Yes, I know this picture is from last year.
By: Colin Chiles, who you can follow on twitter here: @Colinc27
Estimated read time: 8.5 minutes
We have reached the second round of the NBA playoffs! All but one of the matchups in this round have gone at least one game so far, so this time I have the luxury of one game’s analysis to hopefully keep me from looking like a dumbass. Speaking of which, let’s briefly revisit my predictions from round one and see where I went wrong and what I got right!
Beginning with what I got right…
Warriors swept partly because Nurkic didn’t start the series. They may have swept anyway but if Portland fans want to hang on to something…well I guess that’s it.
I said Rockets would win in 6 and it so easily could have been 6. Then again, it so easily could have been a sweep. What an ugly series. As an OKC fan I came away from that series hating the Rockets (Beverly especially) and a little disenchanted with Russ. I might have to write a piece on Russ and the future for OKC because I have a lot of thoughts that I haven’t totally sorted out yet.
I said Jazz would win in 7 and that it would be the most fun/competitive series and I nailed that one! What a great series. We got the revitalization of ISO Joe, food poisoning, role players stepping up and the start of what could be the complete tear down of the Clippers. You just can’t ask for much more than that in a series.
The Cavs swept in 4 and honestly I nailed this one too. I said each game would be competitive but the Cavs would pull each game out. That’s what happened.
I had Raptors in 6 although I put out an article you may have read proclaiming Giannis as the heir to the basketball throne. He still is and I stand by my article which was about the POTENTIAL of that team but after posting it they promptly lost the next three games.
Moving on to what I got wrong…
Wizards/Hawks was much more competitive than I anticipated. Wizards pulled it out in 6 but the Hawks gave them some serious trouble.
The Celtics won in 6 but it was a wild ride to get there. I was 150% on board with the idea that the home team would lose every game in that series, after the visitors won the first 4 games in the series.
The Spurs/Grizzlies matchup was also much more competitive than I had thought and that series may have been foreboding for the Spurs future in these playoffs.
Not that it was really hard to predict or anything but if you’re counting at home, all of the teams I predicted to advance are still playing in round two.
So on to round two then! I’m going to try and keep this fairly brief and weight my time spent by how interesting each series is to me.
1 Golden State Warriors vs 5 Utah Jazz
This is the only series that hasn’t played a game yet and they do tonight, so if you’re reading this after Tuesday then go ahead and make fun of me for whatever I got wrong. A lot of people seem to be predicting a Warriors sweep and I just don’t see it. Not that I’m going to tell you the Jazz will pull off an upset, I just think they can cause a lot of problems that will force the Warriors to make adjustments.
This reminds me a little of the Grizzlies/Warriors series in 2015 during the Warriors championship run. In that series, the Grizz played a calculated, plodding style of basketball and got really physical with the Dubs. Expect to see the same with the Jazz. It will be Utah’s goal to keep these games in the 80’s and 90’s, partly because they are basically incapable of scoring much higher than 105.
The difference between the 2015 Warriors and the 2017 Warriors is twofold. One is experience. They are seasoned now and aren’t going to be bothered by physical play. You can bet on them pushing the pace every chance that they can but they aren’t going to be uncomfortable playing slow either. The second difference is Kevin Durant. KD will give them versatility on defense, even if there’s no way he’ll be able to guard Rudy Gobert.
Gobert could be Utah’s biggest advantage in the series and he’s why pace is so crucial in this series. In the simplest of terms, if the pace is quick and there are a lot of points, that will coincide with Gobert getting drawn away from the basket and torched in the pick n roll. If the pace is slow and there are fewer points, that will coincide with Gobert happily living down low on defense, living on a diet of rebounds, blocks and easy dunks on offense.
Turns out, Golden State is really good at enforcing their style of play and that is likely what will happen in this series. I do expect a challenge from the Jazz and I would expect them to steal a couple of games but ultimately lose in 6.
