Month: April 2017

No Love Lost: Washington Wizards and Boston Celtics Square off in Round 2

The Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards have become one of the latest great rivalries. With Marcus Smart breaking Bradley Beal’s nose & giving him a concussion to the Wizards wearing all black during their third meeting of the regular season this year there’s no love lost for these teams.

Both teams split the regular series 2-2 so we can pretty much bet on this one to go 7 games. The Celtics finished 41-23 since December 3rd just like the Wizards but Boston had a more favorable schedule that allowed them to grab the number one seed in the East.

Backcourts

There’s no doubt that John Wall is the best player in this series, he has carried this Wizards team all year especially in the playoffs when everyone not named Beal decided not to show up against the Hawks in their two losses against them. Bradley Beal will be tabbed with trying to get open with one of the best on ball defenders guarding him in Avery Bradley. Beal has had solid games against the Celtics this regular season, so expect him to keep Washington in games if Wall doesn’t have the hot hand.

Isaiah Thomas dealing with the death of his sister has handled it better than most thought he and Celtics team would after falling 0-2 to the Bulls. The All-Star guard has been remarkable all year getting MVP nods and putting his stamp on fourth quarters there’s no doubt Thomas will be a problem this series. Outplaying his opponent John Wall in all 4 matchups they had this year is pro, but the con is on defense the Celtics really can’t hide Thomas on defense, expect Avery Bradley to take the challenge of trying to slow down John Wall plus switching to Beal every now and then. The only hope for Boston is sticking Thomas on the 6’8 Porter who’s a spot up shooter. With Washington knowing this expect them to try get Thomas in “pick n roll” situations that get Thomas guarding Wall.

Head-to-Head

This Season

WALL THOMAS
PPG 17.8 27.8
APG 8.3 8.0
FG pct 37.3 40.0
3-pt FG 2-13 9-33

 

This series can go either way so if Boston does or doesn’t win it won’t be a surprise, but the Celtics have to take advantage of the Wizards when Wall & Beal go to the bench. The Wizards bench is worse than a hangover at times with Beal being off the court against Atlanta they were out scored 33.4 points per 100 possessions. So players like Terry Rozier who provides solid minutes and contributions against the Bulls will have to step up, not to mention with the Wizards being thin on the back-end (not knowing the status of Ian Mahinmi) Tyler Zeller, and Kelly Olynyk must take advantage inside. I’ll take the Celtics bench every time. Ultimately Washington takes care of business and wins in 6

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NBA PLAYOFF PREDICITION: Easten Conference

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Celtics (1) vs Bulls (8)

This will be another great series; somehow Jimmy Butler managed to squeak this roller coaster Bulls team into the playoffs. With Dwayne Wade back early from a season ending elbow injury, Rajon Rondo going from starting point guard, to dog house, back to being in the starting line up giving the Bulls a needed boost at the right time. The Bulls have two go to scores in crunch we all know what Wade is about and brings to the table and Jimmy Butler will play 48 minutes at both ends of the court if he needs to. It’s the others that are going to have to pull their weight if they want to advance.

It’s not shocking that Boston grabbed the 1 seed due to Cleveland dealing with injuries all year combined with taking rest days, sick days, and spring break days. Isaiah Thomas has led this Boston team with 24 ppg and he’s even better when it’s the fourth quarter. Thomas averages 11 points in the final quarter, so if it comes down late we know who’s getting the rock. The thing for Boston is how they will try to keep Jimmy Butler under control Brad Stevens is one of the bright young coaches in the game so expect him to give Butler different looks. Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley, and Marcus Smart will all take turns trying to stop Jimmy B. Another thing Brad Stevens won’t have to do like he did in the regular season is take Isaiah Thomas out late in games due to mismatches, the Bulls don’t have a dominant threat at the one position so Thomas should be fine late in games.

Regular Season series: tied 2-2 Playoff Prediction: Celtics in 7

 

Cavaliers (2) vs Pacers (7)

It’s hard to tell what Cleveland team will show up we haven’t seen them together fully healthy all year. They’ve had 24 different guys suit up for them and they’ve been pacing themselves all year, plus their defense has been horrendous. Although it’s just the regular season most teams can’t just flip the switch but this team can, when you have a player like LeBron James going to 6 straight Finals, he knows what time of year it is. If there’s somebody that Cleveland needs it’s Kevin Love we aren’t going to get the Minnesota Timberwolves Love, but he’ll have to be close to it in this series and playoffs.

