Originally published April 16th, 2017
In all the excitement over MVP voting, Charles Oakley getting bounced from MSG like a drunk at a Louis CK show, and debates over whether grown men should be able to take days off from their job, it seems like we’ve all forgotten: the playoffs are almost here!
The NBA is a league driven by narratives, and this season is obviously no different, but even people who claim to hate the NBA will admit to an at least passive interest in the playoffs. It’s the time of year when the league’s most talented players unleash the most talented version of themselves. We are guaranteed to get someone’s best in each game each night. The beginning of the season had us leaning towards the inevitability of a rubber match between the Cavaliers and the Warriors. They each lead their respective conferences so maybe we weren’t all wrong, but to go full-cliche, this is why they play the games, Charlie.
Even though we’re still on audio restriction while the platform gets their shit together (RABBLE! WE ARE ANSTY AS HELL!), we found a way to bring back Coach Kyle through the magic of text transcripts to go through each matchup and what we see transpiring for each team down the line.
#1 Boston Celtics (53-29) v #8 Chicago Bulls (41-41)
B: The Bulls have been a dumpster fire for 5/8 of this season and it is nothing short of a literal miracle that they are in the playoffs. Look how un-injured Wade is now! Rondo is happy and totally doesn’t want to be bought out!
CK: The Bulls suck hence the 8 seed but they do have some personnel that I feel are better suited for playoff series opposed to a long regular season. Wade hasn’t been TERRIBLE this year even though he is shooting a career worst from the field. But 18.5, 4, 4 isn’t too bad for what’s it orth
B: The only way the Bulls win this series is if every game is played on TNT. There are some defensive liabilities with Isaiah Thomas but nobody on the Bulls side that he would guard is that threatening. Avery Bradley makes Butler work for it, and Horford eats down low. Brad Stevens could out-coach Fred Hoiberg only using in-bound plays if he wanted to.
CK: I think IT being the Celtics only reliable scoring option is going to hurt their chances and I think that begins rearing it’s ugly head in this series. I expect Jimmy to guard IT some and we know how he gets down defensively. I think ultimately the Celtics are too deep for the Bulls though and the coaching aspect isn’t even a question.
PICKS: Celtics in 5 (B), Celtics in 6 (CK)
#2 Cleveland Cavaliers (51-31) v #7 Indiana Pacers (42-40)
CK: I’m on record to have thought the Pacers would make real strides this year. I was wrong for the most part but I think they had pieces to make life tough for the defending Champs. Paul George is one guy that fears LeBron NONE. Quite the opposite, he seems to raise his level of play against the King.
B: I can see the Cavs losing but not to this Pacers team. Paul George is great but he’s griped more than once this season about his guys not having any heart. Now, getting Lance back looks like it was smart and that’s a reason I think this goes deeper than expected. So, I can’t laugh you out of the room.
CK: Many people want to dismiss the Cavs recent struggles as just a ho hum ending to the regular season, I’m not in that camp. There have been some grave signs that this team just isn’t all that. Do I think they make it back to the Finals? More likely than not. But I don’t think it will be a cakewalk and a tough 7 game series with the Pacers is something I can foresee.
B: The Cavs have huge defensive issues, and one solid double team in Game One isn’t gonna change that. Bruce Bowen is going to rage vomit by halftime of Game 2 if he has to watch these teams defend each other for another minute. You have to be historically great in the playoffs to overcome defense that bad. Like “2001 Lakers/15-1”-type great.
CK: They now have the LeBron agitator back in the the fold in Lance “Born Ready” Stephenson. He was washed out of the league but being back in Indy has seemingly revitalized him and he could turn out to be a real X factor if he plays his cards right. I’m not brave enough to have the Cavs losing in the first round so I will cop out and state it will be a 7 game series and a pretty tough one at that.
B: I’m gonna go out on a limb and say the Cavs might not get back to the finals. I think they’re gonna be out of juice by the time the conference finals roll around and Washington could get them. But that puts the Wizards in the Finals which only happens inside the greater Washington, DC area. I guess I’m saying it wouldn’t surprise more than it’s inevitable.
PICKS: Cavs in 7 (CK), Cavs in 6 (B)
#3 Toronto Raptors (51-31) v #6 Milwaukee Bucks (42-40)
CK: Gotta go with the Dinosaurs. Last I checked, 2 is greater than 1, and the Raptors have 2 stars to the one that lives in Milwaukee and does dope Mountain Dew ads. The Raptors got Serge Ibaka and PJ Tucker which added some much needed playoff toughness and two guys who are capable on both sides of the ball. The Bucks are exciting and Giannis is a future bona-fide MVP candidate, but it’s not yet his time.
B: PJ Tucker might low key have been the best trade of the deadline. He’s one of those championship team archetypes that you need: the hard-nosed bench guy that just goes out and competes. It’s so cliche, but it defines him perfectly. The Bucks problem is still what it’s always been, injuries and lack of shooting. It’s good they have Middleton back but he’s not at 100% yet, even if he tells you he is. Brogdon has been great, but he’s still nothing super special. Losing Jabari really hurts them because he can get his from pretty much anywhere. Congrats to Giannis on an All-NBA season, but this is just an experience year for you. Game over and try to get back to the boss battle next year.
CK: Led his team in all five categories. That’s a hell of a lot of XP.
B: I’m just hoping the Raptors have their shit together this year.
PICKS: Raptors in 6 (CK, B)
#4 Washington Wizards (49-33) v #5 Atlanta Hawks (43-39)
B: I expect Dwight Howard hot takes aplenty.
CK: Dwight is irrelevant. He’s still an NBA presence but hardly someone you have to plan for to me. His numbers this year are just a smidgen better than Gortat’s. The Wizards have depth and the starting 5 they field is better than the one the Hawks have from top to bottom.
B: The Wizards have their shit figured out. Scotty Brooks deserves some credit for getting these guys to compete on both ends. He has a knack for that. Beal took the leap, hopefully for good. Otto Porter has had the Shaqtin turnaround that JaVale McGee wanted. Kelly Oubre has his moments. Bogdanovic was a solid pickup.
CK: The Wizards started out slowly but came out strong and John Wall is a nightmare for good defenders. Schroeder is having night terrors. Beal is now a borderline All-Star, averaged 20 plus this year and he is also going to punish the guy guarding him, probably Hardaway Jr. Otto Porter contributes and Marcus Morris’ twin brother is a pretty solid player. Sorry Hawks fans, expect a big series from Millsap Millsap but it won’t be enough.
B: Millsap is trying to get paid. He might try and average over 30 (which he could totally do). Dwight has had a great rebounding season, but there’s still all this refrain of “It’s different this time” while still clashing with Dennis Schroder. The Hawks had a garage sale, then halfway through decided they wanted all their sentimental shit back like a sitcom character. Now they’re using a blender with no top just to prove a point.
PICKS: Wizards in 6 (CK), Wizards in 5 (B)
ECF (CK): Cavs v. Raptors (Cavs in 7)
ECF (B): Cavs v. Wizards (Cavs in 7)
FINALS PICKS CANA BE FOUND IN THE WESTERN CONFERENCE PREVIEW