My faithful readers (both of them) may have noticed that I haven’t written an NBA column this season. There are two reasons for this. First, lack of time (once again, adulthood sucks); second, and more importantly, the record-breaking season that my beloved Golden State Warriors just played has been so unbelievably full of joy and amazement that I didn’t want to risk jinxing it by making any predictions or proclamations. My anti-jinx efforts are all well and good, but I’ve been writing this particular column too long for me to quit now. I know my attorney will probably cease to represent me if I don’t write this (although he’s stopped taking my calls anyway, for some reason, ahem). Plus, just in case I’m right, there’s no way I can let the playoffs go by without getting some picks on record. So, here goes. We’ll start with the JV conference—which actually isn’t all that JV anymore.
Cleveland over Detroit 4-1: Most analysts think that the Pistons can actually push the Cavs in this series, and I’m inclined to agree that the games will be close. This sort of series happens all the time: a young squad makes the postseason for the first time and gos up against a veteran championship contender. Anecdotally, it seems like the young squad always wins one home game, blows a winnable home game, and then can’t quite figure out how to win a road elimination game. I see that formula coming through here. The only real question: will LeBron ask Andre Drummond to donate some of his shoulder hair for LeBron’s hairplugs.
Toronto over Indiana 4-2: I see Paul George winning at least one game by himself, and the Pacers will probably grit at one more win at home, but I really like this Toronto team—I know they’ve choked in the playoffs the last couple of years, but they played the Dubs very tightly in two different games, and Kyle Lowry is a true badass Philly point guard. He’s not letting them go out like that this team.
Atlanta over Boston 4-3: The Celtics were a great story this season, and they looked great in both their games against the Dubs, but I think Atlanta has a little more high-end talent, Coach Buds neutralizes the edge that Brad Stevens would have over most opposing coaches, and the homecourt in Game 7 will ultimately matter.
Charlotte over Miami 4-2: I don’t really believe in this pick, honestly. But every other pick of mine went chalk, and I wanted one first round upset, so I picked the team that has a star point guard from my home borough, the Boogie Down Bronx. I will say that Charlotte has played really well in the second half, and they have a great home record, and if they do get to Game 6 with a chance to close at home, I think they’ll do it.
Cleveland over Charlotte 4-1: I’m just really bummed we’re not gonna get a Cavs-Heat series.
Toronto over Atlanta 4-3: I could definitely see Atlanta taking it from Toronto, especially given that I think that having Coach Buds gives them a late-game tactical advantage. But I think those Toronto fans will show-up big for a Game 7 in the T-Dot, and the Raptors will pull it out.
Cleveland over Toronto 4-2: God, I want to pick a Raptors upset soooooooo bad. I really think this Cleveland team is overrated and that, given the drama they’ve had this year courtesy of LeBron’s Twitter account, the locker room will fracture when they face real adversity. But while I like the Raptors, I just can’t quite see them pulling it off. (If Toronto does make the Finals, I’ll hate myself for not having the guts to pick it.) So LeBron will make a remarkable sixth straight trip to the Finals.
Golden State over Houston 4-0: The truth is, I was hoping the Dubs would avoid the Rockets, only because of this scenario: Patrick Beverley dives at Steph Curry’s legs, knocking Ghost Pepper out for the playoffs (like Beverley did to Russell Westbrook a few years ago)…
And then Draymond Green murders Beverley (in the NBA’s first ever on-court homicide) and gets banned for life. Dynasty over. There’s like a 10 percent chance of this happening. But otherwise, even though Houston played the Dubs better than people remember in last year’s Conference Finals, I just don’t see this Dubs team fucking around and losing focus and dropping even one game in this series. Think Rockets fans will be doing MVP chants for the Beard when they’re down by 25 in the fourth quarter and about to get swept? Um, no.
San Antonio over Memphis 4-0: The Grit-n-Grind Grizz deserve so much credit for overcoming an Iwo Jima of a season to make the playoffs. But the Spurs are gonna wipe the floor with them.
Oklahoma City over Dallas 4-1: I referred to the East as the JV Conference earlier, even though that side of the bracket is actually much more balanced and competitive. The reason, of course, is that the top two teams in the league are in the West, and three-seed OKC is probably dead even with the East favorites. I have a ton of respect for Dirk and Rick Carlisle and what Dallas managed to do with a patchwork roster this year—and that’s the only reason I’m not predicting a sweep, because the Thunder are going to run the Mavs off the floor.
LA Clippers over Portland 4-2: The Clippers, despite being the biggest head-case franchise west of Cleveland, are probably the fifth best team in the league. They’re really good, even if no one’s sure how they’re going to react to reintegrating Blake Griffin. I’m probably a little biased toward the Blazers because of my love of both PDX and Oakland’s own Damian Lillard, but I think Portland will push th Clippers and send this to six before CP3 puts his foot down. Keep representing the O, Dame.
Golden State over LA Clippers 4-0: I’m probably being too cocky here. The Clippers really shouldn’t get swept in this series. But there are a couple reasons I think it will happen: 1) The Dubs mind-fucked the Clips early this year with that big comeback in LA; and 2) This Dubs team fucking HATES this Clippers team because of the 2014 playoff loss, the shit Doc Rivers talked this offseason, and the years of chippy play. I think the Dubs are going to come out and do their best to embarrass the Clippers.
San Antonio over Oklahoma City 4-2: I reallllllly want to pick an OKC upset. But I can’t. This would be a fantastic series, but the discipline and coaching of the Spurs trumps the athleticism of Westbrook and Kevin Durant, who will walk off the floor in Oklahoma City for the final time (yeah, I’m calling it) with a loss.
Golden State over San Antonio 4-3: It’s the series we’re all waiting for—the series that is most likely going to end my life. By far the two best teams in basketball, the offensive juggernaut that just finished the greatest regular season of all time against the impenetrable defensive machine. Having watched these teams play this season, though, I think Steph, Klay, and Draymond have enough magic in them to get the buckets when they need them—and the Spurs never had a good offensive game against the Dubs, even in the one they won. I would pick Dubs in six, but I can’t see San Antonio losing an elimination game at home, considering they went 40-1 there this year, so the ultimate trump card—homecourt in Game 7—pushes the Dubs to the Finals.
Golden State over Cleveland 4-1: Part of me even thinks it’s generous to give this stupid Cavs team even one win—I’m only chalking up the one out of respect for what LeBron is capable of. But the Dubs figured the Cavs out in the Finals last year, and I have seen nothing to convince me that Cleveland has an answer for Golden State’s Lineup of Death. Also, I just want to see this go 5 games so that the Dubs can finish off the greatest season of all time with a championship victory in front of the fans in Oakland.
God, I hope I didn’t jinx this.