The second round of the Playoffs has come to a close, and it’s been a nice mixture of surprises and things that went almost exactly as anticipated.
1. Cavs vs 4. Hawks
Despite my Cavs in six prediction, early in the series it was clear that Atlanta didn’t stand a real chance against these Cavs, that have now a full 10-men rotation in place, and that have found an exceptionally great mojo from downtown. They played four games in both of their rounds so far, which means not so much playing time and lots of rest, which will surely come in handy in the conference finals.
2. Raptors vs 3. Heat
Could I have been any more wrong about this? I don’t think so. The injuries to Valanciunas and Whiteside proved to be tough to overcome, but the series has given us plenty of highlights: Dwyane shining like its 2010, the initial struggle of Lowry that was able to recover from his slump and make huge plays in games 5, 6 and 7, and Bismack Biyombo running for Toronto’s mayor office. The Raptors reached the conference finals for the first time in their history: they won’t get much farther away than that, but boy was this a great playoff run!
1. Warriors vs 5. Trail Blazers
I predicted Portland to be able to win at least a couple in the series, but I clearly though that Curry’s injury would impact the Warriors much more severely. What Steph has done in game 4 is something, yet another thing, that you’ll likely tell your grandchildren. Golden State went through some moments though in which they didn’t look completely in control, and will have to get some things in order (Green techs, for one) before the conference finals, since…
2. Spurs vs 3. Thunder
… the Thunder pulled off the biggest surprise in these Playoffs so far, by convincingly slamming away the Spurs in six games. Westbrook wasn’t probably at his best, Durant looked great, which is something that we haven’t seen in a while, and their phisical presence was phenomenal against a San Antonio team that failed at doing what they do best than everyone else, which is executing on offense. Two names stand above the others: Steven Adams, a true presence in the paint, and Billy Donovan, a rookie coach straight from college that has made the one thing that few, me included, thought possible, which was instilling a winning mentality in his guys.
Conference finals predictions
1. Cavs vs 2. Raptors
Toronto won the season series against Cleveland, but it’s clear that these Cavs are something else. They’re playing with confidence, and if the shots are going in like they have, it’ll all be over soon. Still, the Raptors have the men to guard both the perimeter and the paint (also, how about giving James Johnson some minutes now?), and if DeRozan gets a little confidence (that’s a giant “if”), they might be able to sneak a couple of wins. Cavs in 5.
1. Warriors vs 3. Thunder
This series is much closer to call than it would seem. OKC have the confidence on their side, they lost the regular season series against Golden State, but they were the ones that looked best against the Warriors. Again, Golden State must regain some composure and some flow, they desperately need to have Green mentally in control, and they need to have Harrison Barnes back in it, since he has been a non-factor so far. Steph gonna Steph, KD gonna KD, Russ gonna Russ, and the Thunder better pound the inside, with Adams and Kanter. All I want for Christmas is this series to last seven games. Warriors in 7.