#1 Golden State Warriors (66-15) v #8 Portland Trailblazers (41-40)
COACH KYLE: There’s not much to discuss here. Coming into the playoffs after a “Hercules”-strong finish to the season, the Warriors are more well oiled than the finest Subaru in the lot. And I’ve been told you can trust a Subaru. I give the Blazers a game not because I think they can actually win one, but it just seems like the right thing to say.
BLACK: I definitely agree. There’s no way the Blazers take the Warriors down short of an actual, literal act of God, or some super virulent strain of the flu. I’m talking lightning mudslide or projectile release from both ends for their entire starting five and Steve Kerr. I can give Portland a game if only because Dame is from Oakland and could ball out. Also, [Jusef] Nurkic has played well enough to give the Warriors front court issues, but Dray would give him equal problems on the other end if Golden State goes small.
CK: Nurkic has been balling though. Out of seemingly nowhere.
BLACK: If the Nuggets had traded him in December, he might have a valid case for Most Improved Player.
PICKS: GS in 5 (CK, B)
#2 San Antonio Spurs (61-20) v #7 Memphis Grizzlies (43-38)
B: Grit n’ Grind is dead. Rest in Power. Zach Randolph is a beast and still not someone I’d ever fuck with, but the product of a bygone era. Marc Gasol is an all-NBA talent, but seems to me more of a second banana than the guy to lead you past a team like San Antonio. Kind of like his brother. Put Kawhi on Mike Conley and the Grizz have no offense. The Spurs are still old on average, but there’s a youth movement. Plus, that San Antonio dust makes you young. Like Fiji water.
CK: [Laughs] I’ll have to agree. My man Chandler Parsons will get some dope shots for the ‘gram, but that’s about all the Grizz will get. I think the Spurs are going to be on a mission to get back to the WCF and they are going to crush teams standing in their way of that. Pop can coach circles around Fizdale and the Spurs always get production from every feasible position.
B: Anyone they touch becomes great, or their scouting is just unimpeachable. Fucking Johnathan Simmons panned out. Come on.
CK: It’s not fair really.
#3 Houston Rockets (54-27) v #6 Oklahoma City Thunder (46-34)
B: When Adam Silver saw that this matchup was gonna happen organically, he came in his pants
CK: This should be fun. It should be like Oprah giving away the cars. “YOU GET A triple DOUBLE! AND YOU!” The 2 lead dogs in the MVP doghouse. The Rockets’ offense is historically potent and that will be enough to beat “Westbrook and the Rest of em”. He is great, they are not. And while he will thrill us with his intensity and level of play, and he will likely get a triple-double in all 6 games, they just do not have enough firepower.
B: It’s so weird to me how this Westbrook season almost perfectly mirrors Kobe’s 2006-2007. Doing something historic (triple doubles v. scoring streaks/performances), detractors that nitpick (stat padding, teammates suffer, attitude), every player agrees they’re the best, playing a D’Antoni team in a playoff series they will probably lose, but their presence alone will keep it competitive.
CK: It’s fucking eerie. And Kobe didn’t win MVP that year even though he should have which leads me to believe Russ probably won’t either and it will be one of these things we complain about for years. Which is fine. All this insane shit still happened and I got to see it so I’m cool. And it’ll piss Russ off even MORE. Can you fucking imagine? Is it even possible?
B: I’ve got this hot-take style theory that Russ and Harden are gonna split 1st place on so many ballots that whoever gets the most 2nd place votes might end up winning. So all those Kawhi & LeBron candidacies actually kind of mean something.
#4 Utah Jazz (50-31) v #5 Los Angeles Clippers (50-31)
B: This is do or die for the Clips and they’ve looked like they’re just kinda resigned to it at this point. Like that part at the end of an action movie where the hero has taken like 65 bullets, and finally is like “Oh, right. That hurts. I’m dying.” It took them a few years to realize it, but they’re pretenders. They’re not a championship team and they know it.
The Jazz have the #1 defense and a raucous weirdly racist crowd. That’s enough to push you forward against a mentally shaky team. And when the Clips lose, it’s getting blown up. Two of their big three won’t be there when the season starts next year. Write it down.
CK: Damn you!! I wanted you to pick the Clippers so I could shit on it. The Clippers need to do themselves a favor and just lose in the first round so they can end the illusion of them having any real shot at a championship early. I think the Jazz are a flat out better team and that defense is stout.
B: The Clippers bench is about as good as bad benches come and I hope they do blow it up for all of our sakes.
CK: They have fooled everyone long enough that they were actually something when they have never been anything more than a good team that was secretly treading water. The injuries they have suffered give them an excuse, but it actually just makes it less embarrassing because they would lose anyway all those years.
B: When it comes to the Finals, I’m expecting the trilogy to mercifully end. We kind of deserve a rubber match. And you don’t add Kevin Durant to a 73 win team and get worse in this matchup unless he fucks up royal and calls LeBron his magic trigger word (It’s bitch, for the uniformed).
CK: I correctly predicted that they would finish with the same record of their last championship. I’ll say they get it done in the same amount of games as well. The Cavs luck into a couple but the Warriors dominate the match up.
B: Obviously injuries could come into play, but like I always say, that’s the case for literally any team so bringing it up is kinda pointless and asinine. The Cavs just don’t have the fresh legs they would need or want to shift this in the opposite direction. Deron Williams isn’t that guy anymore.