(1) Boston Celtics vs (4) Washington Wizards
Wizards in 4. Wizards in 5. With an early Game 1 on Sunday, Boston already has a 1-0 lead. The Wiz looked awesome in the first quarter, but then Markieff Morris went down with an ankle sprain and quickly went downhill. The health of Morris (and for that matter of Ian Mahinmi) will be a huge factor in this series. The Celtics had no answer for the Wizards’ offense in Game 1, so it will be on the Wiz D to get them back into this series. Washington still has the best player in the series in John Wall, who is playing at his absolute peak right now. I think the Zards right the ship and take advantage of their mismatches across the court. The Celtics’ also can’t shoot lights out like that again from 3 (I’m looking at you Jae Crowder). With the Caps doing their annual choke job against the Penguins, it’s up to the Wizards to break the DC sports curse.
(2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs (3) Toronto Raptors
NB: Cavaliers in 6. Man, I really wanted to see the LeBron vs Greak Freak matchup here. While the Raptors have improved their roster from last season, I still don’t think it will be enough to keep up with the Cavs. The Cavs’ three point attack is excellent and they still have the best player in the world. On the other hand, Toronto still overly relies on iso ball with Lowry and DeRozan. I think that will be the Raptors downfall again this year and I see a relative repeat of the Eastern Conference Finals from last season.
(1) Golden State Warriors vs (5) Utah Jazz
NB: Warriors in 4. The Dubs have it easy this year so far. Not only do they already have 4 superstars on their team, they won’t face a team that can even remotely challenge them until the Western Conference Finals. Utah will lucky to be win one game on this team. The only real chance for the Jazz is if Rudy Gobert can be fully healthy and completely dominate the paint. That’s not going to happen with Draymond and JaVale, and the Warriors will be halfway to a clean sweep of the playoffs by the end of this series. I love the NBA Playoffs night in and night out, but everyone is really fighting for second this year. The Warriors coronation is basically inevitable.
(2) San Antonio Spurs vs (3) Houston Rockets
NB: Spurs in 7. Kawhi til you die! What a first round for the silent superstar. I haven’t seen a Spur take over a series like that since Tim Duncan in the 2005 NBA Finals against the Pistons. His defense, his shotmaking, and his efficiency were on full display. Now the real challenge for him starts as the Spurs prepare to face the high scoring Rockets. The main storyline will be the battle of the MVP candidates (Kawhi and James Harden), but the key to this series is if Coach Pop can scheme to slow down the three point shooting of Houston. The Spurs’ offense is good, but not great, so they will need a great defensive series if they want to get a shot to dethrone the Warriors. This series should be super tight, but I think the Spurs do just enough to beat the Rockets.
Photo Credit: Washington Post