NBA Conference Semifinals Preview

The NBA’s Final Eight get set to square off.

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With the First Round of the 2016 Playoffs officially over, it’s time to look ahead to the Conference Semifinals, but first, let’s take a look at how we did with our First Round predictions

Well, we only got two series completely right, correctly predicting that the Spurs would sweep the Grizzlies, and the Heat would oust the Hornets in seven games. We did correctly predict six of the eight series winners, with the only mishaps being the Clippers, who couldn’t withstand the injuries they suffered during the series, and the Celtics, who I picked because I just couldn’t bring myself to go against my favorite team. Here’s some other random things I feel like we can be proud of…

“Owner Mark Cuban also lurks as a loose cannon who could always make things interesting at the drop of a hat.” 

Cuban caused a bit of a stir when he said that Russell Westbrook wasn’t a superstar, prompting Kevin Durant to call him an idiot after the Thunder dispatched the Mavs in five games.

“In fact, I’m going to go ahead and say that this is going to be the most fun series of the first round.”

I said that about the Heat/Hornets series. It went all seven games, and Games 4-6 went right down to the final minute, and Game 6 brought us the Purple Shirt Guy, so I think this qualifies as the most fun series.

“They can be a lot of fun, and they can be maddeningly frustrating.”

I said that about the Celtics, and they pretty much lived up to it. So much so that they lost the series. Ugh. Let’s move on to the second round. Before we begin, congratulations to all of the teams that have made it this far, especially the Raptors, who clearly needed it more than any other team.

(1) Golden State Warriors (73-9)
vs
(5) Portland Trail Blazers (44-38)

The Western Conference Semifinals have already gotten started, with the Warriors taking a 1-0 lead yesterday. They looked just fine without Steph Curry, and raced out to a 20 point lead. After the first quarter, however, the Blazers did outscore the Warriors, 89-81. Their two stars, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum also had miserable games, and you have to think that won’t happen again. That being said, an interesting byproduct of Steph Curry’s injury is that the Warriors get to start the taller Shaun Livingston against Lillard. Livingston did a great job keeping Lillard from getting into any kind of a rhythm to start Game 1, and if he can’t get rolling, neither can the Blazers. The Warriors are locked in, and even if Portland plays at their best, it’s going to be hard for them to steal a game from Golden State.
Prediction: Warriors (4-1)

(2) San Antonio Spurs (67-15)
vs
(3) Oklahoma City Thunder (55-27)

This series also got underway over the weekend, with the Spurs handing the Thunder a resounding loss in Game 1. That was not what was expected as many believed this series was going to be an epic struggle. I still have faith that it will be. The Thunder have found ways to defeat the Spurs in the Playoffs before, and you can never count a team with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook out. However, this Spurs team is unlike any San Antonio squad we’ve seen before, and they’ve started the Playoffs with five straight victories. There’s no reason to believe that they’re not on a Conference Finals collision course with the Warriors, but I have to also believe that Durant and Westbrook won’t make it easy for them.
Prediction: Spurs (4-3)

(1) Cleveland Cavaliers (57-25)
vs
(4) Atlanta Hawks (48-34)

Like the Spurs, the Cavs have yet to lose during the Playoffs after sweeping the Pistons. The Hawks just showcased some impressive defense in defeating the Celtics, but outside of Isaiah Thomas, the C’s didn’t have much of an offensive threat. The Cavs, of course, have LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love to contend with. These two teams fought in the Conference Finals last year, with the Cavs sweeping the Hawks, despite missing Kevin Love. The Hawks were also better, last year, winning 60 games. What I’m trying to say is, I don’t have much hope for this series.
Prediction: Cavs (4-0)

(2) Toronto Raptors (56-26)
vs
(3) Miami Heat (48-34)

The Raptors must feel like they have the weight of the world lifted from their shoulders after they won their first Playoff series since 2001. With that pressure lifted, it’s important that their two stars, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, improve after a woeful shooting performance in the First Round. They’re not going to be able to get away with it against the Heat, who are emerging as the biggest threat to the Cavs in the East. Raptors fans are acting like they’ve just won the championship, which shows how desperate they were just to see the second round, and I’m glad they’re happy, because that’s all they’re going to see.
Prediction: Heat (4-2)

Hopefully this turns out to be more competitive and exciting than the First Round was overall, but I do think that both one-seeds are going to roll their way into the Conference Finals, so it’s up to the other series to pick up the slack. Whether or not that happens is up in the air, but we’ll start to find out later tonight as the 2016 NBA Playoffs continues.

Author: tomeagher

Watching too much basketball.

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