By Matt Stevenson
April 18, 2015
Although I say this every year, I AM BEYOND EXCITED FOR THE 2015 NBA PLAYOFFS! The amount of legitimate contenders this year has separated this year’s playoffs from the rest, and significantly so.
The Eastern Conference finally has several power houses that can make the first two-rounds somewhat interesting for the first time since Boston’s Big Three left. Then, of course, we have the usual for the Western Conference. This conference is once again more loaded than your Aunt Ruth’s potatoes! A Clippers-Spurs first round match as well as Mavericks-Rockets is awesome.
I think three questions are critical to answer for the Eastern Conference: Can LeBron and the Cavaliers continue their dominance? Can Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler coincide for a deep playoff run? Will the Atlanta Hawks prove to be a real threat to the future of the Eastern Conference?
In the first round I think the two-seeded Cavaliers win every single positional battle and will breeze through Boston, although I think Boston will take one game, Cavs in 5. The Atlanta Hawks earned the first seed with an incredible display of teamwork in the regular season, also breaking the franchise record with over 60 wins. The obliterated the Brooklyn Nets in the season series 4-0 and I expect nothing less. Although I’m a huge Joe Johnson fan, and Brook Lopez is playing the best basketball he has since he got paid, Atlanta has everything going for them. Hawks 4-0. Boy, what if we would’ve seen a Pacers-Hawks first-round matchup though? Last year’s 1 vs 8 seed went to 7 games between the two and was great basketball.
Raptors against the Wizards is an interesting matchup, as both have more of the “complete team” philosophy. However, the Wizards just haven’t been able to click the way thought they could while the Raptors are playing tough basketball. Kyle Lowry is proving his max contract worth this season when healthy. I thought them nabbing Paul Pierce really could make them threats to any team in the East. Raptors in 6. The last first round matchup in the East is the Bulls vs Bucks. This series is simple for me, Jason Kidd has proved to be a good coach willing to get to players. But without significant depth like the Bulls have (not to mention they have experience as well) the Bucks won’t last. Derrick Rose will get the go to be himself again I think and create a spotlight on the Bulls as reporters will start to get nutty with the idea of a Cavs-Bulls second round matchup. Bulls in 4.
So in the Eastern Conference we have a second round matchup between Chicago and Cleveland and Toronto and Atlanta as most expected. I predict the Cavaliers will prevail in this conference as LeBron, Kyrie and K-Love will prove to be too much to handle for the rest of the field.
Now the fun part, attempting to dissect the Western Conference. This is much like March Madness as it might be easier to decipher my picks by flipping a coin, but I will indeed choose off my knowledge of the game. I see only one matchup that will be done in 4 and that is the Warriors vs Pelicans. I love love LOVE Anthony Davis, but he’s going up against the most dangerous shooting team in NBA history. But this shooting team can also beat them in every other way because they can stick David Lee, Draymond Green or Andrew Bogut on Davis. Warriors in 4. Grizzlies vs LaMarcus Aldridge’s Blazers can be a great series, however I think it will be done quickly. No Wesley Matthews or Batum for the Blazers therefor relying on who? Alonzo Gee… LaMarcus Aldridge is one of my favorite players in the league but him and Lillard can’t get it done by themselves against an experienced Grizzlies team. Memphis in 5.
Now my two favorite matchups in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. The Houston Rockets taking on rival Dallas Mavericks is an exceptionally great first rounder to watch. The Rockets won the season series 3-1, but I have a bad feeling about this. There is one key factor in this series, Rajon Rondo. If Rondo can finally mesh with the Mavs (which he hasn’t so far) they have the best starting line up top to bottom. But of course, what about James Harden? He is my pick for MVP and with Dwight Howard they are a scary team. But they don’t have the guards to defend Dallas’. Scoring won’t be a problem for Harden, as it never is. But I think Dirk Nowitzki has a favorable matchup, as does Rondo. Oh yes, Chandler Parsons who darted Houston for Dallas last summer is going to show his previous franchise why they should have paid him. With two great guards in Monte Ellis and Rondo and the absence of lock down defender Patrick Beverly, I’ll take the Mavs in 7.
Perhaps the most exciting first round matchup in NBA history in my opinion, the young and freakishly athletic Clippers host the defending Champion Spurs. Chris Paul said last week, the window is closing for the Clippers to figure it out and he is salivating for that trophy. I think he gives the Spurs problems and will make Tony Parker go to work. Griffin and Jordan pose threats to the Spurs as well and I think they will do a surprisingly good job defending Duncan. But the X Factor is Kawhi Leonard will come through. JJ Reddick and Jamal Crawford aren’t going to stop him, and Matt Barnes is too old to play significant minutes against Leonard. He’s in a contract year, and the Spurs know Duncan and Ginobili may very well retire this season. Pop and the Spurs get it done, in miserable fashion, by a series at 4-2.
So in the Western Conference we look forward to a Warriors vs Grizzlies and Spurs vs Mavericks. Talk about great basketball. However, in this conference I pick the Warriors to head to the NBA Finals. Although I am a firm believer in the philosophy that just shooting doesn’t win championships, the Warriors are young, fresh and healthy. In which is the Spurs’ weak point because I don’t see the Spurs having the guards to defend the Splash Brothers along with the athletic Livingston off the bench.
So Cavs and Warriors in the NBA Finals and as a Cleveland fan I’m going Cavs. The time has come and it’ll be a great year for Cleveland. The NBA playoffs are finally among us, and they are going to generate much excitement across the sports world. The first round has incredible potential regarding match ups and it will spark the greatness to follow.