Unlike last year, the first round went the distance in many match ups in this year’s NBA Playoffs, with some tight games deciding newfound rivalries. Predicting the semi-final outcomes in each conference, then, will be a lot more difficult.
Cleveland, despite stuttering against the resurgent Indiana Pacers, are still the favourites as they look to take down the Toronto Raptors for the third year in a row. However, this is Toronto’s best team in years – both in depth, superstar quality and style. How far, then, can the plucky team from Canada go after a series of dominant performances against the Washington Wizards? Arguably, it’s Toronto’s ‘now or never” moment – fail now, and it’s hard to see how the Raptors will ever get this monkey off their back. As always, it will depend on Lebron -and whether he will feast, or be tamed.
In a shock, Philadelphia lost their first game to the ‘broken’ Boston Celtics. After comfortably beating the Miami Heat, the 76ers could not compete with Al Horford, Jason Tatum and ‘scary’ Terry Rozier, who has been an absolute revelation this playoffs. Despite this, it’s hard to see the Celtics, continuing to outscore the likes of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. If the 76ers shooting from behind the arc warms up, they should take this one with ease – but its feasible that Brad Stevens pulls a miracle out of the bag.
Toronto Raptors 4 – 3 Cleveland Cavaliers
Philadelphia 4 – 3 Boston Celtics
The Golden State Warriors seem to have quelled the hype surrounding the New Orleans Pelicans after a comfortable win in the opening game. Despite dominating Portland, New Orleans failed to make an impact against a Steph Curry-less Warriors team, who, after a ‘Gentleman’s Sweep’ against the San Antonio Spurs, have been warming nicely into the playoffs. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green will be too much for the Pelicans. While Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday may limit the Warriors’ back-court (as they admirably did against the Blazers), they have no answer for Durant.
The Houston Rockets – for many, favourites to take the Championship – have been going about their business efficiently, beating Minnesota 4-1 before taking the opener against the impressive Jazz side. Utah, without playmaker Ricky Rubio until late in this series, have no answer to James Harden and Chris Paul, who will continue to exploit the few weak points in this otherwise underestimated Utah side.
Golden State Warriors 4 – 2 New Orleans Pelicans
Houston Rockets 4 – 1 Utah Jazz