Raptors in 7
The end is neigh for LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. In the first round, they needed seven games to shake off a challenge from the pesky Pacers. What was more disturbing, however, is the number of games in which the Cavaliers let Indiana rally from double-digit deficit to either win the game or tie things late. LeBron James made all the plays he needed to make a block and a game-winner in Game 5, but the rest of the team did not step up when needed. The Toronto Raptors meanwhile were the best team in the Eastern Conference all season, especially in the second half. While they had a slight bump in the road, losing two games to the Wizards, they showed the ability to close things out when they won Game 6 with a big fourth quarter. If the Cavaliers are to win this series they are going to need somebody else to step up, the problem is, there is nobody else besides LeBron capable of doing that, look for Toronto to win playing a better brand of team basketball.
Rockets in 5
Despite James Harden struggling at times in the middle of the series, the Houston Rockets cut down the Timbewolves in five games. Houston found other players to step up, which could help set them up for a long playoff run. The Utah Jazz were able to silence the Thunder thanks in part to nobody being able to step up their game besides Russell Westbrook. The Jazz meanwhile veteran type efforts from rookie Donovan Mitchell, while RUdy Gobert did an excellent job slowing down Oklahoma City’s offense. It is hard to imagine the Jazz being able to make this a long series as the Rockets are bad match up with Harden’s abillity to hit the long range shot and muscle in the middle. Add Chris Paul setting up as a playmaker and being able to run rings around Ricky Rubio and you have the receipe of Rockets walkover, as the Jazz will be fortunate to find a way to win one of the two games at home, like Minnesota.
76ers in 6
It only seems apporpriate that the Leprachaun on the Boston Celtics logo is carrying a walking stick, because it seems half of the team is either injured or playing hurt. With Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward already injured, the Celtics lost Jaylen Brown to an injury in Game 7 against the Bucks. Brown is doubtful as the Celtics begin the second round. The Philadelphia 76ers who ended the season their season on a 16-game winning streak, easily beat the Heat in five games. This is the renewal of one great rivalary. When healthy the Celtics are one of the best teams in the NBA, the 76ers are a team on the rise, that could quickly join the NBA’s elite as players like Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid become stars. The Celtics have been reslient and resourceful thanks to Coach Brad Stevens and the play of Terry Rozier. Howeverm I just don’t see how they can keep losing key players and win, the loss of Brown will be significant against the talented Sixers who take series in six games.
Warriors in 6
The Golden State Warriors look armed and ready to make another run to the NBA Finals after they shredded the Spurs in five games with little trouble. The Warriors did it all without Stephen Curry who is expected to return sometime in this second-round series. The Spurs had many issues that led to them unraveling, the New Orleans Pelicans meanwhile come into the series after sweeping the Trail Blazers and appear to be a team on the rise. Anthony Davis dominated Portland and should be able to match up well with Kevin Durant. The Pelicans won a late-season meeting with Golden State, and appear to be playing their best basketball at the right time. While it is unlikely they will upset the Warriors, the Pelicans should make the series somewhat interesting as they could be a team that is set to arrive among the NBA’s elite. Look for the Pelicans to win at least two games in the series and possibly push the Warriors to the limit a place they have not seen in two years.