NBA Playoff Races

NBA Playoff Races

There is only a month remaining in the NBA season, and the NBA playoff races are heating up. There are so many questions left to answer. Who will get the one seed in the West? Who will be the eighth seeds in both the East and West? There are so many seeds undecided and positioning is going to very important in who will make deep postseason runs. Here is what to watch for in the final four weeks of the season.

Western Conference: First Seed

NBA Playoff Races

(Photo Credit: Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images)

There is still much to be decided in the West. The race for the first seed has really picked up since Kevin Durant got injured. The Warriors lead has vastly shrunk.

Their lead for the first seed is down to just a game and a half over the Spurs with 14 games remaining. This is an important race for the path to the conference finals and then having home-court in the conference finals.

Neither team has to worry about their first round matchup as both should win in short, easy series. The team who gets the second seed would likely see a tough series versus Houston in the second round. That is what both San Antonio and Golden State want to avoid. Both teams want to go into the conference finals as rested as possible.

Golden State and San Antonio will meet on March 29. It will be a huge game in deciding who wins the number one seed.

The Spurs and Warriors both have nine home games remaining. San Antonio has six away games while the Warriors have five. Both teams’ remaining opponents have a win percentage of 53 percent.

It will be a close finish and will come down to the final days of the season. Golden State will hold on to that number one seed as the season ends.

Western Conference Race for 8th

The Denver Nuggets currently hold the spot for the eighth seed in the West with a record of 33-35. Portland (30-37), Dallas (29-38) and Minnesota (28-39) all still have a shot to get the eighth seed.

This four team race is really close to becoming a two-team race between Denver and Portland. Denver has been playing much better lately and looks like a playoff team. They only have five home games remaining and that could be the factor that costs them that playoff spot.

Portland, on the other hand, has 10 games remaining at home and their remaining opponents have a combined winning percentage of 49 percent. The Trailblazers will end up getting the eighth seed in the Western Conference with all those home games remaining against subpar teams.

The Rest of the West

NBA Playoff Races

(Photo Credit: http://deadspin.com)

Golden State and San Antonio are fighting for first and second. Denver or Portland will get the eighth seed. That leaves seeds three through seven.

The third seed is pretty much locked into Houston. Utah, Los Angeles (Clippers), Oklahoma City and Memphis mathematically can catch them, but it would take a total collapse by Houston to do so. Utah is the current four seed, but only four games separate Utah, Los Angeles, Oklahoma City and Memphis.

Russell Westbrook is close to breaking the single-season triple-double record and the Thunder are 29-6 when Westbrook gets a triple-double. Predicting he breaks the record means the Thunder will win at least eight more games. If that happens the Thunder will end up in the four or five spot.

Utah will get the spot the Thunder do not get, meaning they will also be the fourth or fifth seed. The Clippers will finish with the sixth seed and Memphis will remain as the seventh seed.

The East’s Top Half

The Eastern Conference is divided in half in terms of playoff seeding. Teams seeded one through four can end up in any one of those spots while teams five through eight will end up in the bottom half of the seeding.

The Cavaliers are in the top spot with a record of 45-22. The Celtics are two and a half back, the Wizards are three and a half back and Toronto is six and a half games back of the top spot. There should be a few changes in the top four seeds in the final weeks.

The Celtics remaining opponents have a win percentage of just 44 percent. They also have nine home games remaining while the Cavaliers have nine road games remaining. it is safe to predict the Celtics being only two and a half back will finish as the first seed and the Cavs will finish as the second seed.

The Wizards have 10 road games remaining and all that travel will catch up with them. The Raptors remaining opponents have a win percentage of just 47 percent. The top of the east will finish as follows: First Boston, second Cleveland, third Toronto, and fourth Washington.

The Rest of the East

NBA Playoff Races

(Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)

Teams seeded fifth through 10th are separated by just five games. There are four spots for six teams.

Currently, it stands as Atlanta as the fifth seed with a record of 37-31. They will make the playoffs without question.  The Pacers are 35-33 and being above a .500 win percentage will be enough to get in as well.

That leaves Milwaukee, Detroit, Miami and Chicago fighting for the seventh and eighth seeds. Chicago has lost Dwayne Wade for the remainder of the year with an elbow injury. They were struggling with Wade and won’t be able to win enough games without him in the final month to make the playoffs.

