NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs

The Playoffs start on Saturday, April 15 and the Eastern Conference teams are set. I’ll give a brief preview of each series and who I expect to win.

Boston Celtics (1) VS Chicago Bulls (8)

The season series was tied 2-2. Boston outlasted the Cleveland Cavaliers and secured the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. This was important for Boston after getting thumped at home by the Cavs on April 5th. The Celtics will face a Bulls team that ended the season 10-6 in their final 16 games. The better performances to end the season came after a 5-game losing streak that included a 20 point defeat to the Celtics. both teams held down their home court in the regular season games. Boston’s main attack was the 3-point shot. Boston made an average of 13 3s per game versus Chicago while shooting 39.9% from long range. The Bulls played well in of the 3 of the 4 games. Dwyane Wade returned from an elbow injury and is back in the starting lineup for Chicago (the team seemed to play better without him). Isaiah Thomas 3rd in scoring and 2nd in 4th Quarter scoring at 9.8 points/4th Quarter. That was second only to Russell Westbrook. Jimmy “Buckets” Butler will help the Bulls scrap and claw their way to 6 games but it won’t be enough to win the series.  Boston in 6.

Washington Wizards (4) VS Atlanta Hawks (5)

Washington won the season series 3-1. The Wizards are back in the playoffs thanks to Coach Scott Brooks getting the most out of John Wall and Bradley Beal. All-Star John Wall had career highs in points/game, assists/game (2nd in the NBA at 10.7), steals/game, shooting % and double-doubles. Beal who was an All-Star snub – to himself and some fans – had career bests in points/game, assists/game, shooting % and free throw %. Both players also had offensive and defensive ratings that equaled or bettered previous career highs. Otto Porter Jr. faded towards the end of the season but was knock down shooter from the corner 3. The Hawks are led by Paul Millsap, Dennis Shcroder and Dwight Howard. Tim Hardaway Jr. was a pleasant surprise as he posted career highs in points, rebounding, assists, and shooting %. Washington had the 9th best offensive rating during the regular season. They were also 5th in points per game, 8th in 3 point%, 6th in assists, and tied for4th with 30 wins at home. Atlanta ranked 4th overall defensive rating. The Hawks had the best defensive rating in the league for the games that they won. Both teams ranked top 5 in deflections per game and were 10th and 11th in PACE. I expect this to be a fun series. Lots of end to end action from both teams. The Wizards takes this series in 7 games thanks to the home court advantage.

Toronto Raptors (3) VS Milwaukee Bucks (6)

Toronto won the season series 3-1. Milwaukee’s only win during the season over Toronto came at the beginning of March while Kyle Lowry was out with a wrist injury. Lowry returned to the team on April 5th and most fans hope he’s 100%. There are a bunch of intriguing matchups in this series. Demar DeRozan will have to deal with the length of the Bucks. One of those players is Giannis Antetokounmpo aka the Greek Freak. Giannis has had an All NBA caliber season for Milwaukee. Malcolm Brogdon – 2nd Round pick out of Virginia – is a Rookie of the Year candidate and has been steady for the Bucks all season. Toronto will lean on veterans Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker for some defensive toughness. Both players came to the team via trades in February. Tucker will likely spend time guarding the Greek Freak. Milwaukee must shoot better from 3 if they want to beat Toronto. The Bucks shot 30.3% from 3 in their three losses to Toronto and averaged 13.7 turnovers in those games. Toronto ranked 4th in Net Rating was top 10 in both Offensive and Defensive Ratings. Toronto depends on their starting guards a lot. This is a series where they will need Jonas Valanciunas to step up and negate the length and size of the Bucks. Toronto wins in 6 games. I wouldn’t be shocked if Milwaukee won this series in 6 games.

