NBA Playoffs 2016 first round preview

The NBA Playoffs start in a couple of hours and sports-wise this is by far my favorite period of the year.

We can all pretty much agree on the fact that this has been an incredible and memorable regular season, for various reasons:

  • Golden State, of course, winning 73 games and breaking a record that most of us thought couldn’t be broken,
  • Steph joining the 50+40+90 club, hitting more than 400 threes, all while playing less than 35 minutes per game,
  • Kobe retiring in flames,
  • Karl-Anthony Towns having one of the best rookie seasons in recent years.

Back to the Playoffs bracket, I’d like to try and write down a couple of considerations on each pairing.

East

1. Cavs vs 8. Pistons

The Pistons finally being back in the Playoffs after a few years represent a great business card for their boss Stan Van Gundy, who was able to turn the franchise around in just a couple of seasons. Unfortunately for them, they go up against a Cavs team that is rejuvenated in spirit with Lue and LeBron co-coaching, and that should be healthier than last year. Strangely, Detroit is up 3-1 in the regular season series against the Cavs, so it’ll be an interesting series after all, but Playoffs basketball is a radically different kind of game. Cavs in 5.

4. Hawks vs 5. Celtics

The Celtics are tough. They don’t have the best roster out there, but they’re solid and well coached. Atlanta, on the other hand, is a team that will need to restructure itself and make choices comes summer time. Despite the record, I think that the Celtics might have more motivations to go through, they can affirm themselves as a solid basketball team, and they can keep the energy going, but it won’t be easy. Celtics in 6.

2. Raptors vs 7. Pacers

The Raptors have the first serious chance of getting past their first best-of-7 series in their history, and I’m not sure the Pacers, even though they’re a pretty good defensive team, are the team that can stop that. Raptors are deep, even with DeMarre Carroll nowhere near 100% health, and in the Playoffs the difference this makes is much greater. Raptors in 5.

3. Heat vs 6. Hornets

The Charlotte Hornets are one of the surprises of this seasons. They’re unsuspectedly deep, even more after moving Al Jefferson to dominate their second unit. The Heat, on the other hand, won’t have Bosh due to his health issues (get well soon, Chris!), but Johnson is playing great since joining Miami. Of all the first round, this is probably the most balanced series. I’m inclined to say Hornets in 7, but I wouldn’t be shocked if the Heat won it.

West

1. Warriors vs 8. Rockets

As I’m having a hard time finding words to describe the Warriors seasons, so am I trying to find adjectives to qualify the Rockets’. Harden is great and all, but I don’t think that the Rockets stand a chance here. Golden State is the deepest team the game has seen in the past decades, can go small or big at will (they have a fully qualified 4-men rotation in the PF/C positions, not including Green and Iguodala), which is a plus against Houston. Warriors in 4.

4. Clippers vs 5. Trail Blazers

A big big BIG round of applause for the Blazers and their leader Damien Lillard. I don’t think anyone could’ve predicted they would have been here at this point. The Clippers are, well, still the Clippers. They don’t have what it takes to go much past the first round, yet they will, and finish their season with the same sense of incompleteness that always accompanies the franchise. Clippers in 6.

2. Spurs vs 7. Grizzlies

We’re all in awe with the Warriors and what they did, but the Spurs have produced an equally impressive season, with locked down D, the usual long bench, enriched by quality veterans. Duncan is probably at his last dance, and so is Manu, which makes this Playoffs even more worth watching. The Grizzlies, on the other hand, have been clearly jinxed by and old woodoo queen of a remote Caribbean island: nearly everyone has suffered an injury, they’ve used a grand total of 28 players throughout the whole season, and they’ve gotten to these Playoffs decimated, yet showing sparks of the kind of good basketball they’re capable of. Huge props to mr. Joerger for that. Spurs in 4.

3. Thunder vs 6. Mavericks

This won’t be the Thunder’s year. Again. It’s curious that a team that has two of the top 8 players in the game, and that now has a proper coach running the show, won’t be able to accomplish what they’re meant to, that is winning the title. Yet, I can’t wait to see their matchup against the Spurs in the second round. The Mavs will probably be able to win one (Carlisle is a genius after all), but that’s about it. Thunder in 5.

I can’t wait for this to get started and see of many predictions will I miss!

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