By DaVince “Dino” Wright
At this time of the NBA year there are so many things happening at one time. Your favorite player either takes it up a notch or gets injured which knocks your team out of the championship race. The playoffs seem to expose teams that had stellar seasons only to see them lose in the first round. Our most recent example are the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks were the best team in the NBA all season but lost their series to the Heat 4-1. Their season wasn’t a complete bust or anything. They didn’t mesh at the right time and without Giannis Antetokounmpo the Bucks looked lost in the headlights. Catch my drift? If you take a look at this season’s LA Lakers team, they sucked all season long until playoff time. They played well in the play-in games and now they are headed to the semi-finals in the West by beating the number 2 seed Memphis Grizzlies. Let’s take a closer look at the next round and the final games in the first round of this years NBA playoffs.
Phoenix Suns vs Denver Nuggets
This series will come down to how well three players on both teams play. Denver has the reigning MVP in Nikola Jokic who leads his team in points, rebounds and assists. PG Jamal Murray and F Michael Porter, Jr. will be on display at home for the first two games. Phoenix has a very dangerous backcourt with guards Chris Paul and Devin Booker. Booker has been hot in the last 3 games of the first series averaging 37 points per game. Now add Kevin Durant to the mix and he’s a match up nightmare. There are no injuries reported and this series will go 7 games.
My prediction: I’m taking Phoenix in 7 games!
Miami Heat vs New York Knicks
This semifinals series will be one to watch. The Knicks have shown that they belong among the NBA’s best teams but didn’t have the leader on the floor and in the locker room until PG Jalen Bronson was signed this year. Since his arrival PF Julius Randle has flourished on both ends of the floor. Look for the Knicks to make a huge splash in the semi’s. The Miami Heat have one of the hottest players in the game clicking on all cylinders in G Jimmy Butler. In the first round, the Bucks had no answer for Butler on the defensive end of the floor. He will be the player to watch in this series. Injury report: NY: C Jericho Sims, SG Quintin Grimes and PF Julius Randle (doubtful) Miami: G Victor Oladipo (Questionable)
My Prediction: I’m going against the grain and taking Miami in 6 games!
Golden State Warriors vs Sacramento Kings – (1st Round Series)
Let’s face it. All season long the Warriors have struggled on the road. One huge part of that being that they are a horrible defensive team. The Kings have imposed their will on the Warriors by taking the ball right at them. Foul trouble will be the death of the reigning champs because they want to shoot 3’s the whole game. The Kings have some talented guys and their rotation goes 9 players deep. Keep an eye on De’Aaron Fox, Domanta Sabonis and veteran wingman Harrison Barnes. Harrison Barnes will be the key for Sacramento. The Warriors will need to limit their turnovers and rebound the ball in order to go to the next round. G Steph Curry will need to have the ball in his hands instead of G Jordan Poole who is averaging 7 turnovers a game.
My Prediction: I’m taking the Warriors by 10!
Philadelphia 76ers vs Boston Celtics
The winner of this semifinal match up will be the Eastern Conference favorites to win it all. This series will showcase how to build a championship roster. Boston has key stars leading the team in guards Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. This series will come down to how well these guys can lift their team when trailing late into the 4th quarter. The 76ers big man Joel Embiid will be the key for his franchise. He’s the most dominant player in this series but the x factor will be guard James Harden. The best talent on the floor will be 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey. Keep an eye on Maxey late in the game he controls the offense in the open floor. Injury report: 76ers Joel Embiid (Doubtful) Celtics PF Danilo Gallinari.
My Prediction: I’m taking the 76ers in 6 games!
By DaVince “Dino” Wright