With less than 24 hours to go for the 2015 post season to tip off, this is obviously the most anticipated time for basketball fans in India and around the world. Here are my NBA Playoff Predictions right from the first round to the finale! How many of you agree?
First Round –
Atlanta Hawks beat Brooklyn Nets 4-0
The Brooklyn Nets have made strides this season, despite losing their 2 veterans Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, with the emergence of Mason Plumlee. However, they will simply not be good enough to beat the Hawks, the most unselfish team in the NBA (next to the Spurs). While the Golden State Warriors average more assists than the Hawks, the Hawks always have a more balanced scoring attack, often having 6-7 players scoring double digits! Mike Budenholzer’s coaching has been nothing short of brilliant, the way he has convinced players to buy-in to his system and to play the game the right way-unselfishly. The Hawks move the basketball in a way that makes a basketball purist’s heart jump with joy. With a roster comprising 4 All-Stars, point guard Jeff Teague, forward Paul Millsap, centre Al Horford and 3-point shooter Kyle Korver, the Hawks were at the top of the Eastern Conference for the vast majority of the season. They will continue their dominance in the first round with the Nets falling winless to the best team in the East.
Toronto Raptors beat Washington Wizards 4-2
This machup will be of two very talented backcourts, Kyle Lowry & DeMar DeRozan vs. John Wall and Bradley Beal. Kyle Lowry finally earned the All-Star nod this year, yet he remains one of the most underrated stars in the NBA. He can shoot, handle, pass and defend. DeMar DeRozan has emerged as the face of the franchise and will no longer have the nervous jitters he experienced last year. On the other hand John Wall is an All-Star himself, accompanied by Bradley Beal, a dangerous perimeter threat. And while the Wizards have the edge in the frontcourt with Nene and Gortat, the Raptors play a better brand of basketball which is why the Wizards will eventually fall to the North.
Cleveland Cavaliers beat Boston Celtics 4-1
After a complete overhaul of its roster this past offseason, the Cavaliers have somewhat lived up to being the favourites to win the East. Despite a rocky start, the Cavaliers’ second half of the season was nothing short of spectacular, with the additions of J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert working even better than expected. J.R. has been absolutely lethal while spotting up, Lebron has been Lebron and Kyrie Irving is the only player in the NBA to have 2 games with 50+ points. Timofey Mozgov has also played extremely well, especially in the pick & roll. For the Celtics, Brad Stevens deserves a lot of credit for the work he has done with his young roster. Isaiah Thomas (interviewed by Ekalavyas last year) and Evan Turner might provide some heroics to win a game at home. In the end however, the Cavaliers’ roster is too loaded and will overcome Boston in 5 games.
Chicago Bulls beat Milwaukee bucks 4-0
Milwaukee is a team qualifying for the playoffs only because they were fortunate enough to be in the East (so is Brooklyn and Boston). Not that they are a bad team. Jason Kidd has done a good job for the Bucks. Michael Carter Williams has been a useful addition to their roster while Giannis Antetokounmpo has shown flashes of brilliance. But trading away Brandon Knight and losing Jabari Parker to injury has not done any favours for Milwaukee. As for the Bulls, they have been beset by injuries all year, yet still have been playing great. Pau Gasol has had a historic year, becoming the oldest player in NBA history to lead the league in double-doubles, Jimmy Butler has emerged as an All-Star and Nikola Mirotic has played at a Rookie-of-the-Year-level. The biggest question mark for the Bulls will be Derrick Rose. Will Rose ever be Rose again? While the answer to that question will not be important in this series, since the Bulls are probably going to sweep the Bucks anyway, it will play a big role if Chicago want to advance farther than the first round.
