer display by Lillard and McCollum. Ridiculous shooting numbers, forced shots, turn overs, missed threes, the back court seems like one of the most over rated ones in the NBA. Only when you see Lillard missing open looks, and playing like a clueless fellow do you accept, yes, the fellow perhaps isn’t all-star material this season. Maybe the loss of LA to the Spurs hit him the hardest. Plumlee is disappointing as their big man. I was expecting some stellar shooting from Crabbe, but unfortunately, he’s just as average as any average player in the NBA who fades into oblivion. I see the Clippers sail into the next round comfortably, perhaps even by playing their second unit, with Griffin getting some more match practice. I like the way Austin Rivers and Crawford are leading the second unit.
 How the West will shape up:
Here are my predictions for the conference semi finals
GSW vs the Clippers
Spurs vs the OKC
GSW vs the Clippers can become a very interesting series, with a healthy Griffin in the fray. I see Draymond guarding Griffin, Klay take on Reddick, Curry on Paul, Bogut on Jordan, and Barnes take on a probable Pierce. If Curry is not in the mix, I see Kerr starting Admiral Andre instead of Livingston because this gives Kerr a switch on Reddick.
This can become an interesting series if Curry is not playing because the second unit of the GSW then gets put under pressure. The second unit of the Clippers love the fast game. They like shooting from beyond the arc, and can fire pull up jumpers from within the paint. The GSW gets stymied with a fast second unit. Their second unit won’t have Admiral Andre if he’s starting. Barbosa, Festus, Clark, Livingston and Green might have a bit of a stretch on their hands. Like I said can be interesting for a bunch of reasons.
However, I do not see them stopping the Warriors because they are a tremendous offensive juggernaut.
The Spurs will walk all over the OKC in the semis. Why? Well, lets look at the match ups. Ibaka will have LA or TimmyD walking over him all game. KD will have the Kawaaai-the-Claw guarding him. Adams will have LA or TimmyD on him. Westbrook will have Parker, or Patty Mills guarding him. This leaves Danny Green or David West guarding the fifth OKC player. Honestly, I do not know who Billy Donovan will start against the Spurs. The brilliant thing about the Spurs unit is the second unit is as good as the first. The OKC has a really awful second unit. And that is where they’ll lose to the Spurs.
My prediction for the western conference finals: GSW vs the SA Spurs. And honestly, this will be a better match up than the one for the Championship, irrespective of the team that will be coming in from the East (which will be the Cavs if they stay healthy). I think here the SA Spurs might push this to a 6 game series, with the Spurs pulling two games away from the Dubs at home, but I think the Dubs might just win this one, UNLESS Curry is injured.

Eastern Conference
The Cavs will have absolutely no issues walking over the Pistons. The Pistons are a young side, and are up against a fit Cavs unit. The Cavs are a deadly side when James, Uncle Drew, Love, JR are firing on all cylinders. I have nothing more to add. I think Van Gundy should look at this series to give the young team a taste of what it takes to succeed. I just hope Drummond, who I have a lot of hope on, can learn and come back as a dominating big guy next season, and we might see the return of the “Big Center” again.
The Raptors will pull through against the Pacers. This is what I hope for. I love the way Paul George, Monta Ellis are rallying to put the series past the Raptors, but to be brutally honest, they will probably not stand a chance, and the series will come to an end in 6 games is what I envision. Better luck next time PG. I am expecting the Raptors backcourt to pick things up from Game 4 and come back to dominate the Pacers. DeRozan and Lowry have worked really hard for the Raptors to get here, and there is no way they are throwing this away. Or so I hope.
The Heat is my favorite story this season. I always liked Deng, and the way he’s become the new swingman for the Heat. The good news for the Heat is, the team has been here before. Wade has won championships with Spoelstra. True a Bosh would have been good, but Whiteside has taken things into his own hands quite admirably. The Heat are looking pretty solid in this series against Charlotte. Unfortunately, Lin, Batum, Walker, and Jefferson have a lot to learn. Yes, they are brilliant in patches, but it is not going to win them the championship. The eternal rant I have against the greats of successful basketball franchise is that they cannot create the next set of greats, except for Hakeem “The Dream”. None of the other players, I think, have been successful at creating awesome ball players. In a nutshell, I see the Heat cruising through to the next round.

The Hawks Celtics season isn’t turning out to be the match up I had expected. I was impressed with the grit the Celtics showed in the season, but unfortunately, they have been playing bad ball. A little defense focused team has totally messed up their offense. I am hoping that the Celtics will perform a little better in their home stretch, because I really like the way the Boston team is coming up. Now saying this is tough for me because I am a Lakers fan, through and through. The Hawks have surprised me with their play. I think if they continue to play the way they are playing, they might create a little bit of trouble for the Cavs. But just a little bit. I see the Hawks winning this in 5 games at the most. Maybe they’ll drop one in Boston, but that is about it.

My predictions for the eastern conference semi-finals are:
The Cavs vs. The Hawks
Raptors vs. The Heat
Now I am certain the Cavs will win the match up in straight matches, there is no doubt about that, I just hope no one gets hurt in the series, as the Hawks are a physical team.
The Raptors will fall to the Heat, is what I think. The Heat are an experienced side, and I think we haven’t seen the Best of Wade this season yet. Yes, he’s turned back father time a few times, but I think the best is yet to come.
In the Finals, I see Heat playing against the Cavs, and I think this is going to be a tough match up. The Heat have caused a lot of problems for the Cavs in the regular season, and I see this match up not going any other way. Yes, the Cavs might win, but it’ll be another 6 or 7 game series with its own set of ups and downs.

The Finals:I think GSW might take this all the way if they have a fit Curry. I see them winning in straight matches against the Cavs. Maybe, they’ll drop a game at Cleveland, but I doubt it.
The same goes for the Spurs, they’ll win straight against the Cavs.
 So the title would ultimately belong to the GSW. That is what I predict. If, and only if, Curry is at a 100%.