This archived article was written by: Tai Justice
The NBA regular season has come to an end and the playoffs have begun.
(8) Washington Wizards vs. (1) Toronto Raptors. These teams split the regular season series 2-2. The case for the Raptors: this has been the best team in the Eastern Conference all season. They improved and updated their offense by including more side-to-side ball movement and spacing. They have the best bench in the league by a wide margin. When these teams have their second unit in the game, it’ll be a big advantage for the Raptors. The case for the Wizards: they arguably could have the two of the best players in the series in John Wall and Bradley Beal. That’s about all the Wizards have going for them in this series though, as they’ve stumbled into the playoffs losing five of their last six games in the regular season.
The pick: Raptors in five.
(7) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (2) Boston Celtics. These teams split the regular season series 2-2. The case for the Celtics: they have one of the best home crowds in the league and they have the coaching edge by a landslide. Because of injuries, there’s not much of a case personnel wise for the Celtics, but they still have a good chance because Brad Stevens in one of the best coaches in the league and will put his guys in a position to succeed no matter what. The case for the Bucks: they’ll have the best player in the series by almost as big of a landslide as the Celtics have in the coaching department. Giannis Antetokounmpo has the capability of dragging the Bucks past the Celtics. He’s that special of a talent.
The pick: Bucks in seven.
(6) Miami Heat vs. (3) Philadelphia 76ers. These teams split the regular season series 2-2. The case for the 76ers: they have been the best team in basketball the past month. They closed the regular season, winning 16 straight games. No one is playing better than them right now. They also will have the top two players in this series in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. The case for the Heat: this is a swiss-army-knife-type team. They can play big with Hassan Whiteside and Bam Adebayo at center/power forward and can play small with James Johnson, Justice Winslow and Kelly Olynyk playing minutes at center/power forward. If the Heat can determine how the game is played and expose the 76ers’ youth and inexperience, they have a punchers chance. I think ultimately the star power of the 76ers will be too much.
The pick: 76ers in six.
(5) Indiana Pacers vs. (4) Cleveland Cavaliers. The Pacers won the regular season series 3-1. The case for the Cavaliers: this team is a different animal in the playoffs. They basically use the regular season as practice for the playoffs. They’ll be ready to go, and they have LeBron James. That in itself will be enough. The case for the Pacers: they played well against the Cavaliers in the regular season and should score against the Cavaliers below average defense.
The pick: Cavaliers in 5.
(8) Minnesota Timberwolves vs. (1) Houston Rockets. The Rockets won the regular season series 4-0. The case for the Rockets: they’ve been the best team in the NBA all season long. They’re loaded with talent up and down the roster and have the likely league MVP, James Harden. They’ll be able to have Hall-of-Fame point-guard play on the floor the entire game with Harden and Chris Paul. The case for the Timberwolves: for as great as Harden and Paul are, they’ve never had much team success in the playoffs. Maybe the Timberwolves can steal a game or two and all the sudden Harden and Paul get tight and start forcing things. Also, Jimmy Butler is a great guy to guard Harden.
The pick: Rockets in five.
(7) San Antonio Spurs vs. (2) Golden State Warriors. The Warriors won three of four games in the regular season series. The case for the Warriors: even with Stephen Curry out, they still have three all-NBA-caliber players. They’re clearly not the same unbeatable team Curry makes them, but they still should handle business in this series. The case for the Spurs: they have one of the greatest coaches ever and can slow the game down the Lamarcus Aldrige post-ups.
The pick: Warriors in five.
(6) New Orleans Pelicans vs. (3) Portland Trail Blazers. These teams split the regular season series 2-2. The case for the Blazers: they’ve been playing great ball for almost the entire season. Their defense has improved a ton and Dame Lillard and CJ McColum have been playing out of their minds. The case for the Pelicans: Anthony Davis. Over the second half of the season, no one has been better than Davis. He’s one of the generational type talents that can carry a team by himself.
The pick: Blazers in seven.
(5) Utah Jazz vs. (4) Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder won the regular season series 3-1. The case for the Thunder: they have a defense that can smother the Jazz dribble hand-off/equal opportunity offense. Russell Westbrook always play well against the Jazz, Paul George historically fantastic in the playoffs and Steven Adams should play Rudy Gobert to a draw. The case for the Jazz: the Jazz have been one of, if not the best team in the NBA since Jan. 24. They are 29-6 since then. Their defense, since Rudy Gobert returned, is not only the best in the NBA, but the best by a lot. Donovan Mitchell will be ready for the moment and the Jazz have the coaching advantage.
The pick: Jazz in seven.