Golden State Warriors beat New Orleans Pelicans 4-1
After having a historic season, there is no question that the Golden State Warriors are favourites to win it all. And for good reason. They rank number 1 in both offense AND defense. They lead the league in assists, they have the arguably the best bench in the league, all this with the top MVP candidate Stephen Curry leading the charge. Warriors have players who are solid at both ends of the floor. Klay Thompson is an elite perimeter defender as well as being one of the best 3 point shooters in the league, Andre Iguodala is another great veteran perimeter defender who can score. Andrew Bogut, when healthy is a premier rim-protector. Draymond Green, a stretch 4 who can shoot 3’s, has emerged as a potential Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) candidate and Steph Curry finished second in the league in steals while breaking his own record for 3 pointers made in a season. On the other hand, Anthony Davis himself has been in the MVP conversation, finishing in the top 5 in scoring, rebounds and blocks and has been the single biggest reason the Pelicans are in the playoffs. And Anthony Davis will also be the single biggest reason the Pelicans might win a game against the best team in the league before being eliminated from the playoffs.
Memphis Grizzlies beat Portland Trailblazers 4-2
The Portland Trailblazers have been hit the worst by the injury bug with their third best player Wesley Matthews tearing his Achilles tendon and valuable veteran Arron Afflalo straining his shoulder. These have been tragic consequences for a team which was gearing up for a deep playoff run in the offseason. On the other hand, Memphis has been playing very well. Led by their two-way star Marc Gasol and Zack Randolph, the Grizzlies have one of the best frontcourts in the NBA. This combined with a grossly underrated point guard in Mike Conley might prove to be too much for the Blazers. And while Lillard’s 4th quarter explosions and Aldridge’s unstoppable fadeaway might win the Blazers a game or two, they will eventually fall to the Grizzlies.
Dallas Mavericks beat Houston Rockets 4-3
With early injuries striking star centre Dwight Howard, starting point guard Patrick Beverley and post-up centre Donatas Motiejunas, the season looked bleak for the Rockets. Until James Harden decided to explode. Leading his team to the 2nd seed in the loaded western conference, James Harden has, almost single-handedly, carried his team all season; which is why he is another top MVP candidate. The Mavericks on the other hand are led by Future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki, All-Star sub Monta Ellis and former star PG Rajon Rondo. All this, while playing for one of the best offensive coaches in the league, Rick Carlisle. The Houston Rockets take and make more 3’s than any other team in the league. But the thing about the 3 point shot is that it comes and goes. This might prove to be the Rockets’ bane. Last season, the Maverick were the only team which took the championship-bound Spurs to 7 games which is why they will upset the Rockets in 7 games.
San Antonio Spurs beat Los Angeles Clippers 4-2
The Clippers were considered contenders at the start of the season with emerging superstar Blake Griffin paired with the perennial assist leader Chris Paul and 6th Man of the Year Jamal Crawford. But Griffin and Crawford got injured which meant other teammates had to pick up their game. This is when DeAndre Jordan emerged as a star. Finishing number 1 in rebounds and FG% while being top 5 in blocks is worth a lot of praise. On the other hand, the Spurs had a very rocky start to the season which was unexpected and uncharacteristic. Hovering around the 7th and 8th seed, there was even talk that they might miss the playoffs. But that’s what it was. Just talk. Because nearing the end of the season, the Spurs finally got their act together leaving behind a trail of destruction which included the league’s top teams like the Warriors, the Rockets, the Clippers and the Hawks. Kwahi Leonard has been devastating on the defensive end, snatching the number 1 spot in steals from Stephen Curry, and being extremely efficient on the offensive end. Tim Duncan has been his usual self, being elite both defensively and offensively. Gregg Popovich, who is undoubtedly considered one of the greatest coaches ever, also holds the edge over Doc Rivers, who himself is one of the best coaches in the NBA. Thus, the Spurs should come out on top in 6 games.
Second Round –
Atlanta Hawks beat Toronto Raptors 4-2
Cleveland Cavaliers beat Chicago Bulls 4-3
Golden State Warriors beat Memphis Grizzlies 4-2
San Antonio Spurs beat Dallas Mavericks 4-3
Conference Finals –
Cleveland Cavaliers beat Atlanta Hawks 4-3
Golden State Warriors beat San Antonio Spurs 4-3
NBA Finals –
Golden State Warriors beat Cleveland Cavaliers 4-2