Milwaukee is an exciting team with a star in Giannis Antetokounmpo, who will lead them to a playoff appearance this season. Their remaining opponents have a win percentage of just 49 percent.

That leaves Miami who is 33-35 and Detroit who is 33-36. Both are fighting for the final remaining playoff spot. Miami started the season 10-31 and has since been on fire. No pun intended, but they have been heating up.

These teams have one more meeting against each other and that could be the deciding factor. The Pistons do have the easier remaining schedule of the two teams. This race is hard to predict, but in the second half of the season, the Heat have been the much better team.

The Heat will end up making the playoffs and Detroit will be the odd team out in the Eastern Conference Playoff race.

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2017 NBA Mock Draft

2017 NBA Mock Draft 1.0 (Pre-Lottery)

This mock draft will factor in team needs heavily rather than who is the best player. The draft order won’t be set in stone until the lottery takes place, but the talk is already starting on who will go number one overall.

Many scouts and experts are picking Markelle Fultz to go first, but it depends on who wins the lottery. Right now these predictions will be based solely off current standings and will continue to be until the draft lottery takes place. Here is Hagan’s Haus 2017 NBA mock draft.

1: Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn): Josh Jackson sG Kansas

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Allen Kee / ESPN Images)

The Boston Celtics do not need a point guard. Fultz may be the best player in the draft, but Isaiah Thomas isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Thomas is also a proven player while any player coming out of college is unproven.

Fultz may be the best player in the draft but doesn’t fit what the Celtics need. The Celtics play great team defense and need a scorer to take the load off of Thomas.

Josh Jackson could prove to be a valuable scoring option for Boston as he averages 16.7 points per game. Jackson in a two-way player capable of becoming a superstar. Boston would be smart to add him to their core.

2: Los Angeles Lakers: Markelle Fultz pG Washington

Picking what the Lakers will do is extremely difficult. They just spent the 2015 second overall pick on a point guard. The Lakers issue is veteran leadership. They have a core of young players who just need time to develop. L.A. could trade this pick for a star player, but if they do keep it expect them to take the best available player.

That would be Washington guard Markelle Fultz. Fultz is averaging 23.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and six assists per game. Fultz also has a player efficiency rating (PER) of 28.6 and is clearly the best player in the draft. The Lakers can not pass on that just to fill a position of need.

3: Phoenix suns: Jayson Tatum Sf duke

Jayson Tatum has a well-polished iso game that is NBA ready. The Suns have a star in the making with Devin Booker and need to find a player to grow alongside him.

Tatum could grow to be a solid second option in the NBA. He can score anywhere on the floor due to his ability to create off the dribble.

One of his biggest weaknesses is his shot selection. Due to his height and ability to shoot over defenders, Tatum tends to settle for difficult shots. Shot selection will improve over time and the Suns may be able to find a Robin for their Batman.

4: Orlando Magic: Lonzo Ball Pg UCLA

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit:https://www.bostonglobe.com)

Everyone is talking about LaVar Ball’s opinions rather than the play of Lonzo Ball. Ball can ball. It is as simple as that.

His father may be onto something when talking about how good his son can be. However, talking so openly may hurt his son’s draft stock.

Sticking strictly to Lonzo and his basketball ability, it is clear that he is a top prospect. Ball is a great passer with a high basketball I.Q. In the NBA Ball will be a floor general capable of running the team from the court.

Many scouts compare him to Jason Kidd, which is a pretty accurate comparison. Having a Kidd-like career would be an amazing accomplishment for anybody. Orlando needs a franchise player and that is exactly what Lonzo Ball will be.

5: Philadelphia 76ers: Malik Monk Sg Kentucky

Trusting the process hit yet another bump in the road this season. Joel Embiid suffered another injury after appearing in just 31 games. If that wasn’t enough, last year’s first overall pick, Ben Simmons, will not make his debut this year either. The 76ers still believe those pieces will result in playoff appearances and maybe even titles.

Interestingly enough, reports came out that Philadelphia brass believes Simmons will be the point guard. That is why they will use this top-five pick on Malik Monk.

Monk has proven to be a flat-out scoring machine and that will translate to the NBA. Drafting Monk will allow the Sixers to develop Simmons as their point guard while putting a scorer in the backcourt beside him.

Creating a powerful backcourt could be the key to a deep postseason run. They already have a great frontcourt player in Embiid.

