The NBA postseason begins on April 15 as 13 teams see how far they can go before losing to either San Antonio, Cleveland or Golden State. Despite the great chance that the finals will feature two of the three aforementioned teams, there are still many interesting storylines to be played out on the court. Besides, in a year where the UCONN women’s basketball team didn’t win the championship, anything is possible.
Here are five bold predictions for the first round of the NBA playoffs.
The Pacers will continue to wear down the Cavaliers
Barring significant injury, there’s absolutely no way the Pacers will beat the Cavaliers in this series. However, this matchup remains the most intriguing because of the history between LeBron James and Paul George and, of course, Lance Stephenson. The fight in George and Stephenson added to the other playoff experience and impressive end of the regular season play by the Pacers should result in a competitive series, which should affect the “resting” Cavaliers deeper into the postseason.
The Bulls will get swept
It’s been an ugly season, to say the least for the Chicago Bulls. Star guard-forward Jimmy Butler disagreed with head coach Fred Hoiberg in a battle so public, that he took himself out of a game during a dead ball possession once. After receiving a lofty new contract in 2015, Butler was the premier name of stars on the trading block approaching this year’s deadline. The trio of Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo and Butler appears to have never found quite the right groove all season long, and facing the No. 1 seeded Boston Celtics should put an end to the misery that was this season.
James Harden will struggle, but the Rockets still beat OKC
James Harden doesn’t play well in the playoffs. He never has and that trend will probably continue this year. In 2012, Harden struggled mightily for the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat. In 2015, he set the single-game NBA playoff record for the most turnovers with 13. The most obvious reason he’ll struggle is because he still hasn’t acknowledged the Based God for inspiring his “cooking” celebration, but that’s a different story for another day. Expect Harden’s supporting cast of Trevor Ariza, Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson to lift the Rockets over the Thunder anyway in the series of MVP candidates.
Damian Lillard will average nearly 40 points a game while Golden State sweeps Portland
Isiah Thomas checked his watch after hitting big shots; Damian Lillard popularized it for this generation. The two-time All-Star scored 51 points against the record-breaking 73-win Golden State Warriors in the 2015-16 regular season and what was then a career-high performance. On April 9, he topped that and set a new franchise record with 59 points against the Utah Jazz. Portland’s offensive gameplan runs through the star-studded backcourt and after making the bold prediction that he believes the Trailblazers will beat the Warriors in six games, expect Lillard to be looking for blood every minute he’s on the floor in his series.
John Wall and Dennis Schroder will get into a fistfight
This bout has been in the making for over two years now. In the 2015 Atlanta Hawks/Washington Wizards series, Wizards guard John Wall played with a broken hand. Hawks guard Dennis Schroder reportedly told his teammate Kent Bazemore to target Wall’s broken hand. Wall and Schroder exchanged words for the rest of the series and after the Hawks advanced, Schroder posted a picture on Instagram of him smiling at Wall with a caption of how excited he was to move on to the next round. In the Hawks first round series last year against the Boston Celtics, Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas smacked Schroder in the head after they exchanged words for so long and it’s only a matter of time when Wall does the same this year.