2016 NBA Playoff Preview

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East:

(1) Cleveland Cavaliers (57-25) v. (8) Detroit Pistons (44-38)

  • Myles: The drama reel that is the new LeBron-era Cleveland Cavaliers have rolled their way into first place for the first time since the 08-09 season. This accomplishment is actually meaningful in an Eastern Conference whose competitiveness has taken a jump in the last year. Though, considering this, the Cavs can also expect to be tested throughout the postseason and they get their first challenge against an actually strong Pistons team. The issue of inconsistency has plagued Detroit all year, but they match up quite well with Cleveland. Though, in the end, I expect Cleveland’s superior talent and experience to win out. Prediction: Cavs in 6

 

(2) Toronto Raptors (56-26) v. (7) Indiana Pacers (45-37)

  • Christian: Despite playing almost every game this season, Paul George has seemed a step slow since returning from a gruesome leg injury suffered in August, shooting only 41.8 percent from the field on the year. North of the border, the Raptors’ stars have been playing better than ever, with Kyle Lowry finishing fifth in three-pointers made on the year while making a solid 38.8 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc, and the explosive DeMar Derozan averaging 23.5 points per game. Toronto’s superior overall talent and depth should ensure they overwhelm a Pacers team still lacking a solid identity. Prediction: Raptors in 5

 

(3) Miami Heat (48-34) v. (6) Charlotte Hornets (48-34)

  • Christian: This will be one of the more volatile first-round matchups as shown by matching records. Miami is a team with young talent, yet they have experience and a track record in the playoffs with coach Erik Spoelstra, and guys like Dwayne Wade and Luol Deng provide leadership to the younger, bouncier athletes like Hassan Whiteside. On the other end, Charlotte — lead by a continually maturing Kemba Walker — lacks playoff experience, but comes into the series as one of the hottest teams after the All-Star break with a 21-8 record during the second half of the season. That’s good for third best overall during that span, behind only Golden State and San Antonio. However, from top to bottom, the defensive prowess of the Heat will get them by a young Hornets team. Prediction: Heat in 7

(4) Atlanta Hawks (48-34) v. (5) Boston Celtics (48-34)

  • Jon: The Celtics are coming into the playoffs off of a 24-point comeback game against Miami, so Boston definitely will come into the series with confidence. It’s hard not to be confident when Isaiah Thomas seems like he can get 25 points on any team in the league, and the Celtics are going to need that. Avery Bradley’s defense will also be vital against the dynamic Jeff Teague. Atlanta is no stranger to playoff basketball though, so this team will likely only shift to a higher level of play. That is hard to imagine with Al Horford shooting 50.5 percent from the field, and this team averaging 25.6 assists per game, which is second in the league. And no defense is safe when Kyle Korver is lurking around the wings. This series should be highly entertaining, and if Marcus smart is alive and anywhere near the game, it will be physical too. Prediction: Hawks in 7

 

 

West:

(1) Golden State Warriors (73-9) v. (8) Houston Rockets (41-41)

  • Christian: What more is there to say about Steph Curry and the record-setting Warriors that hasn’t been said? He’s the first player to hit 400 threes in a season and to average 30 points per game while shooting over 45 percent from beyond the arc. What makes it even more impressive is that he did it in only 34.2 minutes per game, a historically low amount of playing time for the clear MVP this season. On top of that, the Warriors pose absurd amounts of depth and play a team basketball style that utilizes this depth. While the Warriors aren’t the fierce defensive juggernauts that they were last season, their dynamite offense more than made up for it this season. The Rockets were never able to put it together this season, starting with the failed Ty Lawson experiment, the firing of coach Kevin McHale and just barely managing to inch into the playoffs over the Utah Jazz. Barring a Dwight Howard renaissance combined with a perfect series from the rest of the Rockets, this shouldn’t even be competitive. Prediction: Warriors in 4

 

(2) San Antonio Spurs (67-15) v. (7) Memphis Grizzlies (42-40)

  • Jon: The Grizzlies are a battered bunch coming into the playoffs. The midseason loss of Marc Gasol hurt this team’s playoff chances back then, and the recent injuries to Mike Conley and Tony Allen are not helping their case any either. Allen was a go for game one, but admits he still has pain in his hamstring. Matt Barnes and Zach Randolph are not going to be enough to offset the arsenal that San Antonio has, especially since the Spurs seem to turn it to eleven in the playoffs. The Grizzlies are scrappy, but San Antonio allows a league-best 92.9 points per game and moves the ball in a way that even their own defense would struggle against. This series will be fun to watch, unless you have money on the Grizzlies. Prediction: Spurs in 4

 

(3) Oklahoma City Thunder (55-27) v. (6) Dallas Mavericks (42-40)

  • Myles: Who are the Oklahoma City Thunder? This question is one that, even after boasting a relatively healthy roster over an 82-game season, has no clear answer. The optimism that came with the firing of longtime coach Scott Brooks was quickly met with skepticism as first-year head coach Billy Donovan failed to put forth an offensive product much, if at all, divergent from the limitations of Brooks.’ And yet, due to sheer talent, this group is third in the Western conference and has ample opportunity to gain some momentum in a series against an outmatched Mavericks team. Sure, Dallas, at their full potential can muster the defensive energy to exploit an already turnover-prone Thunder team and perhaps finding their range from three could steal them a game or two Yet, even at their best, I don’t see the Mavs getting four. Prediction: Thunder in 5

 

(4) Los Angeles Clippers (53-29) v. (5) Portland Trail Blazers (44-38)

  • Myles: Hey, this should be fun. The wily, veteran backcourt of Chris Paul and J.J. Redick versus the brash and unapologetically young Portland duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. If the series came down to that alone, perhaps Portland could pull out a series win here. Yet, when you weigh the sheer talent and freakish athleticism of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan in the LA frontcourt against Mo Harkless and Miles Plumlee, Portland’s odds become quite murkier. When both are at their best, Portland and LA are arguably two of the most enjoyable teams to watch just north and south of Golden State — only, the latter group has the greater talent and playoff pedigree. Prediction: Clippers in 5

 

 

Champion:

 

  • Christian: Warriors over Cavs in 6
  • Jon: Spurs edge out Cavs in 7
  • Myles: Spurs over Cavs in 6

 

 

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