6: New York Knicks: Dennis Smith Pg N.C. State

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: William Howard/Icon Sportswire)

The Knicks need a young explosive point guard who will grow alongside Kristaps Porzingis. Carmelo Anthony is on the back half of his career and will most likely be out of the picture soon. Derrick Rose has been very respectable in New York, but he is not the same player that won the league MVP.

Dennis Smith is a top-five talent who will fall a bit due to some of the other needs teams have. Not all are looking for a point guard.

The Knicks would get a Russell Westbrook type of player by drafting Smith. He can score, pass and rebound with the best of them in college. He also has insane athleticism that allows him to posterize defenders.

Smith would be a great pick here if the Knicks want to take steps towards becoming a playoff team.

7: Sacramento Kings: Jonathan Issac PF Florida State

The Kings need to start from scratch. Buddy Hield seems to be the guy that Sacramento will build this team around. It looks like Willie Cauley-Stein will be the man up front with DeMarcus Cousins now out of the picture.

Jonathan Issac would be a great fit with this team. Issac is a great rebounder and can run the floor well for a big man. He also shoots well from all areas of the floor. He could play at small forward or power forward in today’s NBA style. The Kings would find a great player with lots of potential.

8: Sacramento Kings (Via Pelicans): De’Aaron Fox PG Kentucky

The Kings can afford to be risky with one of their two top-10 picks. Buddy Hield will need a backcourt partner in crime, and Fox could fit that mold.

Fox is unique because he is left handed. It is sometimes hard to defend left-handed players because defenders are used to right handed defenders. He is also extremely quick and defenders may have trouble keeping up with him.

Fox will need to work on shooting with more consistency. With Hield alongside him, all Fox needs to do is run the offense.

9: Dallas Mavericks: Lauri Markkanen PF Arizona

2017 NBA Draft

(Photo Credit: http://www.wildcat.arizona.edu)

Dallas got their center when they traded for Nerlens Noel. The guard positions seem to be held down as well with the emergence of Yogi Ferrell and Seth Curry. That makes Lauri Markkanen a perfect option for the Mavericks.

Dirk Nowitzki will be going into his final season and the Mavericks need to find his future replacement. Markkanen is a 7-foot stretch big who will be able to shoot the three in the NBA. He has all the intangibles to replace the greatest European player in NBA history.

Drafting Markkanen will allow him to develop in his first season before Dirk rides off into the sunset.

10: Minnesota Timberwolves: Harry Giles PF Duke

The Minnesota Timberwolves are right on the cusp of becoming a great NBA team. Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins are continuing to grow and will be one of the most dangerous duos in the NBA in the coming years. They have already begun to show signs of it. Point guard is not an issue as they have Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine, and Kris Dunn. Picking Giles would be a shock here at number 10, but could be a huge steal.

Giles was considered the best player coming out of high school and was projected to be the number one overall pick before he began having injury problems. We have not seen what Giles is fully capable of, but his potential is through the roof. He is an athletic finisher who can be molded into a great defender under Tom Thibodeau.

This pick could be a bust, but it will more likely create a young core in Minnesota capable of winning championships.

11: Charlotte Hornets: Miles Bridges SF Michigan St.

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports)

The Hornets need a solid wing player and Miles Bridges would be a good fit.

Bridges is a dunking machine and plays with an extremely high motor. One of Bridges’ weaknesses is that he has no true position. Shooting guard, small forward and power forward are all in play for Bridges. Charlotte would likely play him at small forward.

Bridges has also shown consistent improvement in his shooting since high school.

12: Portland Trailblazers: Robert Williams PF Texas A&M

Robert Williams can jump out of this world. He can put anyone on a poster and loves to do so. There are countless highlights of him dunking on opponents.

Williams has a 7-foot-5 wingspan, and he knows how to use it. That wingspan allows him to excel as a rebounder and shot blocker.

One thing going against Williams is that he is raw as a big man. He lacks consistency like many raw prospects. The better competition gave him trouble, but with development from NBA coaches, he can turn into a solid NBA starter.

13: Miami Heat: Isaiah Hartenstein PF Germany

The Heat have been amazing in the second half of this season. Hassan Whiteside is a franchise centerpiece at center. Their guard play has been tremendous, and Justise Winslow is really coming into his own. That leaves the power forward position as their biggest need. The Heat need a power forward that can stretch the floor since Whiteside is the inside presence.

