(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (5) Memphis Grizzlies; Memphis leads 2-1
While the Grizzlies have been able to shut down Golden State’s best weapon, shooting, through 3 games, I don’t believe this will continue. The Warriors have been the NBA’s best team almost the entire year, and I think they will win game 4 in Memphis, then be able to take both their home games to clinch the series.
Prediction: Golden State in 7
(2) Houston Rockets vs. (3) Los Angeles Clippers; Clippers lead 3-1
For some reason, no one I talked to before the playoffs seemed to think the Clippers had any chance to get out of the first round. Even though they have struggled in past playoffs, that is no reason to assume this year would be the same and it hasn’t. They were able to come back every time it looked like the defending champion San Antonio Spurs were going to knock them out, and the Clippers were able to advance after 7 games. Then came the Rockets, and when it was announced Chris Paul would miss game 1, it seemed like their season were over. However, they were able to win games 1, 3 and 4, and are now in position to get some time off before they play in the conference finals.
Prediction: Los Angeles in 6
(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (3) Los Angeles Clippers; Western Conference Finals
After a tough 7 game series with the Grizzlies, people will probably be expecting the Warriors to look sluggish and worn out, while the Clippers will have a few days of extra rest and be ready to go. Even with the fatigue of playing a game 7, the Warriors will come out ready to beat the team that eliminated them last year. While Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jodran will have success down low, I think Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala will be able to contain the Clippers’ outside shooters, and Golden State will advance to the finals for the first time since their 1975 title-winning season.
Prediction: Golden State in 6
(1) Atlanta Hawks vs. (5) Washington Wizards; Wizards lead 2-1
All season, analysts and experts gushed over the Hawks system, and how they thrived because they didn’t have a particular star player, but a whole roster and coach that had a team-first mentality. While that attitude may work in the regular season, the NBA playoffs have shown what a star player can do. In the past weekend, 3 different teams won games on a buzzer-beating shot, and all 3 were made by that team’s star player or leader: Derrick Rose, Paul Pierce and LeBron James. The Hawks selfless attitude worked in getting the best record in the East, but I don’t think they have the killer instinct or playoff experience needed to live up to their regular season, and the Wizards will win all their home games in this series making the comeback nearly impossible.
Prediction: Washington in 6
(2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (3) Chicago Bulls; Series tied 2-2
After Chicago won game 1 in Cleveland, then Derrick Rose hit that incredible shot to win game 3, it felt like the Cavaliers may not have all the pieces in place to make a title run this year. With the injuries to Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, along with the JR Smith suspension, it felt that they were missing too many pieces. But, like most other playoff seasons, LeBron is finding a way to win. Even after a poor night shooting on Sunday, he called his own number for the final play, and made a 22 foot baseline jumper as time expired. With the series tied headed back to Cleveland, I think the momentum of the game 4 win and the fans’ energy will help the Cavs the rest of this series
Prediction: Cleveland in 7
(2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (5) Washington Wizards; Eastern Conference Finals
During LeBron’s first tenure with the Cavs, this playoff matchup became almost a yearly occurrence, with the teams always near each other talent-wise. This year, however, Cleveland is the far superior team. With John Wall out, and the Cavaliers learning to play without Kevin Love and a slowed-down Kyrie Irving, LeBron will once again lead Cleveland to the NBA finals.
Prediction: Cleveland in 5
NBA Finals: Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
All season, this has been the matchup most people suspected would happen. While I think this series would be a 7-game thriller with Kevin Love playing, I think their lack of mobile big men will seriously slow the Cavaliers down. Andrew Bogut will handle Timofey Mozgov, Curry will outplay Irving, and Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes will be able to combine to do a version of what Kawhi Leonard did last year to LeBron in the finals; contain him enough to slow down the whole offense. For the first time in 40 years, the Warriors will be the NBA champions.
Prediction: Golden State in 6