The first round of the playoffs went just as everyone expected they would. Seven of the eight higher seeds advanced, including the two favorites to reach the NBA Finals (Cleveland and Golden State). Although there weren’t any true upsets, the first round did give fans a lot to look forward to in the future. Everyone got to get their first look at Giannis Antetokounmpo on a big stage, and he did not disappoint. He almost led his young Bucks to a first round upset against the heavily favored Raptors. They may have fell short, but if Milwaukee can keep their young core together, they will be a problem in the East for years to come.
Other than that, I guess the only other real excitement came from the Celtics, who almost blew it by dropping the first two games of their series against the Bulls. But they rattled off four straight wins and took down Chicago, just as everyone thought they would. They may have been playing against a shorthanded team, but Boston finished out that series looking like the team everyone thought they were. They’re finally playing like a number one seed, and that could maybe get them to the Eastern Conference Finals.
With that said, let’s dive into the second round, which gives us some pretty interesting matchups in both conferences:
Celtics (1) vs. Wizards (4)
For some reason, the NBA felt the need to start this series before the first round was over. The Celtics are currently up 1-0, in what was a commanding win at home during game one. They started out wicked slow, but once they caught fire there was no looking back. However, the Wizards are still a good team, so I think this series is going to be hard fought. If Markieff Morris’ injury continues to linger throughout the series, the Wizards are going to struggle. I’m taking the Celtics in seven, only because of how hot they are right now. But if they turn back into that team who dropped two at home during round one, they’re going to get knocked out fast.
Cavaliers (2) vs. Raptors (3)
LeBron did what he does best in the first round, and that’s sweeping whoever he sees. LeBron hasn’t lost a first-round playoff game since 2012, and he kept that streak alive against the Pacers this year. The games were close, but Cleveland didn’t appear to miss a beat. The Raptors went six games with the Bucks in the first round, and they closed out the round looking very good. This team at their best is a tough beat, but I still can’t pick against LeBron until he gives me a reason to. I’m going with Cavs in six.
Warriors (1) vs. Jazz (5)
Golden State dominated the Blazers in round one, and they’re going to dominate again in the second round. The Jazz looked great against the Clippers, and they could probably give the Warriors some problems down low, but that won’t slow them down too much. Kevin Durant is a full go after missing some time in the first round with a calf injury, so they’re going to have a healthy squad. Steve Kerr’s presence will be missed, but him not being there shouldn’t matter too much in this series. The Jazz could maybe take a game at home, so I’m going with Warriors in five. Golden State is just too good all-around.
Spurs (2) vs. Rockets (3)
Next to the Celtics vs. Wizards, this is my second favorite series going into the second round. Both teams handled their business in round one, and they will look to do the same this time around. The Rockets got a lot of production out of Patrick Beverley against OKC, which was a major plus with James Harden struggling a bit. As for San Antonio, they hit on all cylinders and got quality production from almost everyone, like they have all season. Spurs in six is my pick, because I didn’t like what I saw out of James Harden in the first round. He was too inconsistent, and it won’t get any easier against Kawhi Leonard.
I did way better than I thought on my picks for round one, so let’s see how this goes. I’ll be back with my predictions for the Conference Finals after this round is over.
Written By: Nick Cherico (@NickCherico2)