The regular season is finally complete. 82 games have been played, (less if you are a superstar) and now it’s time for the games that matter.
Once again, the Western Conference flexed its collective muscles throughout the season. Houston’s 55 wins secured a 3-seed, but would have been more than enough to grab the top seed in the East. This year’s playoffs will be a grind for whatever team emerges from the battleground.
Here’s a collection of predictions, for both players and series, on what will shake down in the Wild Wild West:
First Round Predictions:
Golden State Warriors 4 - Portland Trailblazers 1: Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are high scoring and a tad underrated. Unfortunately, they’re the 2nd best guard tandem in this series. And Portland didn’t add a former MVP in the offseason.
San Antonio Spurs 4 - Memphis Grizzlies 2: All the money spent on Mike Conley Jr. will not be enough to get the Grizzlies out of the first round. The Grizz are stuck in that “really good” rut, where they’re a tough out, but they still go out.
Houston Rockets 4 - Oklahoma City Thunder 3: Oh baby, this is the series to watch. MVP candidates Russell Westbrook and James Harden will go at it on almost every play. Unfortunately for the 2017 MVP Westbrook (he’ll win in a tight vote), he’s the only player on the Thunder who can consistently score. Not enough to get past the make-it-rain-from-downtown Rockets.
Utah Jazz 4 - LA Clippers 3: Lob City, thanks for the memories. The core of the Clippers has run its course. Expect major changes with this team after its first round exit. Rumors of Doc Rivers leaving are rampant, despite his denial.
Second Round Predictions:
Warriors 4 - Jazz 0: The seven game battle v the Clippers will deplete the Jazz, leaving them vulnerable against a hungry and healthy Warriors team.
Spurs 4 - Rockets 2: Popovich hasn’t met a match-up he couldn’t out-coach. Everyone is impressed with D’Antoni’s first year at the helm of Houston, but the Spurs coach has won plenty of battles over the years against Coach Mike.
Spurs 4 - Warriors 3: Despite the 67 wins, there has been something off about this Warriors team. Their body language in tough times is troubling, and despite adding Kevin Durant, they really didn’t get noticeably better. The Spurs have been waiting for this matchup all year, and they’ll advance to the Finals.
Playoff Player Predictions:
Damian Lillard will average over 30pts / game in the first round - Lillard will do everything he can to push the Blazers into the 2nd round. A couple of 40-point games is not out of the realm of reason.
Draymond Green will pick up a technical within the first half of the first game - Green will look to set a physical tone, but the refs will notice and have their whistles handy.
Farewell, Z-Bo - Zach Randolph will play his final game for the Grizzlies. A “demotion” to the 2nd unit, and his contract wrapping up, will see him look elsewhere next season.
Adios, Manu - Ginobili will also see his curtain call with the Spurs, but his farewell will last much, much longer.
Russell Westbrook, Quadruple Double? - Just not in the most productive way. Expect more triple-double production from Russ, but with the added pressure to do more, at least one stat line will have 10+ turnovers.
The Rockets Go Downtown - Houston will have at least one game where they attempt 60 threes. Once they get going, it’s bombs away.
The Stifle Tower gets posterized - Rudy Gobert is taking on a variety of Clippers dunk artists. He’ll lose that battle at least once. Twitter will explode.
DeAndre Jordan will airball another free throw attempt - Jordan will be put to the line often, as the Jazz will pressure the big man (who only hits 48%) to be more efficient from the charity stripe.
And finally, our two-time MVP, Steph Curry - The current record for 3-pointers in 1 game is 11, held by Klay Thompson. That record will fall in the second round.