2017 NBA Playoffs: Predictions & Matchup Breakdowns

The 2017 NBA Playoffs start today. It’s only playoff tradition for someone to make their matchup predictions. Here are mine. 

Western Conference

Golden State Warriors (1) v. Portland Trailblazers (8):

The Warriors win in five. It would likely be four, however, evaluating Kevin Durant’s recently coming off an injury and some current team chemistry kinks, a dedicated combo of Damien Lillard and C.J. McCollum will have one game where they go off and help steal one. There is nothing more to expect here other than the gentlemen’s sweep.

San Antonio Spurs (2) v. Memphis Grizzlies (7):

Spurs will come away with the victory here. The Spurs and the Grizzlies have a long history with both teams coming out on top at one point. But this year the Spurs will win in six. The advantages for each team come from certain positions. While Kawhi Leonard will be virtually impossible to guard man-to-man, Mike Conley could cause some guard trouble mischief. However Kawhi’s perimeter defense will see him match up against Conley at many points throughout the series and will be too much for the Grizzlies to succeed against.

Houston Rockets (3) v. Oklahoma City Thunder (6):

I’m going out on a limb here, but I predict Russell Westbrook and the Thunder in six. I expect the defense of the Thunder to slow down the high-paced offense of the Rockets. Taking into account the fact that the game naturally slows down in the playoffs and less fouls are called, both of these factors do not bode well for James Harden and the Rockets. I feel that this will be the only upset of the first round as the top two MVP candidates go head-to-head.

Los Angeles Clippers (4) v. Utah Jazz (5):

Experience will outplay here; Clippers take the series in six. This will be an entertaining series with a visible coming out party for Utah’s eccentric Gordon Hayward. However, the star power of the Clippers’ big-three, blended with the desperation of this year being the absolute last opportunity for them to make a run with this unit, will be too much for the Jazz who are entering the playoffs for a first time since the 2011-2012 season.

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In a nutshell: The many leader-faced players of this years NBA Playoffs teams. (via Sportscenter)

Eastern Conference

Boston Celtics (1) v. Chicago Bulls (8):

The Celtics have not won a playoff series since 2010-2011. That drought will end this year. The Bulls under Jimmy Butler’s leadership will show some grit and will even pull two wins, but the better team will win the day and the Celtics will see the second round for the first time behind their leader Isaiah Thomas.

Cleveland Cavaliers (2) v. Indiana Pacers (7):

Cavaliers will sweep the Pacers. Though they have looked tired to end the season and are playing through some shortcomings, a resurgence of King James and “his kingsmen” aren’t limiting their playoff run to the first round. Pacers’ Paul George will probably put on a commendable show, but not one to out-perform last year’s NBA Champions.

Toronto Raptors (3) v. Milwaukee Bucks (6):

This matchup will be fun to watch, as superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo will see his first playoffs as the definitive leader of his team. The Raptors are by far the better team and should win this with general ease, but the pure, raw, and versatile skill of Giannis mixed with the playoff experienced Kris Middleton coming in as a second scorer will give the Raptors some issues. Raptors win in six.

Washington Wizards (4) v. Atlanta Hawks (5):

The Washington Wizards’ high-powered offense will overpower the Hawks. This series ends quickly with a five-game series and the Wizards in favour.

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The 2017 NBA Playoffs bracket.  (via Sporting News)

Today’s first playoff matchup is the Cleveland Cavaliers against the Indiana Pacers @ 3:00 pm on ABC.

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Raptors are not Extinct; Advance to NBA Eastern Conference Finals

By David Arruda
The NBA eastern and western conference finals are set and for the first time in history it includes the Toronto Raptors. While Raptors fans attempt to celebrate, they also try push away the doubt that comes from the lethargic effort their team has put fourth thus far in the playoffs; now approaching the King, Lebron James, and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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Six hungry and ready Cavaliers. Photo by Bleacher Report

It is no secret that the Raptors have not played well in their first two series. They struggled to beat a Pacers team that they were expected to trounce, limping out of a 7 game series, and again revealed their flaws against the Heat. Meanwhile the Cavaliers demonstrated why they are the favourites to represent the east in the finals. The Raptors have underachieved primarily due to the performance of their two all stars, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Lowry has increased his atrocious shooting percentage from 31% to an abysmal 37% , while DeRozan is not fairing better shooting beyond 36%.

The conference finals may seem bleak for paleontologists residing in the North, but there are reasons to be positive. The Raps have faced their fare share of setbacks—primarily the ankle sprain that Jonas Valanciunas suffered and is likely to keep him from participating in the first two games against Cleveland. However, there has been positive reinforcement, specifically from replacing starting centre Bismack Biyombo,  and Terrence Ross and Norman Powell off the bench. All three of these players have provided much needed energy and have been pivotal at various times in the playoffs. With the Cavs in sight each of these players, they will need to continue playing like they have if the Raps have any chance of winning.

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Biyombo and Patterson celebrate Game 7 win against the Heat. Photo by Nick Turchiaro/ USA TODAY Sports

However, besides these hopes noted above, the one thing that Raptors fans can take away from these playoffs is no matter how terribly they’ve made it—is the mere fact that they made it; scratching and clawing to franchise history. Prior to this season the Raps had never won a seven game series. Now, the Raps have won two seven game series, against while not matching the level of intensity they have brought during this 50-plus wins regular season. If you had to ask Raptors fans for anything this playoff, it would simply to win one series, and here they are surpassed of expectations in the conference finals.

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Fans chant in excitement. Photo by Toronto Star

Game one against the Cavaliers takes place Tuesday, May 17th, @8:30pm, in Ohio.