Isaiah Hartenstein would be a great fit in Miami. He is a versatile left-handed player who can not only score inside, but outside as well. Hartenstein is a great passing big man with a high basketball I.Q.

The downside with Hartenstein is his immaturity and lack of experience against tough competition. However, his potential makes him a lottery pick.

14: Chicago Bulls: Frank Ntilikina Pg France

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: https://hardwoodhoudini.com

One thing is clear in the NBA: teams need a franchise point guard. The Bulls do not have a franchise point guard on their roster and will be looking for one in this year’s draft. Drafting at the end of the lottery does not leave them with many options, but it will allow them to take Frank Ntilikina out of France.

Ntilikina has excellent size for a point guard. He is listed at 6-foot-5, 190 pounds. Ntilikina is a pass-first point guard with a high I.Q. He has developed a mid-range game and excellent floater, but is a really inconsistent shooter. Ntilikina also has great lateral quickness that makes him an elite defender.

All the skills are there for Ntilikina to become the franchise point guard the Bulls desperately need.

15: Denver Nuggets: John Collins Pf Wake Forest

Denver has a lot of young talent, and Collins is a bit of a project. If the Nuggets take a year or two to develop Collins, then he can become a valuable asset.

16: Milwaukee Bucks: Justin Patton C Creighton

There have been a lot of problems with Greg Monroe in Milwaukee. The Bucks have found a star in Giannis Antetokounmpo and need a big man inside to feed off of him. Justin Patton from Creighton can be that guy.

17: Detroit Pistons: Ivan Rabb C Cal

There have been swirling rumors that Andre Drummond was going to be traded just before the deadline. That still may happen in the offseason, and the Pistons need to prepare for that. Ivan Rabb would be a great fit with Stan Van Gundy.

18: Indiana Pacers: Luke Kennard SG Duke

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

Kennard has been unbelievable in the second half of the season for Duke. Paul George is rumored to be on his way out of Indiana via trade or free agency in two years. Kennard may not become a franchise player, but will come into the NBA as a scoring machine.

19: Atlanta hawks: TJ Leaf PF UCLA

Drafting a power forward may not make sense with Paul Millsap around, but TJ Leaf is a bit of a project. Millsap will want to be on a contending team as his career unwinds. Everyone knows the Hawks are not winning a championship. Drafting Leaf now gives him time to develop until Millsap leaves.

20: Portland Trailblazers (Via Memphis): Justin Jackson SF North Carolina

Justin Jackson would be a great fit in Portland alongside Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. The two guards can focus on the scoring and Jackson can be the team’s wing defender. Jackson is capable of guarding multiple positions and would be a solid pick by the Trailblazers.

21: Oklahoma City: DILLON BROOKS SF OREGON

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports)

It is clear that Russell Westbrook needs help. He is an animal but can’t do it on his own. Dillon Brooks is one of the most underrated players in all of college basketball. Brooks is capable of being the second option to Westbrook and a true sidekick that Westbrook desperately needs.

22: TORONTO RAPTORS: DWAYNE BACON SF FLORIDA STATE

Toronto has one of the best backcourts in the NBA. Bacon can come in and be a solid rotation player allowing the Raptors to deepen their bench as they continue to chase a championship.

23: ORLANDO MAGIC (VIA LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS): TYLER LYDON PF SYRACUSE

Orlando is a tough team to gauge and need a lot. Lydon would be a head-scratching pick, but something they would do. Lydon won’t become an All-Star but will be a solid rotation player in the NBA.

24: Brooklyn Nets (via Washington): JOSH HART SG VILLANOVA

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: AP)

Brooklyn needs anything and everything and is nowhere close to being a good NBA team. Josh Hart could bring a culture change to the franchise. He is a leader and a winner and the Nets could use some of that in their locker room.

25: BROOKLYN NETS (VIA BOSTON): BAM ADEBAYO PF KENTUCKY

Adding Bam Adebayo to pair up with Hart could be the start of turning things around. They won’t win many games, but the rebuild has to start somewhere. Adebayo is a solid prospect with lots of potential.

26: UTAH JAZZ: CALEB SWANIGAN PF PURDUE

The Jazz are in as good of a position as the Celtics. They will finish as the fourth or fifth seed in the tough Western Conference and have two first-round draft picks. Swanigan can come right into the NBA and contribute off the bench.

