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The Westfield Voice

The Westfield Voice

NBA Playoffs: Round 1

Western Conference

Golden State Warriors vs Los Angeles Clippers

Dread it. Run from it. Destiny comes all the same. With such a loaded starting five, it is hard to imagine any 8-seed putting a scare into the Dub’s season. That is no knock on the Los Angeles Clippers, who have had a surprisingly great season behind the coaching of Doc Rivers and leadership from Lou Williams and Danillo Gallinari. Clippers rookies Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Landry Shamet have stepped up this season, and their future looks bright with the right mix of young guys and veterans. Yet, nobody is taking down Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Demarcus Cousins this early. Warriors in 4.

Houston Rockets vs Utah Jazz

In a rematch of last year’s Western Conference semi-finals, Jazz vs Rockets symbolizes a head to head chess match of basketball philosophies. Houston has the ultra-modern offense; everybody can shoot other than their rim-running center, and they have two all-time level offensive playmakers at the helm of their offense with James Harden and Chris Paul. The Jazz, on the other hand, run a defense first scheme that prioritizes getting stops and funneling action to the middle for center Rudy Gobert to feast on would-be layups. Unfortunately for Utah, it is a new league, and no defense alone is going to stop Harden and the Rockets from advancing through the finals. Houston in 5.

Portland Trail Blazers vs Oklahoma City Thunder

Russell Westbrook and Paul George form one of the league’s most potent and well complimenting duos in the league. One, an athletic dynamo who can pass like few else with one of the best inside games for a guard, and the other, a defensive mastermind on the wing that can score efficiently and in volume from all levels of the court. They form a tough matchup for the 3-seed Trail Blazers, who are without their number 3 Jusuf Nurkic after a devasting leg injury. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum will put up a valiant fight, but should succumb to the Thunder’s well-balanced attack in 6.

Denver Nuggets vs San Antonio Spurs

Two teams dominated by the play of slow big man. The Denver Nuggets put up a remarkably successful season with the help MVP candidate Nikola Jokic, who’s wizardly passing for a 7-footer has boosted this team from the outside looking in to homecourt advantage in the playoffs. The Spurs struggled, by their standards, all year integrating DeMar DeRozan into their system, but with their talent and the coaching of Gregg Popovich, they are never out of it. Expect the Nuggets in 7, but this could go either way.

Eastern Conference

Milwaukee Bucks vs Detroit Pistons

Giannis Antetokounmpo, rightful MVP and heir to King in the East, has led his Bucks to a league crushing 60 wins and the highest point differential. He is the ultimate player: he can score at will, a willing passer and has the physical and mental ability to guard almost anyone in the league. With shooters all around him, Giannis and the Bucks are destined to be a freight train in the playoffs that only the most talented and well coached team could stop. The Detroit Pistons have a great coach in Dwayne Casey and an excellent front court with Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, but they just do not have the pieces to knock of Milwaukee. Bucks in 4.

Boston Celtics vs Indiana Pacers

It has not been the season Celtics’ fan thought it would be entering the postseason. With struggles all year, drama involving almost all members of team green and a disastrous injury to heartbeat of the team Marcus Smart, the Celtics need to get their act together now if they hope to advance. Luckily for them, they matched up with a team going through even worse struggles. After losing their best player in Victor Oladipo, the Pacers at first put up a valiant fight in his honor, but lack of a go to player has forced them into just mediocre play as of late. The Celtics should take advantage of this matchup and win in 5 games.

Philadelphia 76ers vs Brooklyn Nets

After mid-season acquisitions of Tobias Harris and Mike Scott, the 76ers have begun to rectify holes in their roster to become a force to reckon with this postseason. With a talented starting 5 second to only the Golden State Warriors in Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris and Joel Embiid, the Sixers are primed for the tight and limited rotations of the playoffs. Brooklyn has spent the whole season overachieving, much like the Los Angeles Clippers behind the brilliant play of guard D’Angelo Russell, but just does not have talent to hang with Philly for 7 games. Philly in 5.

Toronto Raptors vs Orlando Magic

The Toronto Raptors have coasted through this season off the backs of a few things: the excellent play of MVP caliber forward Kawhi Leonard, the rise of Most Improved Player candidate Pascal Siakam, and the defensive versatility afforded to them from their balanced roster. With mid-season acquisitions Marc Gasol and Jeremy Lin, the Raptors will be tough to outplay at any point of a 48 minute game. The Orlando Magic have oversized personnel and shooters at the right spots, but Nikola Vucevic and company will have trouble taking a single game from Toronto. Raptors in 4.

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