Cleveland Cavaliers (2) VS Indiana Pacers (7)

Cleveland won the season series 3-1. The regular season couldn’t get over quick enough for the Cavs. Their regular season matchups against the Pacers highlighted some of the issues they had all season. Cleveland gave up 100-plus to Indiana in all four games. They had 22nd best Defensive Rating in the NBA. Some will argue that they can “turn it on” but that could be dangerous if they advance. The Pacers were a middle of the pack team all season and their ranking in the advanced statistics categories of Offensive/Defensive/Net Ratings showed the same. Paul George and LeBron James will definitely go at it but in the end Kyrie Irving’s ability on offense will be the deciding factor in helping Cleveland end the series in 5 games.

Stats courtesy of:

http://www.basketball-reference.com/leagues/NBA_2017_leaders.html

http://stats.nba.com/

NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs

NBA Western Conference Playoffs

The Playoffs start on Saturday, April 15 and the Western Conference teams are set. I’ll give a brief preview of each series and who I expect to win.

Golden State Warriors (1) VS Portland Trail Blazers (8)

Golden State won the season series 4-0. Golden State had two blowout victories (largest margin 45 points) and two close wins (smallest margin 2 points). The Warriors scored an average of 125 ppg while shooting an average of 52.7% in all 4 games. The two teams haven’t seen each other since January 29th. Portland added Jusuf Nurkic – who is likely to miss this series because of a broken leg – via trade in February. The Warriors had some rocky games (started 2-5 without KD) but dealt with the knee injury to Durant very well. The Warriors rattled off 13 wins in a row before KD returned on April 8th. Golden State wins this series. Only thing to consider is number of games. GSW beat Portland 4-1 last season in the Playoffs.

 

Los Angeles Clippers (4) VS Utah Jazz (5)

Los Angeles Clippers won the season series 3-1. This is the 2nd most intriguing matchup in the Western Conference First Round. I’m not sure how exciting it will be though. The Clippers had 3 victories that ranged from 13-15 points. In those 3 defeats, Utah was simply unable to score averaging only 80.7 ppg. The Jazz shot a woeful 27.9% from 3-point range in their losses to LAC while shooting a sizzling 66.7% in their only win. Utah attempted an average of 22.3 shots from 3-point range in the season series against the Clippers. The terrible shooting from long range is surprising because Utah has shot 37.2% on 3-point shot attempts (which is 9th best in the league as of 4/12/2017). The Clippers are slightly better at 37.5% on 115 more attempts. The teams aren’t much different when you look at the League’s Advanced Statistics. Both teams are top 15 in Offensive Rating and Defensive Rating while being top 6 in Net Rating. The one difference is the pace that each team plays at. Utah is 30th (last) in PACE and the Clippers are 17th. The team that can dictate the flow of each game in this series will likely be the winner. I have the Clippers being that winner in 7 games.

Houston Rockets (3) VS Oklahoma City Thunder (6)

Houston won the season series 3-1. Easily the most exciting matchup in the First Round of the NBA Playoffs. This series could feature the MVP, Coach of the Year, and 6th Man of the Year winners. I expect this series to be fast and exciting just like the 4 games played during the regular season. 3 of the 4 games were decided by 3 points or less. Both teams averaged over 110 ppg and shot plenty of 3-pointers in each game. Houston true to their motto averaged 40! 3-point attempts while OKC averaged 28.3. This series will be built as “Harden VS Westbrook” but it’ll be more than that. Both players are top 3 in points per game (Westbrook 1st & Harden 3rd) and assists per game (Harden 1st & Westbrook 3rd). Houston’s overall firepower and ability to shoot the 3 will be the deciding factor. Westbrook will be able to will his teammates to a couple of victories but in the end the series will go to Houston in 6 games.

 

San Antonio Spurs (2) VS Memphis Grizzlies (7)

Season series was 2-2. I have no desire to watch this series let alone type this paragraph. But here I am. Both teams won their home games. The games were tough and rugged as you’d expect. Both teams had average field goal percentages in the low 40s during the 4 games. Each team barely got over 90 ppg for the season series. Memphis will grit and grind their way to a win or two but the Spurs will ride MVP-candidate Kawhi Leonard into the 2nd Round. Spurs in 6 games.

Stats courtesy of:

http://www.basketball-reference.com/leagues/NBA_2017_leaders.html

http://stats.nba.com/

NBA Western Conference Playoffs