It's a couple days late and 60 points short, but here's a preview of this year's NBA Playoffs. The East is a bit top heavy with 4 teams finishing with identical 48-34 records and the Cavs could run into some trouble, but shouldn't have much issue getting LeBron to his 6th straight Finals appearance. Out West it's between Golden State, San Antonio, and maybe Oklahoma City. If things play out like they did in the regular season though, Golden State should escape out of a wild, wild West.
#4 Atlanta Hawks (48-34) vs. #5 Boston Celtics (48-34)
Gotta give credit to Danny Ainge for this surprising Celtics season. Brad Stevens is an excellent head coach and Isaiah Thomas is a little man that can win you ballgames. The Celtics should have a pretty high lottery pick and free agent money. They're very close to being serious contenders in the East. This Hawks team has more experience and talent with a head coach that may be equally as good. Paul Millsap doesn't get enough love and he should lead Atlanta to a win. Hawks in 6.
#3 Miami Heat (48-34) vs. #6 Charlotte Hornets (48-34)
The Heat are probably the biggest threat to the Cavs in the East. Danny Ainge won 2 titles as a player in the 80's and has a total of 3 NBA rings. Pat Riley does it better with 4 rings as a coach in the 80's and a total of 9. Count the rings, Danny Boy. The Heat wrapped up the 3rd seed mainly without the services of Chris Bosh. Bosh will miss the playoffs due to a blood clot and his presence will be missed if the Heat play the Cavs. Heat in 5.
#2 Toronto Raptors (56-26) vs. #7 Indiana Pacers (45-37)
The Raptors haven't won a playoff series since 2001. That ties the Bucks for longest drought without having won a playoff series. The Pacers have a better coach and a better overall player in Paul George. But Toronto's overall talent should be enough for them to win a playoff series. This is a battle of two places that find it hard to attract free agents. Having Drake lobby for you might actually be a negative. I don't see Derozan back next year. Raptors in 5.
#1 Cleveland Cavaliers (57-25) vs. #8 Detroit Pistons (44-38)
Stan Van Gundy's attack on fashion not withstanding, the Pistons lack the firepower to hang with the Cavs. Andre Drummond is a beast and Reggie Jackson is making it look like OKC should have done more to keep him but LeBron and the Bronnettes are looking to prove they're not as dysfunctional as LeBron's tweets make them sound. If the Cavs are all focused, they'll walk through the East. Cavs in 4.
#4 L.A. Clippers (53-29) vs. #5 Portland Trail Blazers (44-38)
Portland was a revelation this year, clawing to the 5th seed after losing their best player to the Spurs. Damian Lillard is the next little known superstar and C.J. McCollum is leading many Most Improved Player picks. But with Blake Griffin back, the Clippers should be able to power through into the next round. Clippers in 6.
#3 Oklahoma City Thunder (55-27) vs. #6 Dallas Mavericks (42-40)
This very well could be the last year we see KD and RussWest on the Thunder together. I'm sure they're going to try and make the most of it. Dallas overachieved this year and it is a nice feeling to see Dirk in the playoffs for the 15th time. But the Thunder have 2 of the top 5 players in the game and should make quick work of the Mavs. Some might even say lightning quick work because they can't help the thunder/lightning pun possibility. Thunder in 5.
#2 San Antonio Spurs (67-15) vs. #7 Memphis Grizzlies (42-40)
Memphis set records this year for having the most players on a roster in one season. But their missing Marc Gasol and Mike Conley Jr and starting Jordan Farmar at point who was signed on March 21st. This is most likely Manu Ginobili's last year and Tim Duncan shouldn't be far behind. The Spurs are going to make every effort count and they should easily handle this grizzly Grizz squad. Spurs in 5.
#1 Golden State Warriors (73-9) vs. #8 Houston Rockets (41-41)
It's unlikely that the previous year's Conference Finals participants meet as a #1 and #8 seed but that's how far the Rockets have fallen. Firing Kevin McHale 11 games into the season was not the change they needed. Dwight Howard and James Harden don't get along and Houston may be in for massive changes this off season. And the Warriors just went 73-9, the greatest record ever. Warriors in 4.
#2 Toronto vs. #3 Miami - Heat in 7
#1 Cleveland vs. #4 Atlanta - Cavs in 6
#2 San Antonio vs. #3 Oklahoma City - Spurs in 7
#1 Golden State vs. #4 Los Angeles - Warriors in 6
#1 Cleveland vs. #3 Miami - Cavs in 6
#1 Golden State vs. #2 San Antonio - Warriors in 7
Golden State vs. Cleveland - Warriors in 7
I give Cleveland a better chance than most with 2 likely healthy stars available this time around but it just doesn't make sense to think the Warriors won't win it all again this year. They haven't lost back to back all year. They give every team too many problems and when they're on, it's almost impossible. I think the Spurs will give Golden State a run for their money but LeBron is gonna need to be Batman and Superman for Cleveland to have a shot at the title.
The regular season belonged to Kobe.