By Ron Evangelista, BuhayBasket contributorHere comes the time when the men are separated from the boys. After a grueling regular season where we saw fits of drama, suspense and action, the NBA Playoffs are here.
What’s great about this season is that it’s chock full of surprises. Injuries, last minute lineup changes, and win streaks have redefined what we have thought to be an already laid out road to a fourth installment of the Cleveland vs. Golden State saga. A few games in, the playoff picture this year is proving to be unpredictable, and that’s the way it should be. Upsets, close finishes, and dazzling displays of talent are what the playoffs are made of.
Let’s examine the tumultuous matchups in the most exciting time of the NBA season for the roller coaster Western Conference.
ROCKETS vs WOLVES
The white hot clutch city Houston Rockets are looking to make a statement against the newly formed team of former Chicago stars and grisly vets, the Minnesota Timberwolves. Mike D’ Antoni is surely having one of the best seasons of his coaching career as he steered the James Harden led Rockets to the best record in the league. Their offense is something the league never even fathomed will happen, as they are blowing out opponents left and right. With Jimmy Butler and a young Karl Anthony-Towns as the men standing in their way, it won’t be a walk in the park. However, Chris Paul is also hungry for playoff success and may be his year to make a deep run. Ultimately, the Beard looks poised and ready to euro-step his way to the finals—and maybe even the championship.
PREDICTION: Rockets in 4
WARRIORS vs SPURS
The Golden State Warriors look to defend their title that they convincingly won last year against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Things aren’t looking too easy for them as they have the championship-savvy San Antonio Spurs as their first opponents. The Spurs may be missing the services of Kawhi Leonard, but the playing field is somehow leveled as Curry won’t be returning to action anytime in the first round. The Warriors still have the advantage though with talents such as Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. Even with a blowout win in Game 1, the defending champs have an uphill battle to climb.
PREDICTION: Warriors in 6
BLAZERS vs PELICANS
Rip City looks to go level the series against the Anthony Davis led New Orleans Pelicans. The Trail Blazers will still be relying on the steady offense of CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard, but with the steady playmaking displayed by Rajon Rondo, they may very well exit in the first round. Anthony Davis playing the way he’s playing may be enough to propel them past the young Portland team. Still, playoff time is Dame Time, and there is certainty that Lillard will carry the team on his shoulders and do everything he can to take his team to the next round.
PREDICTION: Pelicans in 6
THUNDER vs JAZZ
Out in Oklahoma City, the superstar trio of Paul George, Russell Westbrook, and Carmelo Anthony are looking to plough through the competition and avenge their dismal regular season showing, but have the dark horse of the whole playoffs, the gritty Utah Jazz led by Donovan Mitchell. This may be one of the most exciting matchups in the whole playoffs, and may well go on to the last possession of Game 7. OKC holds a slight advantage here for their experience and Westbrook’s almost certain triple double numbers the whole series.
PREDICTION: Thunder in 7