The PUP List’s 2017 NBA Playoff Previews and Predictions
By: Alex Marcheschi
What an absolutely beautiful time of the year, there’s nothing like opening the windows and letting the spring air refresh your home, or turning on your TV in the evening and letting the NBA playoffs refresh your brain. March Madness is obviously great, but they play checkers, the NBA playoffs play chess. A seven game series in professional basketball is truly the peak of strategy in professional sport. The amount of thought that goes into earning a win in a seven game series with the best athletes in the world on the floor is unmatched. Let’s dip into it.
West Round One
1 Warriors v 8 Blazers
It’ll be cool to see Damian Lillard give Steph his best shot, but the Warriors should win this series in five games, and I’m being generous. Odds are Portland gets swept, but Dame plays the underdog role better than anyone in the NBA and he’s probably good for at least one put-the-team-on-his-back game where he goes for like 50 and 12. Warriors in five.
4 Clippers v 5 Jazz
This will be one hell of a series, we were blessed with some truly awesome first round matchups this year, and this is definitely in the top three. It’s going to come down to three things: Will DeAndre let Gobert son him? Can the Clippers weird concoction of scorers hang with Gordy Hayward? And finally, will CP3 remain healthy enough to impose his will on George Hill? I think the most important question there involves DeAndre, this series will depend on him being the better big man, and I think he will actually outplay Gobert. Many picked Gobert over Jordan for first team all NBA this year, and I think DeAndre will have something to say about that. Clippers in seven.
3 Rockets v 6 Thunder
Yes. Daddy. Harden v Russ will be like traveling to some weird Asian country where there are no animal cruelty laws and watching a cage match between a jaguar and a Tasmanian devil. I’m going to have to watch this series with a pack of adult diapers and a welding mask with a case of coconut water at my side. The Rockets are somehow getting slept on pretty hard, yes Russ freaked out, but literally any other year ever in the NBA, Harden gets the MVP. The Rockets are the better overall team and the Thunder don’t have the defensive pieces to shut down Houston’s perimeter attack. Houston is a mighty confident bunch right now and you know Harden is sitting back sipping on the Haterade waiting for the curtains to pull back so he can flex for the nation. Rockets in 6.
2 Spurs v 7 Grizzlies
*Extremely wedding DJ voice* “This one goes out to all the senior citizens out there sippin’ on Michelob Ultras and eating sourdough pretzels!!” The post work in this series will be enough to make a basketball fundamentalist die, bury himself, then rise again and play a game of pickup. Let’s just throw some big man names around here: LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, David Lee, Brendan Wright. Post moves for days. This will be some grown man ish, and I’ll watch every minute of it. As cool as the Grizzlies are, the Spurs have a man who goes by the name of Kawhi, and he’s the reason the Spurs won’t be defeated by Memphis. Spurs in five.
East Round One
1 Celtics v 8 Bulls
Sneeaaaky. That’s the word for this series. The Bulls slithered around on the ground all season long and then slipped into the backdoor of the playoffs. They shouldn’t beat the Celtics, they really shouldn’t, but they could. I don’t think they will, but they could. You never know what that man Rajon Rondo is going to bring to the table, and odds are he’ll want to put on a show in his old stomping grounds. Brad Stephens is the reason the Celtics won’t blow this, he’s 14X the coach Hoiberg is. It will be cool to see if IT can keep up his play in the playoffs, I’m getting some weird juju from Boston right now, but I don’t think they’ll implode this quick. Celtics in six.
4 Wizards v 5 Hawks
That nasty boi J Weezy is going to go off this playoffs, set that in stone. The guy simply gets no respect somehow, and frankly it’s disgusting. The Hawks are solid, but John Wall is the best player on the court in this series by a mile and that’s usually the difference in a matchup like this. I think Wall will go for at least 26 and 10 every single game and will the Wizards to a pretty easy series win. Wizards in 5.
3 Raptors v 6 Bucks
This is the third best series behind Harden v Russ and the Clips v Jazz. Those who don’t know about the young man who goes by “The Greek Freak” are about to be shocked into oblivion. Seriously though, they should put one of those seizure warnings on the screen before every single one of these games just in case Giannis scares someone to death. Look at this stat:
Yowza. The Raptors are damn good and DeRozan is the mid-range gawd, but it just feels like the Bucks’ year. That’s my analysis, Bucks in seven.
2 Cavs v 7 Pacers
Those who follow on Twitter know that I firmly believe the Cavs just purposely stunk it up at the end of the regular season to secure the #2 seed. I mean just look at the bracket, by doing this they avoided playing the Celtics and Wizards until the ECF, and Ty Lue said this yesterday:
That’s the quote of a man who knew what he was doing. Yes, Paul George has been freaking out for the entire second half of the season and Indy just added Lance back, but they stand no chance against Cleveland in a seven game series. The Playoff Cavs are a different animal. It will be cool to see Lance and LeBron renew the weirdest rivalry in the NBA, but this one will be over quick. Cavs in five.
West Round Two
1 Warriors v 4 Clippers
The Petty Bowl. If this series was a NASCAR vehicle, it would be owned by Richard Petty. If this series was a rapper impersonator it would go by the name Petty Wap. You get the point, the Clippers truly hate the Warriors. If we lived in a lawless society, Chris Paul would strangle Steph to death, no doubt in my mind. Blake Griffin would rugby style dropkick Draymond’s nuts so hard they’d fly up into his skull. Every fiber of my being wants to pick the Clippers, but I can’t. The Warriors are so damn loaded it sickens me. I can’t compliment them right now, Warriors in six.