Indiana has disappointed a lot of people personally I thought they would be a 4 or 5 seed but they started off the year slow. Led by superstar Paul George 23.7 ppg Indian has a chance because of that guy, he’s not scared to go at LeBron and will bring it every night in this series. The way this series shapes out will have a huge impact on his future in Indiana, big man Myles Turner and guard Jeff Teague are great complimentary pieces for George, they’ll have to match PG13’s intensity if they want to beat a vulnerable Cavs team. Let’s not forget Lance is back too (watch out Bron).

Regular Season Series: Cavaliers, 3-1 Playoff Prediction: Cavaliers in 5

 

Raptors (3) vs Bucks (6)

The Raptors duo is back together, point guard Kyle Lowery is back from his risk injury and Demar Derozan is still a bucket. The Raptors haven’t played with all their pieces together though they acquired Serge Ibaka and PJ Tucker before the trade deadline. We all know Toronto struggles in first round match ups, but they bring a lot of size, solid guard play, and defense this year. It still won’t be easy but Toronto is deep.

The Bucks are led by arguably the best player in this Series Giannis Antetokounmpo, averaging 22.9 ppg and 8.8 rebounds per game and notching his first All-Star bid. Greek Freak will see a lot of bodies his way but still manage to get his. The injury to Jabari Parker is a huge hit this time of the year, but Milwaukee still has lots of talent Greg Monroe will be controlling the paint. Point guard and Rookie of the Year candidate Malcom Brogdon has been a key piece to this operation too. Fowards Michael Beasley and Khris Middleton can score when needed too. This will be another great first round series too.

Regular Season Series: Raptors 3-1 Playoff Prediction: Raptors in 7

Wizards (4) vs Hawks (5)

Beginning of the year it looked like Washington was headed for the lottery. Since the All-Star break they have been the most improved and one of the hottest teams in the league. Led by Coach of the Year Candidate Scott Brooks he has them playing great basketball. Not to mention when you have All-Star point guard John Wall who can get to the cup anytime he wants, and great wing man Bradley Beal (should have been a All-Star) running the show the Wizards are a dangerous team. You combine those two with shooters on the outside Otto Porter, Markieff Morris, and Bojan Bogdanović (best trade at the deadline) the Wizards are sneaky good. The only concern Washington has is their depth, backup center Ian Mahinmi is going to miss time with a calf injury. I’m not sold on the Brandon Jennings trade either, but Washington is in a good Spot with the 4 seed too, avoiding Cleveland until the Conference Finals.

You don’t know if Atlanta is trying to tank or win games sometimes. They have won 4 out of their last 5 games, notching 2 wins against Cleveland and one against Boston. Tim Hardaway Jr. has been coming into his own lately, the Hawks still have Paul Millsap who can score when needed. The X factor though is point guard Dennis Schroder he averages 17.9 ppg, but also turns the ball over 3.3 times per game usually in crucial moments. He’s going to be tasked with guarding John Wall and trying to run the offense good luck with that one.

Regular Season Series: Wizards 3-1 Playoff Prediction: Wizards in 5

NBA PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS: Western Conference

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Warriors (1) VS. Trail Blazers (8)

The Warriors enter the playoffs as one of the hottest teams this time of year. Winners of 15 of their last 16 games they are in good shape. The Warriors have all the pieces together Kevin Durant is back from his knee injury that kept him sidelined all of March, but allowed him to play in the final 3 regular season games. The “Baby-Faced Assassin,” Steph Curry is back and healthy this time too. In the playoffs last year he missed the first 3 games against the Blazers before having a coming out party in-game 4.

Portland isn’t just going to lay down they have a scoring machine in Damian Lillard who is from the Bay area and wont disappoint in showing up in this series also his counterpart C.J. McCollum can put the ball in the hoop too. The Blazers just have these two players there are question marks surrounding big man Jusuf Nurkic, who was acquired from Denver via trade deadline and posted 15.2 ppg, and 10.4 rebounds. Nurkic though has been sidelined with a right leg injury. Should Nurkic be somewhat healthy he could be a problem in the interior for the Warriors. He’ll be a problem but it still won’t be good enough to win this series.

Regular Season Series: Warriors 4-0    Playoff Prediction: Warriors in 4

Spurs (2) vs Grizzlies (7)

The Spurs struggled down the stretch losing 4 of their last 5 but so did the Grizzlies losing 5 of their last 6. This will be the first time in 19 years the Spurs tip-off a series without Hall of Fame PF Tim Duncan but that’s not a problem at all. San Antonio still has arguably the best two-way player and MVP candidate in Khawi Leonard on their roster; they also still have the leadership and playoff experience with Manu Giniobli, and Tony Parker & Paul Gasol.

