DAR Sports: NBA Semifinals Predictions

By @TrueGodImmortal

The Semifinals are underway, or at least they will be by the time you read this. The New Orleans Pelicans would be the first team to advance, following a shocking sweep of the Portland Trailblazers. They would be followed by the Phliadelphia 76ers and the Golden State Warriors, who would advance after winning their respective series in 5 games. The Houston Rockets would advance a day later, with the Toronto Raptors and the Utah Jazz following. The Boston Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers would be the last two to advance and with that, the stage is now set.

Western Conference
-The stage is set for an epic Conference Finals battle between the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors. All season, it seemed like THAT was what this was building to. Will it? Well, while the Rockets have looked suspect offensively and defensively at times, they stand to be the favorites in their series, while the Golden State Warriors with a returning Steph Curry seem poised to make the Conference Finals for the fourth straight time. Can the Rockets overcome the best defense in the playoffs in the Jazz? Can the Warriors overcome the Pelicans and their momentum? Let's take a look at the respective series.

*(1) Houston Rockets vs (5) Utah Jazz -Ricky Rubio will likely miss a majority of the series with a hamstring injury that could sideline him up to 10 days. It sounds strange when you think about it, but Rubio is an important part to this entire Jazz team as the starting point guard and perhaps without him in the lineup, the Jazz are completely doomed. Sure, the Jazz lost game 1, and as it stands, that was more like a schedule loss than anything. With only one day in between games, starting a new series and traveling from Utah to Houston, the Jazz looked sluggish and slow in game 1, but their second half efforts saw a more inspired team. If they are able to make adjustments and play good defense, they could steal a game 2 or one of the games in Utah. For me, I would like to think Utah steals a game or two in this series just off the strength of their defense, but Houston will definitely win this series. It could end up as a sweep, but I'll give Utah a little more credit, as their defense should be able to adjust and Donovan Mitchell will have a big game at some point. Not to mention both CP3 and James Harden have had multiple disappointing performances so far in the playoffs and could be due for another two soon. Realistically, the Rockets should sweep the Jazz or win in 5 games, but due to this being the playoffs, I'll give the Jazz one extra game just out of respect.

Prediction: Rockets in 6

*(2) Golden State Warriors vs (6) New Orleans Pelicans
-This could end up as a sweep. Game 1 was the best chance the Pelicans had of making a statement and they failed at that. For one, the Warriors are not the Blazers and are impossible to guard sufficiently, especially through the playoff season. With no Steph Curry in the lineup, the Warriors went out and dominated the game against the Pelicans for Game 1, as Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson provided some solid offense, while Draymond Green played to the best of his ability and put up a triple double. For New Orleans, the defensive pressure that the Warriors put up and the pace they ran completely benefited Golden State, as the Pelicans managed to be as tired as they could be in the game, mostly due to chasing Klay and KD around. Regardless, the Pelicans needed to make a statement in game 1 and failed to do so, because of that, the series seems pretty much lost. I think a sweep is likely, as long as Golden State doesn't get lazy and fall into bad habits, but with them protecting the ball better and Steph Curry returning in game 2, this might be a blowout of a series. New Orleans will come out ready to play in game 2, with Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis likely to have bigger roles, but if Steph returns and gets a rhythm? Game and series over. I think the Warriors win in 4, but I'll give the Pelicans the benefit of the doubt and say they can steal a game at home. Warriors in 4/5 games is the most likely outcome here.

Prediction: Warriors in 5

Eastern Conference
-The East has run through Lebron James for the last 7 years and as we near the beginning of the East second round, many wonder if it is possible that this trend ends this year. It could very well be the end, as the Cavs don't look like the surefire winner of the East and the Pacers had every opportunity to close them out. The Raptors are the no. 1 team in the East and they play some good basketball, but does anyone believe they will beat the Cavs? That remains to be seen. Can the 76ers pull off something special this year? That remains to be seen. What is the ceiling for an overachieving Celtics team with no stars? All of these questions will be answered by the end of round 2. Let's take a look.

*(1) Toronto Raptors vs (4) Cleveland Cavaliers
-The Eastern Conference has been all about Lebron for the last 7 years. With a far better roster than any other team out East, Lebron has coasted to the NBA Finals for the majority of the last 3 years since his return to Cleveland. This year seems a little different. After working overtime to carry his team to a 7 game win over the Pacers, this is the best shot the Raptors have of striking and eliminating LeBron. Will they finally pull it off? I'm not so sure. I don't think this season ends in a championship for Lebron, and it is possible he doesn't make it out of the East, but one thing that stands out is the matchup. The Raptors seem to fold when facing the Cavs. This year they have the homecourt advantage, a better team, better system, and the opportunity to finally get revenge. Will they come to play? I do think it is possible we see the Raptors upset the Cavs (it sounds weird that a no. 1 seed could upset the no. 4 seed), but I'm not willing to bet against Lebron just yet. The Cavs will play better and the Raptors will falter as usual, even if Kyle Lowry or Demar DeRozan show up for a game or two. Now, if they both show up consistently, I fully believe there is a chance we see the Raptors win, but sticking with what I know, I'm going to say Cavs in 6 with the possibility of Raptors in 6/7 if things go how they should.

Prediction: Cavs in 6

*(2) Boston Celtics vs (3) Philadelphia 76ers
-This is going to be an interesting series for many reasons. On paper, the 76ers should easily win this. However, Brad Stevens is the Coach Of The Year and his players have stepped up without Gordon Hayward all year and now in the absence of Kyrie Irving, they have made the second round. While Al Horford, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Terry Rozier are all capable of leading the charge and pushing the Celtics to a victory in this series, something leads me to believe the 76ers will come prepared for whatever they can throw at them. The Sixers have more talent, more shooting, and with two generational talents in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, it is extremely possible that we see the Sixers in 5 games much like they did against the Heat. I think the Celtics come out swinging and play very tough, but fall short in the end, taking their final loss in Philly for game 6.

Prediction: 76ers in 6



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