That’s all folks – the 2015-2016 NBA regular season is officially in the books. As always, there were unlimited highlights and lowlights, teams that exceeded expectations and ones that regressed to mediocrity, and, of course, there were the Sixers. From Air Bud suiting up for the Pelicans, Steph Curry using cheat codes, and the Mamba calling it quits, this season was one to remember for plenty of reasons. As for the specifics, the much improved Eastern Conference has a few teams that could challenge the Cavs for supremacy, while the Western Conference is going to be hard-pressed to dethrone the Warriors. So without further ado, here are my predictions for the first round of the playoffs.
The Eastern Conference:
Cleveland Cavaliers (1) vs. Detroit Pistons (8)
Head-to-head record this season: Detroit 3-1
The Cavaliers have had a ton of drama surrounding the organization throughout the entire year. Somehow, after leading the team to the Finals last year, David Blatt was ousted mid-season and Tyronn Lue (aka the guy that had his soul stolen by Allen Iverson) has since taken over, helping the Cavs retain the one seed in the Eastern Conference. There is no doubt they are immensely talented, but it appears at times they have too many egos to be a championship team. On the other hand, the Pistons are a young and upcoming team led by Andre Drummond and versatile guard Reggie Jackson. They actually matchup pretty well with the Cavs, but Lebron won’t let his team fall in the first round.
Prediction: The refs and Cavs in 5
Toronto Raptors (2) vs. Indiana Pacers (7)
Head-to-head record this season: 3-1 Toronto
Here we go again for the Raptors. After another successful regular season they aim to make it out of the first round, something they have failed to do the past two years. The Pacers have a bonafide star in Paul George, and with DeMarre Carroll out for the Raptors it is tempting to pick Indiana, but I won’t. Drake won’t allow the Raptors to fall in the first round for the third time in a row.
Prediction: Toronto in 6
Miami Heat (3) vs. Charlotte Hornets (6)
Head-to-head record this season: 2-2
The Hornets surprised a lot of people this year by making the playoffs. Looking at their roster, you really wonder how they are any good. Well, with Jeremy Lin having a resurgence (harnessing his inner Goku) and Kemba Walker leading the way, the Hornets have actually become a fun team to watch. The Heat on the other hand, are not going to surprise anyone. They are an old group of veterans with plenty of playoff experience and DJ Khaled always on their side. Led by the somewhat ageless Dwayne Wade and the defensive presence of Hassan Whiteside, the Heat pose a difficult out for the Hornets. I figure I have to go with one upset here, however.
Prediction: Hornets in 7 #Buzzcity
Atlanta Hawks (4) vs. Boston Celtics (5)
Head-to-head record this season: 3-1 Atlanta
Clearly, Brad Stevens has some sort of special powers because this Celtics team is really not good. They do not have a single star player and their best scorer is a 5’9 ball dominant point guard. Somehow, they still make it work. Atlanta is a group that is overlooked and has been for a while. They are extremely talented at multiple positions with Millsap and Horford in the front court, and I believe Boston will have trouble scoring on them consistently.
Prediction: Hawks in 6
The Western Conference:
Golden State Warriors (1) vs. Houston Rockets (8)
Head-to-head record this season: 3-0 Warriors
The Rockets really stink. The Warriors aren’t bad. Even if Harden scores 60 points a game this series, Steph will score 70. It won’t be close.
Prediction: Warriors in 4
San Antonio Spurs (2) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (7)
Head-to-head record this season: 4-0 Spurs
This is going to be a snoozer as well. The Grizzlies have a depleted roster. Lance Stephenson plays a big role on this team so who can take them seriously? People also forget how good the Spurs are. They lost 1 game all year at home. Anyone taking Memphis here? Didn’t think so.
Prediction: Spurs in 4
Oklahoma City Thunder (3) vs. Dallas Mavericks (6)
Head-to-head record this season: 4-0 Thunder
The Mavericks, much like the Griz, have had injury issues all year. Parsons and Lee are out for the first game and Williams/Barea have nagging injuries as well. The Thunder are too good for this Mavericks team healthy or not. OKC have as potent a 1-2 punch as anyone in the league, but their defensive inconsistencies may be their downfall come the second round. Still, they will not break a sweat in this one.
Prediction: Thunder in 5
Los Angeles Clippers (4) vs. Portland Trailblazers (5)
Head-to-head record this season: 3-1 Clippers
This may actually be an exciting series. If you haven’t seen the backcourt of Lillard and McCollum you are missing out. The Blazers, however, don’t have a ton of experience nor do they defend at all. The Clippers have been here before, they won’t fall in the first round.
Prediction: Cliff Paul in 6
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