Warriors in 6
3 Houston Rockets vs 2 San Antonio Spurs
Game one in this series surprised a lot of people. I include myself in that group however only to the degree that I was surprised and how lopsided it was. I fully expected (and expect) Houston to take this series, I just didn’t think that it could potentially be such a one sided affair. I can’t imagine Pop and my MVP Kwahi will just lay down and get swept but it may not be up to them if the non-Kwahi Spurs players can’t guard anybody.
For as much crap as OKC’s supporting cast got, I honestly think San Antonio’s is just as bad or worse. If Houston continues to get buckets from multiple places it’s going to be tough sledding for the Spurs. (eight Rockets scored seven or more points in game 1)
Pop will make adjustments, he’s the best in the game at that sort of thing, but I don’t know what his realistic options are.
Houston in 6
1 Boston Celtics vs 4 Washington Wizards
I hesitated to even write this section, as I’m guessing most people will read this after game two has been played and I’m writing it about an hour before it starts. More things to make fun of me when I’m terribly wrong I suppose.
The first game in this series really surprised me, especially after the first quarter where the Wizards put up 38 points and were winning by 14. It seems to me that this should be a huge mismatch for whoever Isaiah Thomas has to guard. Now, you could say that about most teams but its especially true against teams with big wing scorers because Isaiah just can’t guard Wall or Beal which means he’s pitted against Otto Porter who is basically a foot taller than him.
This is what happened in game one but what also happened was Isaiah went 5-11 from three for 33 points. In fact, Boston as a team went a scorching 19/39 from three, just under 50%. If they shoot like that, then Washington is in trouble, but you can’t really bank on a team shooting 40 threes and hitting half of them.
I think Washington takes this series and I think they take game two tonight. I don’t expect it to be easy; I fully expect this series to go seven games. But Wall has an extra “fuck you” gear he can shift to as he showed us in the Atlanta series, and he will be taking it out for a nice drive a few times this series.
Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart are notoriously tough defenders and there will be frustration for the Wizard guards but Beal should be able to shoot over both guys and when Wall gets going there is no stopping him.
Now a lot of this hinges on the health of Markieff Morris, who turned his ankle in game one, but it doesn’t sound like it’s too series and he’s playing in game two. He’ll be back to the crotchety, technical foul sponge that he is because some things just never change.
Wizards in 7
2 Cleveland Cavilers vs 3 Toronto Raptors
I swear to god if Toronto gets their asses kicked in a 5 game series I’m going to hold a grudge against Canada for the rest of my life for robbing us of seeing Giannis V LeBron in round two. THEORETICALLY the Raptors should be able to pose a threat to the defending champion Cavs but theories are just wrong sometimes.
It’s not even accurate to say LeBron hates Toronto or Canada. He doesn’t care enough about them to even waste a second of thought or emotion on them. The best way I’ve heard it described is by Jason Concepcion (Netw3rk on twitter) who tweeted “The Cavs basically look at the Raptors like a substitute teacher”
If I could quantify the amount of respect LeBron has for this Raptors team it would be a less than zero number. He literally gifted them two games in last year’s conference finals. Toyed with them. Allowed an entire country hope, despite there being none that existed. If the Raptors win a game in this series it will be because LeBron decided they could have one.
And it’s a damn shame too because with as bad as this Cavs team is defensively, they are BEGGING to be upset, but I’ve resigned myself to the fact that it’s just not going to happen in the East.
The Raptors really do have a solid top to bottom roster that could theoretically compete. I said it in my original preview before the playoffs started. I thought PJ Tucker should be able to do an adequate job on LeBron. I thought maybe they could make the series really physical and use a ton of fouls since they are so deep.
But then the playoffs started. And the Raptors showed that they still haven’t shaken the curse Paul Pierce inflicted on them and they maybe never will. Just to be clear, I’m rooting for the Raptors in this series. I just have absolutely no faith that they’ll come through.
Cavilers in 5