Cavaliers in 5
There are some match ups that give the Cleveland Cavaliers problems and that are some that have no change going in. The Atlanta Hawks are one of those teams that just don’t measure up to the defending Eastern Conference Champions. These two teams met in the Conference Finals last season, when the Hawks were the number one seed in the East and the Cavaliers were banged up. The result a Cleveland sweep. The Cavs are healthier this year, and look to have already shifted into another gear with their four game take down of the Detroit Pistons. The Cavs won all three regular season meetings, with two games coming in April after the Cavs all but secured home court in the East. The Hawks are coming off their first playoff series win over the Celtics since the 1958 NBA Finals when they were in St. Louis, they were helped as the Celtics were hobbled. The Hawks will be lucky if they win just one game in this series.
Warriors in 6
If the Trail Blazers are to have any chance of winning this series, they must win at least one of the first two games in Oakland, and win every game at home. The Blazers played the 73-win Warriors tougher than just about any team. One player alone shined above any other when the Trail Blazers faced the Warriors and that was Damian Lillard who scored a career high 51 points in a game right after the All-Star Break, leading Portland to a 137-105 win in what was the largest of all nine Golden State losses. Lillard also had a 38-point game and a 41-point game against the Warriors, who won three of four games with the Blazers. The Warriors will be without their MVP Stephen Curry for at least the first two games, but with a four-day gap in between games 2 and 3, Curry will be back in Game 4 barring a setback. It is important the Blazers take advantage of Curry’s absence, if they can’t this series will be over quickly. Even if they can win two of the first three games, the Warriors will take the series.
Raptors in 7
Both of these teams reach the second round after draining seven game series. Looking at the rosters and the matchups it is hard not to imagine the teams again going the distance as a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals is on the line. One thing for sure is the Raptors need to play better in this series than they did against the Pacers. Too many times in the first round the Raptors went cold. The Raptors backcourt will be the key to their success, DeMar DeRozan had a solid series against Indiana leading the team in scoring with 17.9 points per game, but Kyle Lowry was nearly invisible with 13.9 ppg. Both struggled from the field with 31% shooting percentages. The Heat meanwhile are still led by Dwyane Wade who along with Luol Deng average 19 points per game in the first round. If the two Heat stars are able to equal that the Raptors will have their work cut out for them. In the end the Raptors will survive another seven game war, thanks to home court in the final game.
Spurs in 6
After a walk over four game sweep of the injury ravaged Memphis Grizzlies, the playoffs begin for real for the San Antonio Spurs. At 55-27 the Oklahoma City will not go down easily as they are the fifth best team in the NBA and coming off their own impressive opening round performance, dropping the Dallas Mavericks in five. The Thunder played the Spurs very tough, during the regular season splitting four matchups, with the home team taking all four games. The Thunder even managed to force overtime at the AT&T Center in April. This has the chance to be the best series of the second round, the Spurs are the heavy favorites, but if Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant have big series they could spoil the Warriors-Spurs showdown. However, in the end the Spurs depth will be the deciding factor, when a team can go ten deep they can outlast anybody. Look for every game to be close, but for the Spurs to emerge at the end.