First year Head Coach David Fizdale of Memphis has done a great job of getting the group to buy in to the winning attitude and culture he adopted from his stint in Miami. We all know what Memphis is about tough, gritty, and physical. With their core still in place with Conley, Gasol, & Randolph they will be a tough out but look for the Spurs to take care of business with Coach Pop in charge.

Regular Season Series: 2-2     Playoff Prediction: Spurs in 5

Oklahoma City Thunder (6) vs Houston Rockets (3)

Finally we get to probably the best First round matchup we’ll see in both conferences. There’s no shying away from the Harden vs Westbrook match up two of the top MVP candidates. It’ll be interesting to see who has the better numbers and who out performs who. We all know what Westbrook is about his historic season averaging a triple double 31.6 ppg, 10.7 RPG, and 10.4 assists per game. He’s going to need help if he wants to take down this dangerous Rockets team. Victor Oladipo, Steven Adams, and Enes Canter are going to have to show up and be great sidekicks if they want to pull of this upset.

James Harden is on a mission there’s a different look in his eyes he’s focused and ready to get this team over the hump. Harden who’s averaging 29.1 ppg, 11.2 assist, and 8.1 rebounds per game under first year head coach Mike D’Antoni. Houston is a wild card in these playoffs. It also helps that Harden has been assembled with probably the best Rocket squad in his tenure there. They play fast, have bigs that can score inside or they’ll spread the floor and out shoot you a handicap for the Thunder. This will be a fun and interesting series

Regular season series: Rockets 3-1    Playoff Prediction: Rockets in 6

Los Angeles Clippers (4) vs Utah Jazz (5)

This is a make or break year for the Clippers an early exit against Utah could force a break up between their big three, and even question Doc Rivers Job security. Something working in the Clippers favor though is a 7 game winning streak heading into these playoffs and 6 players on their roster averaging double figures. There’s no question Chris Paul is the heart and soul of this Clippers team and with him having missed the rest of the playoffs last year with a hand injury and this year with a thumb injury how durable can Paul be?

Utah is led by All-Star forward Gordon Hayward is averaging 22.0 ppg, Utah hasn’t had their team together all season. Derrick Favors is just now coming back; the Jazz will still get solid play out of players like Joe Johnson, Boris Diaw, & Rudy Gobert. Since Utah is surrounded by so many veterans this will make for a close and interesting series.

Regular Season Series: Clippers 3-1   Playoff Prediction: Clippers in 6

 

 

Why Russell Westbrook is your MVP

Russell Westbrook is the NBA Most Valuable Player and it isn’t as close as people think. First when we talk about MVP we’re talking about whose more valuable to their team. First Westbrook averaged a triple double in over half of their games surpassing the Big O, Oscar Robinson on the list. Second when Westbrook does get a triple double the Oklahoma City Thunder are 33-9 and when he doesn’t record one they’re 13-25, so this isn’t a showing off trying to pad your stats number they have an outcome on the game. Lastly when Russell was on the floor the Thunder were 12.2 points better per 100 possessions while his competitor James Harden only made the Rockets 3.5 points better.

Let’s not forget that Westbrook was the clutches player in the league this year hitting 3 shots to force overtime and 4 game winners. Most notably that one night in Denver where he erupted for 50 points, 16 Rebounds, and 10 Assist not to mention the 36 footer at the buzzer to win. Some may argue yes Russell is doing this but it’s about winning yes it’s about winning but it’s about value too! James Harden has shooters galore around him Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza. Plus it also helps Hardens case that he plays in a Mike D’Antoni driven system that allows him to average a double double. You get to put up video game like numbers no defense all offense that’s a joy. Yes the Rockets are the 3 seed in the West but who could have predicted that OKC would make the playoffs when they lost one of the best players in the world named Kevin Durant. This wasn’t a bearly making it in the playoffs team, the Thunder hold the 6 seed in the wild wild West.

Image result for russell westbrook GAME WINNER VS NUGGETS
Russell Westbrook heads to locker room after a unforgetable night in Denver.
People will say let’s just give the MVP to whoever wins the Thunder vs Rockets series that’s just foolish to do we all know that OKC will push them the distance but Houston will take the series eventually. Just think about this if we were to put Harden back on OKC what seed would they get? Now put Westbrook in a Rockets uniform, I believe they have a better record than San Antonio and possibly be within a game for the one seed all year against the Warriors.
How can you not give it to Westbrook when the Big O & the GOAT (Michael Jordan)  have already campaigned for you to win it?