2017 NBA postseason predictions

Movie quote of the day:

“Let me explain something to you, Dave. There are two kinds of angry people in this world: explosive and implosive. Explosive is the kind of individual you see screaming at the cashier for not taking their coupons. Implosive is the cashier who remains quiet day after day and finally shoots everyone in the store. You’re the cashier.”

– Dr. Buddy Rydell, Anger Management (2003)

This is one of my favorite times of the year. Spring is in the air and summer isn’t far away, the NBA and Stanley Cup playoffs are going on, baseball season just started, and the NFL draft is just around the corner. It’s truly an underrated time. Since the NBA postseason starts tomorrow, it’s time for my predictions.

Eastern Conference standings:

1. Boston Celtics (53-29)
2. Cleveland Cavaliers (51-31)
3. Toronto Raptors (51-31)
4. Washington Wizards (49-33)
5. Atlanta Hawks (43-39)
6. Milwaukee Bucks (42-40)
7. Indiana Pacers (42-40)
8. Chicago Bulls (41-41)

Western Conference standings:

1. Golden State Warriors (67-15)
2. San Antonio Spurs (61-21)
3. Houston Rockets (55-27)
4. Los Angeles Clippers (51-31)
5. Utah Jazz (51-31)
6. Oklahoma City Thunder (47-35)
7. Memphis Grizzlies (43-39)
8. Portland Trail Blazers (41-41)

First round:

Eastern Conference

Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas reacts to a play. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

No. 1 Boston Celtics vs. No. 8 Chicago Bulls

As a Celtics fan, I’m still amazed that Boston managed to get the No. 1 seed in the East – granted, Cleveland kind of just handed it to the Celtics, but still, it’s impressive. I think Boston’s lack of superstars, and Chicago’s veteran experience, will make this more of an entertaining series than what it probably should be. I expect Jimmy Butler to have a big series. However, I think the youth of the Celtics will eventually wear down some of the aging players on Chicago.

Prediction: Celtics in six

Atlanta Hawks center Dwight Howard grabs a rebound. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

No. 4 Washington Wizards vs. No. 5 Atlanta Hawks

I’ll be honest, I don’t know much about Atlanta. The Hawks don’t have a single player on their team that averages more than 20 points per game. Atlanta does have a size advantage though over Washington, and plays better defense. I think that helps keep this series competitive, but in the end, I think John Wall and Bradley Beal power the Wizards into the second round.

Prediction: Wizards in seven

Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

No. 3 Toronto Raptors vs. No. 6 Milwaukee Bucks

I have half a mind to pick an upset in this series. I’m not really sold on Toronto. Outside of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, the Raptors don’t have much. I think Toronto is going to have a difficult time trying to guard Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo. However, it’s a guard-driven league and Toronto has one of the best guard duos in the NBA.

Prediction: Raptors in seven

Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) shoots the ball over Toronto Raptors forward PJ Tucker. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

No. 2 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. No. 7 Indiana Pacers

I think this could be an entertaining series if Cleveland doesn’t bring its A game. Indiana has the size to match up well with the Cavaliers on the boards. Also, Paul George can be a nightmare for opposing teams – especially for a team like Cleveland, which ranked No. 22 in defensive efficiency in the regular season. However, the Pacers don’t have the same depth that the Cavaliers do, and I think that will be the difference maker.

Prediction: Cavaliers in six

Western Conference

Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) dribbles the ball past Washington Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

No. 1 Golden State Warriors vs. No. 8 Portland Trail Blazers

Golden State has too much fire power and super stars to lose this series. Unless someone on the Warriors gets seriously hurt, I’m not even sure Portland wins a game.

Prediction: Warriors in four

Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (20) shoots the ball against Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

No. 4 Los Angeles Clippers vs. No. 5 Utah Jazz

This is one of the tougher series to predict. I feel like the window for a championship closed years ago for the Clippers, and I think Utah matches up well with them. Gordon Hayward should perform very well in this series because the Clippers don’t really have a small forward that’s going to be able to defend him. The Jazz’s defense will keep them in the series. However, the Clippers have the veteran advantage, the home-court advantage, and has the coaching advantage with Doc Rivers. It’s going to be tough for Utah to get four wins.

Prediction: Clippers in seven

Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) shoots against Los Angeles Clippers guard Jamal Crawford. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

No. 3 Houston Rockets vs. No. 6 Oklahoma City Thunder

This is another series where I think the lower-seeded team matches up well with the higher seeded team. Both are great at rebounding – ranking in the top 10 in the league in that category. This series will probably come down to which team is better is better offensively, and I think that’s Houston. The Rockets are No. 2 in the league in offensive efficiency and No. 12 in field-goal percentage. I just don’t think Oklahoma City has enough offensive fire power to keep up with Houston. (By the way, Russell Westbrook has my vote for league MVP)

Prediction: Rockets in six

Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol reacts on the court. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

No. 2 San Antonio Spurs vs. No. 7 Memphis Grizzlies

Memphis matches up well with San Antonio defensively, however, that’s about it. The Spurs rank in the top 10 in the league in offensive and defensive efficiency, and rebounding. Also, there’s no way I’m picking against Gregg Popovich.

