Will it be possible for a team to knock off the defending NBA Champion Golden State Warriors? It has been one of the biggest questions of the NBA season and now that the Warriors have surpassed the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls 72 win total (73) their attention now shifts to their inevitable title defense.
From the beginning of the season the Warriors set the tone; they were not laying down and drew a line in the sand. Welcoming all comers, the Warriors blazed through the regular season unlike past champions. A couple of let downs aside, they meant business. Night after night and city after city the Warriors silenced the doubters who dubbed them as “lucky” to have won a championship the previous season.
Simply put luck doesn’t defeat a LeBron James who arguably had the most dominant playoff performance of his career.
Beast of the East
The Cleveland Cavaliers will host the Detroit Pistons who are returning to the postseason for the first time under head coach Stan Van Gundy. As coach and Team President Van Gundy has done a masterful job in turning the fortunes of the franchise around in two seasons. Despite the talent of Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond, the Pistons will have issues with the number one seed Cleveland. Since mid March LeBron James (28.2 points, 8 assists, 7.5 rebounds) has been in “Playoff Mode”. Are the Cavaliers under the radar to begin the post season? Yes, they are thanks to the historic season of the Warriors and the retirement of Kobe Bryant but the Cavaliers should have no issue disposing of the Pistons.
The Dark Horse?
Ups and downs are commonplace over the course of every NBA season but the Miami Heat experienced a bit a deja vu when it was revealed that franchise player Chris Bosh (Blood Clots) would be lost for the regular season during the league’s All-Star Intermission.
A year removed from the previous diagnosis, the Heat were as prepared as they could be for the heart breaking news. How would the team respond? They went small, very small and showcased lineups that featured small forward Luol Deng playing center at times.
It doesn’t take analytics to show that the Charlotte Hornets will pose matchup issues for the Heat. The Hornets feature an imposing and versatile front line and an always explosive guard in Kemba Walker. To counter Charlotte’s size on the inside, the Heat will exploit the Hornet’s lack of size on the perimeter. If Heat C Hassan Whiteside can match Al Jefferson on the post, the Heat will move on via stellar guard play from Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade, and Joe Johnson.
Changing of the Guard?
This is a matchup I’ve wanted to see all season and the Basketball Gods delivered. The Los Angeles Clippers will face the Portland Trail Blazers in a series that could very well see 7 games. Both backcourts can be explosive but the edge here goes to Portland. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum will give Chris Paul and J.J. Redick fits and could very well wear the veterans down. Despite being versatile at most positions, Portland is small on the inside which will give way for Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan to go the work.
Portland will have to stay alive but “gang” rebounding and limited post passes to Jordan who still can’t carry an offense on his own. Playing Blake Griffin to a standstill will aid the Blazers but the Clippers should have enough to move on.
Thunder-Up One Last Time?
It’s surprising that the Dallas Mavericks are here, facing the Oklahoma City Thunder, in a year that could have featured the Mavs missing the playoffs. These two franchises have battled in the playoffs in years past for the right to play for the NBA championship but this one is different. Mavericks franchise Dirk Nowitzki could decide to walk away from the game, Thunder franchise Kevin Durant could decide to walk away from the organization. No matter the potential outcomes, Russell Westbrook will continue his Triple Double tear (18 for the season) and propel the Thunder to the second round.
Raptors over Pacers in 7
Boston over Hawks in 6
Spurs over Grizzlies in 4
Warriors over Rockets in 4