Published On: Fri, Apr 13th, 2018

15 bold predictions for Round 1 of the NBA playoffs

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The NBA Playoffs are upon us, and as the “We Believe” Warriors, the 2016 Cavaliers, and Kevin Garnett all demonstrated in the past, anything is possible.

Here are 15 bold predictions for the first round:

Chris Paul will be the Rockets’ best player

With the Minnesota Timberwolves hoping for an upset over the league’s best regular-season team, expect Jimmy Butler to be tied to the hip of scoring champ James Harden. Chris Paul has never had the luxury of operating as his team’s second-best backcourt threat on offense. If Butler does his job on defense, Paul will have to carry the Houston Rockets on offense.

The Raptors will avoid plunging Canada into a deep depression and actually win Game 1

Having dropped 10 straight Game 1s dating back to 2001, it seems almost unfathomable that the Toronto Raptors wouldn’t open postseason play with a despondent, soul-crushing performance. This year, however, they’ll start the series with a narrow win over the visiting Washington Wizards.

Melo will single-handedly win a game for the Thunder


With the Utah Jazz focused on stopping Russell Westbrook first and Paul George second – and with Rudy Gobert tied up with Steven Adams in the paint – Carmelo Anthony is going to catch fire in the fourth quarter at some point this series, leading his squad to a clutch, crunch-time victory.

The Warriors will go down 1-2 to the Spurs before coming back to win

Golden State hasn’t been down 1-2 to start a series since the 2016 Western Conference finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2016, but they just wrapped up the season on a 7-14 skid, and will be without Stephen Curry for the first round. Never underestimate Gregg Popovich.

The Pelicans will upset the Blazers

The Portland Trail Blazers finished the season on an 18-7 run, but their postseason will end in upset. Led by the defensive bookends of Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis, the sixth-seeded New Orleans Pelicans will come out on top, taking the series 4-1.

The Sixers’ swagger will evaporate


Joel Embiid has been ruled out for Game 1, and if the Miami Heat steal the opener in Philly and deploy their stable of veteran agitators – Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside, James Johnson, and Kelly Olynyk – to harangue and harass Ben Simmons and Embiid (upon his return), this series will quickly slip away from the Philadelphia 76ers, 16-game winning streak be damned.

Kawhi will make a late-series return

There’s still a 0.1 percent chance that Kawhi Leonard‘s absence for all but nine games this season has been an elaborate scheme cooked up by Popovich to ensure his player’s health for the playoffs – a plot that’s equal parts Rope-a-Dope and Machiavellian. Look for Leonard to come back like The Undertaker late in the series.

The Pacers’ play-by-play team won’t mention Victor Oladipo’s runaway Most Improved Player candidacy

Just kidding. This will absolutely happen approximately four times per game.

Donovan Mitchell is going to hit a wall – hard

Donovan Mitchell has enjoyed a stellar freshman campaign, but he’s in for a world of hurt against the Thunder. The Jazz boast few standout scorers on the wings, so he’ll draw the hounding defense of Paul George for most of the series while OKC hides Westbrook on lesser threats.

LeBron will post his best his single-series scoring average


LeBron James‘ best points-per-game mark in any playoff series came against the Orlando Magic in the conference finals in 2009, when he averaged 38.5 points over six games. The Indiana Pacers have been a nice story, but look for King James to set a new personal best as he drags his lackluster supporting cast to victory.

Hassan Whiteside will be a monster

Ignore the recent murmurs of Whiteside’s discontent with being marginalized late in fourth quarters. The Heat are going to need the cantankerous center’s rim protection if they want to stymie the Sixers’ elite interior scoring and rebounding. A handful of 20-20 games aren’t out of the question.

KAT will break the scoring record for a 4-game series

Karl-Anthony Towns will be the talk of the league after breaking the record for most points in a four-game series. He will need to record 151 points – 37.8 per game – to surpass none other than Rockets legend Hakeem Olajuwon, who totaled 150 in a sweep of the Dallas Mavericks in 1988. The Timberwolves will still lose, though.

Al Horford will record his 2nd career triple-double


With no Kyrie Irving, Al Horford is going to have to put the Boston Celtics on his back. He’s flirted with high single-digit assist totals in recent outings, so if Brad Stevens deploys him as the team’s primary playmaker, there’s an opportunity for Horford to record his second career triple-double – and his first since January 2015.

Bradley Beal will say the Wizards think they’re the best team in the East while trailing the Raptors 3-1

This one isn’t even bold. This will almost certainly happen.

Joe Prunty will be fired within 1 hour of the Bucks’ opening-round defeat

The Milwaukee Bucks‘ inability to make good on their athletic gifts will lead to Prunty’s dismissal as head coach almost as soon as their season ends. With the Magic, the New York Knicks, and the Charlotte Hornets (and possibly the Phoenix Suns and Memphis Grizzlies) already on the market for a new bench boss, the Bucks will be quick to enter the race to sign the best available head coaching talent.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)



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