The NBA playoffs started on Saturday and all 16 teams will have played in their respective matchups by Sunday. Taking into account the results of these first games, fans are in for an exciting postseason.
In the Western Conference, the top-seeded Golden State Warriors are playing the Houston Rockets, with Game 1 going to the Warriors, 104-78. Houston has never been able to contain reigning MVP Stephen Curry. Even with one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA, Patrick Beverley, moving Curry off-ball has shot the Rockets’ defense to pieces. With the Rockets’ general lack of effort and execution, they are no match for this historic Warriors team. James Harden’s elite scoring might allow Houston to steal a game, but I think the Warriors are taking it in five games.
The second-seeded San Antonio Spurs are playing the Memphis Grizzlies, taking their first game 106-74. Memphis has battled the injury bug all season, currently missing centerpiece Marc Gasol and starting guard Mike Conley. With weapons like LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard at the Spurs’ disposal, this should be an easy sweep for San Antonio.
At the 3-6 matchup, we have the Oklahoma City Thunder facing the Dallas Mavericks, with the Thunder winning their first meeting 108-70. The Mavs had no answer for the duo of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, while struggling significantly on offense as well. Despite the offensive presence of Dirk Nowitzki and the coaching ability of Rick Carlisle, the Thunder should take 4 games to put Dallas away, as they are more athletic and skilled on both sides of the floor.
The final matchup in the West is the Los Angeles Clippers facing off against the Portland Trailblazers, with Sunday’s game going to the Clips, 115-95. Despite Damian Lillard’s superstar status, Chris Paul was an intimidating force on both offense and defense, while the frontcourt tandem of Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan overwhelmed the young Portland bigs. The upstart Blazers have the best chance at an upset, but I still see the Clippers taking the series in six games.
Over in the Eastern Conference, the 1-8 matchup belongs to the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Detroit Pistons, with the Cavs taking the first game 106-101. The pick-and-roll duo of Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond had an off night, so look for them to lead the team more in the following games. With the Cavs’ problems with consistency and the intensity of Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy, look for the Pistons to put up a fight before Cleveland puts them away in six games.
The second-seeded Toronto Raptors are facing off against the Indiana Pacers, with the Pacers pulling off an upset in the first game, 100-90. The Raptors have had homecourt advantage and lost in the first round the past two years, so this is a little concerning for them. However, as long as they can hold Paul George from taking over the game, the dynamic backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan should lead the Raps to victory in six games.
The third-seeded Miami Heat are playing the Charlotte Hornets in their first round matchup, winning their first meeting 123-91. Heat center Hassan Whiteside dominated the paint the whole game and if Dwyane Wade and the Heat want to pull out this win, they need to keep exploiting the major advantage they have in the past. Despite Charlotte’s toughness and grit, I predict the Heat will win in six.
Finally, the fourth-seeded Atlanta Hawks are playing the Boston Celtics, with the Hawks gaining the upper hand with a 102-101 win in the first game. Celtics guard Avery Bradley injured his hamstring and is out for the rest of the series. The Celtics will miss Bradley’s three-and-D skillset, and this absence is what will help the Hawks pull ahead in seven games.