The WC first round
NBA BUZZ - Bobby Motus (The Freeman) - April 24, 2019 - 12:00am

With an on-target guess on the Boston-Indiana contest, I’m getting closer to the other Eastern Conference first round forecasts – Orlando should win one at home but as I said, Toronto advances in 6.  Brooklyn caught Philadelphia on an off night thus the win but that’s it. The Sixers in 5. There’s no solution for Milwaukee’s number 34, never mind if Detroit has a healthy Blake Griffin.

Gordon Hayward has found his range to supplement Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris and if this keeps up, it could be a seven-game series between the Celtics and the Bucks.  Philly has, arguably, the best center in the league right now in Joel Embiid.  He’s cocky but he gets things done.  The Raptors have a strong inside presence and the x-factor in their second round series with the Sixers will be Marc Gasol.  Their battle could also go the seven-game distance.

Let’s move on to the West.

GOLDEN STATE (1) vs LA CLIPPERS (8) – Patrick Beverly maybe an annoying pesky defender and Lou Williams could be the league’s best sixth man but the LA Clippers just don’t have enough if Golden State decide to play like the Warriors.  DeMarcus Cousins is out for the rest of the post-season but the returning Andrew Bogut has filled the vacuum well, and somebody always comes out big when one or two of their stars have a slow night.  That was a tsamba win the Clippers had and it woke Golden State out of their over-confidence.    Warriors in five.

DENVER (2) vs SAN ANTONIO (7) – in their regular season matchups, both teams split their 4-game assignments.  Coach Greg Popovich needs no introduction.  Coach Mike Malone on the other hand is on his first playoff appearance.  Outside of Paul Millsap, the rest of the Nuggets have no post-season experience.   Except their rookies, the Spurs have the experience and being 7th seed does not necessarily mean that they are pushovers.  LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan are playoff veterans and Patty Mills and Marco Belinelli had won titles with the team.  Then there’s rookie Derrick White.  If only Dejounte Murray were not injured, his defensive presence would have been a big factor.   Nuggets have fresher talents in Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Malik Beasley and Gary Harris.  Mason Plumlee is a solid contributor off the bench.  With the best active coach in the league, I will go for experience over talent, San Antonio in seven.

PORTLAND (3) vs OKLAHOMA (6) – Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are the Blazers’ one-two punch and on any given night, Mo Karkless, Enes Kanter, al Farouq Aminu and Zach Collins and Seth Curry could score in double digits.  Had Jusuf Nurkic been available, 15ppg and 12rpg game averages would have been a big plus to Portland’s cause.   Aside from Paul George and Russell Westbrook, the only consistent OKC contributors are Dennis Schroeder and Jerami Grant. Steven Adams is an immovable force on defense but he needs to be consistent in scoring.   Westbrook and Lillard have their own on-court battle with the later habitually injecting taunts.   The Blazers lead the series 3-1 and they won’t let last year’s first round exit happen again.  Will Portland advance?  Yes, in five games they will and Lillard will rock baby Russell to sleep.  Next question.

HOUSTON (4) vs UTAH (5) – Starring Donovan Mitchell who scored 19 of his 31 points in the 4th quarter, the Jazz avoided elimination and lived to play another game.  He had help from the unlikeliest of scorers in Jae Crowder and Royce O’Neale.  James Harden was his usual self but it let’s give it Utah for their hustle and defensive efforts.  Houston will lift off and advance to the next round in five games.

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