What more can be said about the first round of the NBA playoffs? Five of the eight first round series went to 7 games and Portland beat Houston with a series winning buzzer beater. So much for the NBA not having competitive parity. If the first seeds in both confernces are forced into game 7 situations I would call that some very good league parity. That said the 1 seeds did end up winning both of those series and there were no major upsets to speak of. For the most part I would say that’s a good thing, because it sets up some very interesting round 2 match ups.
I want to give a big shout out here to the Toronto Raptors as well. They represented Canada extremely well in their first playoff series in 6 years. The team and especially the fans have really put the Raptors on the map this season, which should translate to further success in the future. It’s a great time to be a basketball fan in Canada.
The second round action gets started tonight already, so I want to get my series predictions up here and also include the best sportsbook for Canadian bettors looking to bet on any of the 8 remaining teams to win their series.
San Antonio Spurs vs Portland Trail Blazers
The Spurs did have a hard time with the Mavericks, but Tony Parker has had a difficult time playing against Devin Harris in the past as well and Mante Ellis also had a huge series. The Mavs were up 2 games to 1 in this series, but the Spurs battled back and apart from a Mavericks surge late in game 6 the Spurs would have figured out Dallas and won in 6. I think if anything this tough series against Dallas has woken up the Spurs who simply lit up Dallas winning by 22 points in game 6. Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, Tim Duncan and company are simply winners.
Portland is playing very well so I’m not taking them lightly. They entered the playoffs on a 5 game winning streak and disposed of the Rockets in 6 games. That said I just don’t think they have the experience to hang with the Spurs in this series. Aldridge and Lillard will have to come up huge if the Blazers are going to have a chance.
My Pick: San Antonio Spurs in 5
OKC Thunder vs LA Clippers
The Thunder finished with just two more wins than the Clippers in the regular season. Both teams were pushed to game 7’s and had to dig deep to come out with the win. Kevin Durant continues to score at ease, with Westbrook also having a strong playoffs thus far. The Clippers look more to Blake Griffin and Chris Paul to lead their team. I like the Clippers as underdogs in this series. I really think it could go either way, with a great chance at another long series. The return is just much better on the Clippers and I think they could be ready to take that jump to an elite team in the West.
My Pick: LA Clippers in 7
Indiana Pacers vs Washington Wizards
The Pacers just squeaked out of the first round after having to win 2 elimination games just to beat the 8th seeded Atlanta Hawks. The Pacers simply haven’t been the team they were at the beginning of the year. The Wizards on the other hand were able to go on a 4 game winning streak to enter the playoffs and then get past the Chicago Bulls in just 5 games. John Wall looks ready to take the jump to an elite player in this league and the Wizards are playing very well as a team and scoring by committee. I see an upset in this round as the Pacers continue to implode.
My Pick: Washington Wizards in 6
Miami Heat vs Brooklyn Nets
The Heat are the only team to have swept their first round series. Up next is the biggest payroll team in the NBA in the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets had a very tough time with the Toronto Raptors in a series that had many Raps fans calling “conspiracy” against the refs. Don’t get me wrong, the Raptors are a very good team and the Nets had to be very good to beat them. I see the Nets stealing a game or two off the defending champs, but the Heat should easily advance to the next round. The long break will be good as it gives the Heat a chance to rest up their bumps and bruises and continue to be ready for a long playoff run to defend their championship.
My Pick: Miami Heat in 6