It is finally here. After nearly six months of grinding, the NBA Playoffs are now upon us. This season we saw 18 teams have winning records, but only 16 could get in and the matchups are now set. We have two teams in each conference who made the playoffs this time that did not last season; Philadelphia, Miami, New Orleans and Minnesota. My DVR and remote are ready to go, the next couple of months are going to be a blast. Here is my quick preview of the first round…
1) Toronto Raptors vs. 8) Washington Wizards
The Toronto Raptors had an excellent season, the best in their history, barely missing out on 60 wins. This, however, is a tough draw. Washington should be better than the #8 seed and probably would be if not for a long-term injury to John Wall in the back half of the season. On paper this could be a tough series, but the Wizards have played so poorly down the stretch. Toronto should win this in four or five but Washington is talented enough to squeeze out a couple of wins.
Raptors in 6
4) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. 5) Indiana Pacers
Who would’ve thought, after the Paul George trade, that these teams would meet again in the first round of the playoffs, with the Pacers being the team improving on their seed? Yet, here we are. What Indiana has done this year is remarkable, but I don’t see this being a long series. Each game should be competitive, though.
Cavs in 5
2) Boston Celtics vs. 7) Milwaukee Bucks
It is such a shame that Kyrie Irving has been ruled out for the playoffs, because Boston could’ve made a real run with him. The rest of the team has fought valiantly amidst a constantly changing rotation. The Bucks are a confusing bunch, loaded with long armed, talented players, but just not a cohesive unit. Giannis Antetokounmpo causes problems for everyone, but Boston’s defensive schemes can somewhat neutralize him. I think Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown play well in this series.
Celtics in 7
3) Philadelphia 76ers vs. 6) Miami Heat
Philly is back in the playoffs with a bang after a six-year absence. Who won the title the last time they were in? The Miami Heat did, of course, the Sixers opponent in this intriguing first round matchup. What will the young Sixers look like in the playoffs? Will their play during their 16-game winning streak heading into the postseason translate? When will Joel Embiid come back? I can’t wait to find out all of these answers. Also, Miami is really feisty and will be able to throw a bunch of different lineups out on the floor. I can’t wait for this series.
Sixers in 6
1) Houston Rockets vs. 8) Minnesota Timberwolves
I enjoyed watching Denver all year, but I’m really glad Minnesota got into the playoffs. It would’ve felt wrong had they missed out after having a great season until Jimmy Butler got hurt. All that being said, though, they are facing a juggernaut. The Rockets have one goal in mind and way too much firepower for Minnesota to deal with.
Rockets in 5
4) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. 5) Utah Jazz
I think this is the best series of the first round. These teams play contrasting styles, and while one is more talented (OKC) the other relies on its ball movement and defense to get wins. Sometimes in the playoffs having the best player in the series is enough, and OKC might have the two best, but Utah has much more depth and a wild card in Donovan Mitchell. Also, Rudy Gobert vs. Steven Adams is going to be a heavyweight fight.
Thunder in 7
2) Golden State Warriors vs. 7) San Antonio Spurs
Perhaps the most boring first round series, Golden State comes into the playoffs somewhat limping and without Steph Curry, while San Antonio has been missing their best player all year. If Golden State “flips the switch” and really defends then this series will be short. If not, San Antonio can steal a couple of games.
Warriors in 5
3) Portland Trail Blazers vs. 6) New Orleans Pelicans
How the Pelicans have stayed as good as they did after DeMarcus Cousins’ injury is a credit to Jrue Holiday, Alvin Gentry and most of all Anthony Davis. Portland has been a blast to watch all year, but a couple of question marks came up at the end of the year. Mo Harkless being out hurts Portland’s wing depth and overall rotation. This could be a tight one.
Blazers in 7
Of course, a Friday Musings would not be complete without an update on our players and moments list. First up, the player profiles we have posted this week…
#34, Bob Cousy
#63, Pau Gasol
#129, LaMarcus Aldridge
#270, Johnny “Red” Kerr
#282, Derek Harper
#290, Gus Johnson
#294, Juwan Howard
Our greatest moments list is now fully into the top 50, with #50-46 being posted this week. They include players like Robert Horry, Michael Jordan and Jerry West. Next week we will get into the top 40; heady times.
Enjoy the playoff action and let’s all remember the wonderful John Tesh.