3 Rockets v 2 Spurs
For basketball purists, this series is essentially good vs evil. The Spurs, who play basketball as God intended, against the Rockets, who play basketball as your fourth grade cousin who chugs Monsters intended. The thing is, Popovich has constructed his roster to essentially be able to counter-punch/mimic any team that exists right now. His team should be named the San Antonio Dittos in all actuality.
My soul wants me to pick the Rockets, by my brain won’t let me. What Harden did this year was truly amazing, but D’Antoni can’t beat Pop in a seven game series. Just can’t. Spurs in six.
East Round Two
1 Celtics v 4 Wizards
THERE WILL BE BLOODSHED. This has potential to be the second best series we will see all playoffs. IT v J Weezy. Wall has a chance to demoralize Thomas and make the nation kiss his pinky ring and I think that will happen. Randy Wittman isn’t their coach anymore and Scott Brooks is. Brooks has reached a Finals before, he knows how to win in the playoffs and that young Bambi-looking-face-ass Brad Stevens doesn’t. What is that I hear in the distance? Bullets being fired by a Wizard. Wall & Beal > IT & Bradley. Wizards in six.
2 Cavs v 6 Bucks
This is a series the Cavs will be scared of in like three years. Giannis is essentially a lab experiment just making his way out of the Petri dish. He’s a hypothesis embodied and gone wrong that resulted in a mutant alien mixture of KD, young Grant Hill and peak Tayshuan Prince. Truly befuddling to see. That being said, he’s not ready to carry a team past LeBron and the boys yet. This will be an exciting series to watch, but the Cavs will prevail. Cavs in five as we watch Kyrie slow roast his old friend Delly over an open flame.
1 Warriors v 2 Spurs
I give the Spurs about a 35% chance of winning this series, the basketball stars would have to align perfectly for that upset to happen. Pau would have to play out of his mind, and you just can’t count on that anymore. I think we’ll see KD shine in this series, and it will give the Warriors a ton of confidence heading into The Finals, which is exactly what Cavs fan should want to see. I need the Warriors to be on a molly-esque high during the WCF only to have the inevitable crash hit during game two of The Finals. Kawhi is amazing at defense, but the Warriors just have too many tentacles. If he’s locking down Klay, Steph and KD will sprinkle. Draymond can go blow for blow with Aldridge, he just knows how to perfectly use his body. Warriors in six.
2 Cavs v 4 Wizards
This is just a little scary. There is a small amount of fear in my belly when I imagine what could happen in this series. First of all, a series of Kyrie v Wall would be a wonderful gift to all of our eye balls. I picture this as a Kevin Love series, I could really see Bron and Kyrie feeding him every game so he can make Markieff Morris his baby boy, thus vaulting his confidence to 11 before The Finals. This won’t be an easy series by any means for the Cavs, but I can’t see the Wizards actually getting more than two wins. Cavs in six, but every game will be close.
Warriors v Cavs
TELL THE TRUMPET BOY TO PLAY AN EXTRA TUNE!!!!
‘Tis a truly joyous celebration. The best Finals matchup of a millennial’s lifetime. LeBron Raymone James and his trusty sidekicks vs the team that raided the lost ark. The Warriors have all the goodies, they took every shiny possession that was available. They added Kevin Durant to a team that won 73 games. Wild. Those who read the blog know that I am a giant Cavs homer and an even bigger Warriors hater. However, I do acknowledge that the Warriors have about a 65% chance of winning this series. On paper, they should win the series. Sadly for the Warriors, the game isn’t played on paper, it’s played on another substance derived from trees…hardwood. I would make a hard wood pun about what the Cavs are going to do to the Warriors right now, but I’m better than that.
Here’s the thing: as good as KD and Steph are, they are not on LeBron’s level. Let’s also not pretend that Steph and Kyrie aren’t essentially on the same playing field. If you swap out Steph for Kyrie on that team, Kyrie does just as well. In order for Cleveland to beat GSW, JR Smith and Korver will have to have their pianos finely tuned.
No room for error there, If I’m Ty Lue, I try anything to get JR locked in. Let him smoke before the game if need be, hire a hypnotist to convince him that there is a stripper and a bottle of Henny sitting on the rim at all times and he needs to swish it in order to gain access to the goods.
I’m scared of what Draymond could do in The Finals. He knows he severely fudged up last year, and he’s good enough to be the difference maker here. Tristan will have to play the best defense of his life in order to contain him. This is what will decide the Finals: Who is the better team? By that, I mean who is mentally tougher? Who knows one another more intimately? Who trusts each other more?
The answer to all of those questions, my friends, is the Cavaliers. This Warriors team reminds me of LeBron’s original Heat team that lost to a more seasoned Mavs team. The tables have turned and LeBron now knows how to beat a more talented team using trust and teamwork. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and the Cavs are the stronger team in every aspect except raw talent. That matters, it just does.
LeBron knows that if his squad beats this team, that’s basically the equivalent of winning two rings. If he gets this one, he’s vaulted into the Kobe realm and if he adds another before he retires, he’s up there with MJ. To steal from Pineapple Express, this is the apex of the vortex for LeBron. It doesn’t get bigger than this, and he won’t let it slip away.
Cavs in seven, let it rain.