• 5 Game 7s (NBA record) • 8 Overtime games • 23 games by 5 pts or fewer An INCREDIBLE 1st round of NBA Playoffs! pic.twitter.com/THCs3v9Wn7
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 4, 2014
The first round of this year’s NBA playoffs was legendary. As per the tweet above from SportsCenter, there was nothing quite like the performances we saw. Does that mean the playoffs are on track to get even better? I sure hope so. After going 5-3 in predicting the first round series right, I will try again and predict the semifinal match-ups. It should be great to watch these games.
(5) Washington Wizards vs. (1) Indiana Pacers
I know I just said these games are going to be exciting, but this is the series I’m least looking forward to. The Pacers severely under-performed for a 1st seed, having to come back down 3-2 to the Hawks, a team that barely should’ve made the playoffs in the first place. The Pacers have been struggling mightily since the trade deadline, and it has continued into the playoffs. The Wizards were one of the first teams to be done in the first round, taking out the 4th seeded Bulls in 5 games. That was the most surprising outcome of the first round. Are the Wizards really that good? I think they have a lot of talent in John Wall and Bradley Beal, but I still can’t help feel that they’re the worst team to make it to the next round. Do I think the Pacers deserve to go to the Eastern Conference Finals? No, but the Wizards surely don’t. Prediction: Pacers over Wizards in 6 games.
(6) Brooklyn Nets vs. (2) Miami Heat
This is a very interesting series. I had picked the Raptors to beat the Nets, and I think Raptors/Heat would’ve been a much better series. Even though the Heat were the only team to sweep their opponent in the first round, the Nets were the one who swept the Heat in the regular season. Yup, they went 4-0 against them this year. Does that mean the Heat are doomed? Absolutely not. Three of those four games were decided by 1 point, and the 4th went into OT. Should this be a much closer series than Heat/Bobcats? Yeah probably, but I don’t see the Heat losing this one. They turn it up a few notches in the playoffs and play like a completely different team. The Nets might win one or two, but I don’t see them making too much of an impact. Prediction: Heat over Nets in 5 games.
(5) Portland Trail Blazers vs. (1) San Antonio Spurs
I was not at all surprised to see the Blazers make it past the first round. They have completely turned themselves around this year and are making a huge impact. They took it to the Houston Rockets, who are no doubt one of the best teams in basketball. Can they take down the Spurs though? San Antonio struggled to be the 8th seeded Mavericks last round, but they proved their dominance in the final game and blew them out. The Spurs may have struggled, but just like the Pacers, they are the number one seed for a reason. Duncan, Parker, Ginobli, and Co. are one of the best overall teams in the league, and I think that will prove too much for the Blazers. Portland is just getting started in their dominance as a young team, so I think this is where their dominance ends for the year. Maybe next year, guys. Prediction: Spurs over Blazers in 7 games.
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) May 5, 2014
(3) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (2) Oklahoma City Thunder
Both of these teams needed 7 games to beat their opponents, and they both played in incredible series. These are both top 5 teams in the league this year, and I fully expect this to be the best series of the semifinals. This year’s MVP Kevin Durant is past the “Mr. Unreliable” stage that lasted no more than one game (or maybe none at all) and should be pouring in the points for OKC. Him and Russell Westbrook are both averaging over 25 PPG this playoffs which is incredible. On the other side, the Clippers boast one of the best starting lineups in the league, both offensively and defensively. They had the firepower to outscore the explosive Warriors, but also have the incredible defensive tandem of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. After the way they played against Golden State, they proved that they are for real. Prediction: Clippers over Thunder in 7 games
As I said before, if the first round is any indication of how this year’s playoffs will be, everyone is in for a real treat in these games. I expect some wild finishes and many surprises. For the record, even though I picked the Spurs, I would love to see Blazers/Clippers in the Western Conference finals. It’d be refreshing to see some different teams in the final four.