Prediction: Spurs in five

Second round:

Eastern Conference

Washington Wizards guard John Wall. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

No. 1 Boston Celtics vs. No. 4 Washington Wizards

As a Celtics fan, I’d love to see them go on a run and potentially win that 18th championship. I don’t think Boston has the playmakers to do that though, especially on offense. In order to get to the finals, I feel like the Celtics have to find another scorer other than Isaiah Thomas, and I just don’t think they have one. I feel like Washington has the potential to get an upset in this series. The Wizards have two players that they can rely on to score, they rebound better than Boston, and they have a head coach with plenty of postseason experience in Scott Brooks. Boston isn’t far off from being a legit championship contender, but it’s not this year.

Prediction: Wizards in six

Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

No. 2 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. No. 3 Toronto Raptors

The area that Toronto matches up well with Cleveland is probably guard play. The Raptors’ guards are just as good, if not better than Cleveland’s. However, the Cavaliers are much better than Toronto in almost every other category. They have size and more depth than Toronto. Also, no one on the Raptors has the ability to guard LeBron James, especially for a whole series.

Prediction: Cavaliers in five

Western Conference

Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

No. 1 Golden State Warriors vs. No. 4 Los Angeles Clippers

Ever since Steve Kerr took over as Golden State’s head coach, the Warriors have a record of 11-1 against the Clippers in the regular season – and that one loss occurred in December of 2014. The Clippers just don’t match up well with Golden State, and there’s no way I’m picking against the Warriors in this series. Since the Clippers haven’t beat the Warriors in over two years and it’s the playoffs, I’ll give them one win but that’s it.

Prediction: Warriors in five

Memphis Grizzlies forward JaMychal Green defends against Houston Rockets guard Eric Gordon (10). Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

No. 2 San Antonio Spurs vs. No. 3 Houston Rockets

You have to play defense in order to make a deep run in the postseason, and one of the knocks on Mike D’Antoni is that his teams aren’t known for defense. It’s the same case this year as Houston ranks No. 17 in the league in defensive efficiency. James Harden is having a MVP-caliber year and the Rockets have tons of offensive fire power, but that won’t do much good against the Spurs – a team known for aggressive defense and great coaching.

Prediction: Spurs in five

Conference finals:

Eastern Conference Finals

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

No. 2 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. No. 4 Washington Wizards

Not many people are believing in Cleveland right now – and rightfully so since the Cavaliers are 12-15 since the All-Star break. However, I’m not buying into that again because we saw the same thing happen last year. The Cavaliers ended last year’s regular season horribly – and went on to win it all, and had a record of 16-5 in the postseason. With all the rest that Cleveland’s key players have had in the second half of the season, I think that will really benefit the Cavaliers this postseason and they get back to being the top dog in the east. Even though I think Washington takes down Boston, I don’t think the Wizards pose much of a threat to Cleveland.

Prediction: Cavaliers in five

Western Conference Finals

San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) shoots the ball over Utah Jazz point guard Dante Exum (11). Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

No. 1 Golden State Warriors vs. No. 2 San Antonio Spurs

I don’t care what anyone says, these are the best two teams in the league and it’s a shame that only one will play for the title. I picked San Antonio to win it all in the preseason – mostly to be different from everyone else – so I don’t think it should shock anyone to know now that I’m changing that prediction. As much as I respect Gregg Popovich, I don’t think he has the personnel to knock off Golden State – particularly at guard. I don’t think the Spurs have the guards to keep up with the Warriors. Also, Golden State has Kevin Durant to match up with Kawhi Leonard – San Antonio’s best player. If the Spurs have the edge, it’s in the paint since Golden State doesn’t have a true rim protector but I still don’t think that’ll be enough to advance to the finals.

Prediction: Warriors in six

2017 NBA Finals

No. 1 Golden State Warriors vs. No. 2 Cleveland Cavaliers

Never in NBA history have the same two teams made it to the finals for three-straight seasons. So, the odds are against the Warriors and Cavaliers to meet again. However, I just don’t see it going any other way this postseason. If these teams manage to see each other again for a chance to win it all, I like the Warriors to get vengeance for last year. Golden State has looked the part of the best team in the league the last few weeks – winners of 15 of its last 16 games, and Kevin Durant is back healthy. Even though the Warriors don’t have as much size or depth as the Cavaliers, they play tough defense and they shoot the ball better than anyone. Cleveland has struggled with defense all year and that won’t fly against Golden State.

Prediction: Warriors in six
Finals MVP: Kevin Durant

Thanks for reading

Shane Price – @priceisright53

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