The two 3-6 match-ups are rumored to be the best series’ in their respective conferences. I, of course, being a Rockets fan, believe that the Rockets-Blazers match up is the most interesting series, but hopefully not because it is close. Anyhow, more on that later.
As The Rock might have said, “Finally the Raptors are back in the playoffs.” Of course, anyone could have said that, but just hear it in your head in The Rock’s voice. The Raptors have built a surprisingly successful season and one of their best (if not the best) regular season franchise records. This is on the back of Kyle Lowry, who was once again snubbed for an All Star bid. When he was back in Houston, he was definitely playing at an all-star level but of course the West is packed with guards. The East, not so much, so it can be understandable that he took it personally and out on the rest of the NBA. After Lowry, DeMar DeRozan has stepped up remarkably consistently for a guy whose go-to shot is an extremely low-percentage mid-range jumper. But when he gets hot, the hoop looks wiiide open. Valanciunas is growing into his role and although he is not dominating, he puts up good numbers.
The Raptors season essentially turned when they got rid of Rudy Gay. Terrence Ross has also stepped up remarkably well as has former Rocket Patrick Patterson. In fact, the Raptors are now the new Rockets rejects team with Lowry, Patterson and Hayes adorning their roster. Vasquez has been a great back-up PG and is a guy who I think should have earned a starting spot somewhere, by now.
The Brooklyn Nets are almost the polar opposite of the Raptors in that they are an aging squad with little to no upside. Nearly everyone on their roster is a known quantity. Luckily for them, those quantities are actually pretty good. When the Nets announced a potential starting lineup of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez back in November, the league was scared. However, those quantities did not pan out as expected and several injuries hurt the Nets along the way. However, the Nets have been one of the hottest teams of 2014 and it looks like their pieces have finally learned how to play together. I actually think they can string together enough wins to “upset” the Raptors purely based on the fact that they know how to win in the postseason.
PREDICTION: Nets in 6 (4-2)
This is going to be an awesome series just because these two teams hate each other. I’m sure you’ve seen the narrative from ESPN complete with all the videos of the fights, shoving, pushing, etc. Steph Curry is in an awesome shooting season that is, surprisingly, not as proficient as last year. Luckily for the Warriors, Klay Thompson has made up the gap and had an awesome season. The Warriors play defense, but they play a very nasty type of defense that could potentially be illegal. Hand-checking galore. Their offense is based solely on the success of Curry and how much activity he can create. Igoudala gives them a guy who can match up with most 2’s and 3’s in the league and win.
Unfortunately for the Warriors, the Clippers best players are at the PG and PF spot. I have no doubt that Igoudala will take his turn guarding Chris Paul, especially in late-game situations with the clock running down, but for the most part Paul will have a field day with Curry guarding him. Blake Griffin this year has shown a surprisingly dramatic year-over-year improvement in his post game and I’d actually put him up there in the top 10 list for back-to-the-basket players. It’s been fairly impressive, though extremely ugly.
I think this series will be close, with a few ejections and lots of late game heroics. I think the Clippers will pull it off just because they have improved their bench by leaps and bounds this year. But it’s gonna be an awesome series!
PREDICTION: Clippers in 6 (4-2)