By: Sam Block
Round One of the NBA Playoffs is officially in the books and now it is time for Round Two! We had some incredible series in the first round. In the Eastern Conference, Washington put up a nice fight against Toronto, Milwaukee gave Boston all they could handle, vintage D-Wade did all he could to give Miami a chance against Philly, and Indiana pushed Cleveland to the brink of elimination. In the Western Conference, Houston flexed their muscles against Minnesota, Golden State stomped all over San Antonio, New Orleans shocked Portland, and Utah gave OKC the business. The Postseason crew is now split in half, and the real contenders are here to shine. Round Two…let’s do this.
(1) Toronto Raptors vs. (4) Cleveland Cavaliers
Will this FINALLY be the year King James fails to make it to the NBA Finals? Short answer…yes. Long answer…here we go. Toronto is the real deal, they just are. Led by the dynamic duo of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, the Raptors have a one-two punch better than most squads. Jonas Valanciunas has also quietly been excellent all season long and is averaging 14 points and 9 rebounds in the 2018 Postseason. On any given night, Delon Wright, C.J. Miles, Serge Ibaka, and Pascal Siakam are a more than formidable supporting cast. The Raptors are also led by a very good coach in Dwayne Casey and have an insane home-court advantage up North. The Cavs? They just are not that great. LeBron will be LeBron and that will certainly give them a fighting chance against anybody on the planet, but I truly believe Toronto is a better overall TEAM. Cleveland barely snuck by a very good, but not Toronto good, Indiana Pacers team. Give me the Raptors unless Tristan Thompson plays great like he did in Game 7… for this entire series. And that’ll be tough to do with Khloe Kardashian on his mind. Or at least she’s supposed to be on his mind…
Prediction: Toronto Raptors (4-3)
(2) Boston Celtics vs. (3) Philadelphia 76ers
This series is going to be so fun. The Celtics are the higher seed but are definitely the underdog here. Philly is scorching hot and the whole world thinks they are going to the NBA Finals now for some reason. I do not agree with the massive hype surrounding the 76ers. Again they got lucky by facing the seriously underwhelming Miami Heat in the first round. Ilyasova, Redick, and Belinelli will have to play great if the Sixers want to beat the Celtics. Even without Jaylen Brown in Game 1 of this series, I think Boston has the edge. Despite being injury-plagued all season long; the Celts continue to find ways to win basketball games. Brad Stevens is a God, Terry Rozier is a stud, Marcus Morris may be the most underrated bench player in the league right now, and Jayson Tatum is one of the most polished rookies I’ve seen in a very long time. I’m taking the “upset” here and rolling with the Cs. Second-year “rookie” Ben Simmons and Joel “Trust the Process” Embiid are just not ready yet.
Prediction: Boston Celtics (4-3)
(1) Houston Rockets vs. (5) Utah Jazz
What the Utah Jazz just did to the Oklahoma City Thunder is wildly impressive. What the Rockets are about to do to Utah…will be unfortunate for Jazz fans. The Jazz are an extremely exciting team to watch, but without Ricky Rubio, their chances to upset Houston have gotten rather slim. Houston is just that good. Donovan Mitchell continues to cement his Rookie of the Year status in my mind, and the Jazz play incredible defense and team basketball. The Rockets led by James Harden, Chris Paul, and Clint Capela will just simply be way too much. Utah will win a game at home, but that may be about it. Houston rolls on to the Conference Finals without sweating too much.
Prediction: Houston Rockets (4-1)
(2) Golden State Warriors vs. (6) New Orleans Pelicans
Sheesh! New Orleans just gave Portland the SAUCE! How in the world did the Pelicans just sweep the red-hot Portland Trail Blazers? Anthony Davis is an MVP-caliber superstar, Playoff Rondo is unfathomable, Jrue Holiday has truly been born again, and Nikola Mirotic is balling out beyond belief. Against the mighty Warriors? Most of that won’t even matter. Everyone knows how great the Warriors are. Let’s not get too cute, Warriors with the Gentlemen’s Sweep…and they may not even need Steph Curry to do it.
Prediction: Golden State Warriors (4-1)
Round Two of the NBA Playoffs is going to be fantastic! I anticipate very exciting and tight series in the Eastern Conference. Toronto and Cleveland will likely go down to the wire. If Cleveland loses, I think LeBron will be gone. Boston and Philly will almost certainly go deep, despite the outrageously crazy assumption that Philly has this series in the bag. I seriously cannot wait for the wild Eastern Conference to unfold here. In the West? Who are we kidding? It is going to be the Houston Rockets vs. the Golden State Warriors for all the glory in the end. But for now? Let’s at least give New Orleans and Utah a chance. They truly earned our respect with the dominate first-round showings they put together. Enjoy the second round, folks!