The NBA regular season is finally over and the teams are now set in the East and West. There are 16 teams in the first round with some potential upsets. Here are four interesting match-ups to look out for in the first round and predictions.
1. 3. Clippers vs 6. Spurs
The Los Angelos Clippers have a tough first round against the defending champs in the San Antonio Spurs. Chris Paul is elevated his game since the beginning of the season and is starting to peak at the right time. The return of Blake Griffin along with the hustle and grit from DeAndre Jordan are making this team a force to be reckon with. Second in scoring as a team while having Paul lead the league in assist and Jordan lead the league in rebounds can give the Spurs some trouble.
But don’t count out the Spurs and their championship pedigree over the past 15 years. Ever since they drafted Tim Duncan they have had more 50 win teams than any other team. They play the game of basketball by spreading the floor and sharing the ball to find the open man. Kawhi Leonard return to the lineup makes the Spurs even more dangerous than before since he is back playing at a high level ever since the finals. This series could go either way depending on which team shows up. But Clippers need it more to salvage what’s left for Paul’s legacy.
Clippers Over Spurs- 3-2
2. 1. Warriors vs 8. Pelicans
The Golden State Warriors have the best record in the NBA and are facing the New Orleans Pelicans for the first time in the playoffs. Overall the Warriors roster is by far the best in the league with Stephen Curry leading the way. Curry is one of the favorites to win the MVP. He has Klay Thompson who can get hot at any moment, Andrew Bogut finally healthy and protecting the rim, Draymond Green playing defense and stretches the floor and Andre Iguodala comes off the bench. They can either play up to their potential and not be overconfident or loss focus and have trouble with the Pelicans.
The New Orleans Pelicans not only saved Head Coach Monty Williams, but gave Star Anthony Davis the first playoff experience of his career. The Pelicans just won against the Spurs to clinch the 8th seed and have Davis back in the lineup. They are getting healthy at the right time with Dru Holiday back and the other role players around the team. Although they won against the Warriors in their last matchup, they never experience the playoffs as a team. Davis can lead them to a one or two wins, but will not be enough to beat the best team in the NBA
Warriors Over Pelicans 4-1
3. 3. Bulls vs 6. Bucks
The Chicago Bulls have had a very injury season considered the number of players that were in and out of the lineup. Jimmy Butler came back after an elbow injury and Derrick Rose as well from another knee surgery. They played most of the year with Paul Gasol leading the way. Now the team is at 80 to 90 percent together to possibly make it pass a Bucks team that doesn’t have any playoff experience under second year Head Coach Jason Kidd. They play hard nose defense despite not being in the top 10 this year, but can score more points than ever before under Head Coach Tom Thibadeuo. They know they need to finish off the series quickly to be rested up against the Cavs in the second round.
The Milwaukee Bucks first playoff experience comes in a tough matchup against the Bulls. They have a very young squad with players on the team being mismatches to any starting lineup. Kidd try to maximize his players and made big improvements with a Bucks roster that is the same as last year. The team itself can make it a series and could catch the Bulls in one or two games.
Bulls Over Bucks 3-2
4. 1. Hawks vs 8. Nets
The Atlanta Hawks are the number one seed in the eastern conference. No one expected them to be this good. With five players averaging in double figures and play team basketball like the spurs, they pose a matchup problem for the Nets. They have a good point guard in Jeff Teague, the size and stretching the floor of Paul Millsap and Al Horford and the best catch and shoot three pointer shooter in Kyle Korver. The formula is there to beat the Nets and possibly even sweep them, but how will they fair in the playoffs for the first time playing under this system?
The Brooklyn Nets just squeezed into the 8th seed and are facing the Atlanta Hawks. They have been playing up and down basketball where there are nights of them not competing and nights competing with the best teams. It’s time for Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez to show up in the playoffs and prove everyone wrong on them showing effort and passion. These three players can play one on one with any player, but should not use this as a way of beating a good Hawks team. If they have any chance of making this a series, sharing the ball and having role players like Mason Plumlee and Jarrett Jack contribute in big moments.
Hawks Over Nets 4-1