27: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS (VIA CLEVELAND): RODIONS KURUCS SF LATVIA

Kurucs is a project and Portland can afford to draft a developmental player this late in the first round. Kurucs is versatile and can be a valuable scoring option in the NBA.

28: LOS ANGELES LAKERS (VIA HOUSTON): DONOVAN MITCHELL SG LOUISVILLE

2017 NBA Draft

(Photo Credit: By Pat McDonogh, The CJ)

The Lakers have youth on their side and drafting Mitchell will allow them to continue to build assets as trading blocks so that they can get superstars back in Hollywood. Mitchell is a solid shooting guard who can be a solid sixth man in the NBA.

29: UTAH JAZZ (VIA GOLDEN STATE): JOHNATHAN MOTLEY PF BAYLOR

Utah needs some frontcourt athleticism. Derrick Favors has only had one really productive season and looks to be on the decline. Motley’s offensive I.Q. makes him a perfect fit in Utah to be a solid role player on a solid playoff team.

30: SAN ANTONIO SPURS: THOMAS BRYANT C INDIANA

The Spurs are like the Patriots. They know what they are doing and you don’t question them. LaMarcus Aldridge’s future is in jeopardy due to health concerns. With Kawhi Leonard being a two-way star, the Spurs need a big man who can protect the paint.

 

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All Star Weekend 17

NBA All-Star Weekend 2017

NBA All-Star Weekend is finally upon us.  New Orleans will be hosting the annual event that captivates basketball fans all over the world. Friday’s events include the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game on ESPN at 7 p.m. EST and the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge at 9 p.m. EST.

Saturday is the best day of events beginning with the D-League All-Star Game at 2:30 p.m. EST on NBATV. Later that night at 8 p.m. EST starts the three main events of the day. First is the Taco Bells Skills Challenge, followed by the JBL 3-Point contest, and finishing up with the Verizon Slam Dunk Contest.

Sunday will of course feature the 66th NBA All-Star Game.

NBA All-Star Celebrity Game

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo Credit: Pintrest)

This year the celebrity coaches will be ESPN’s Michael Smith and Jemele Hill. Smith’s team has the following celebrities: Miles Brown, Tom Cavanagh, Mark Cuban, Baron Davis, Andy Grammer, Jiang Jinfu, Anthony Mackie, Romeo Miller, Hasan Minhaj, Master P, Candace Parker and Aaron Sanchez.

Jemele Hill’s team includes the following celebrities: Brandon Armstrong, Win Butler, Nick Cannon, Rachel DeMita, Ansel Elgort, Marc Lasry, Caleb McLaughlin, Peter Rosenberg, Oscar Schmidt, Lindsay Whalen, Jason Williams and Kris Wu.

Both teams seem evenly matched and this year’s game doesn’t seem to have as big of names as past years. Rachel DeMita will surprise some people, but most people will be looking forward to seeing former NBA players Baron Davis and Jason Williams.

MVP Prediction: Jason Williams

Winning Team Prediction: Jemele Hill’s

 

Rising Stars Challenge

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo Credit: Elsa/Getty Images)

This annual Friday night game features first and second year NBA players and can be seen on TNT at 9 p.m. EST. It is a United States versus World format in which 10 players for each team were selected by NBA assistant coaches.

The U.S. team features Devin Booker (Suns), Malcolm Brogdon (Bucks), Marquese Chriss (Suns), Brandon Ingram (Lakers), Frank Kaminsky (Hornets), Jahlil Okafor (76ers), D’Angelo Russell (Lakers), Jonathon Simmons (Spurs), Karl Anthony-Towns (Timberwolves) and Myles Turner (Pacers)

The World team has Alex Abrines (Thunder), Dante Exum (Jazz), Buddy Hield (Pelicans), Nikola Jokic (Nuggets), Trey Lyles (Jazz), Jamal Murray (Nuggets), Emmanuel Mudiay (Nuggets), Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks), Domantas Sabonis (Thunder) and Dario Saric (76ers).

Last year the U.S. won the game 157-154. The United States team is even more talented this year and will look to get another victory.

MVP Prediction: Devin Booker

Winning Team Prediction: United States

 

Skills Challenge

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The skills challenge is always an exciting event to get the fans ready for the 3-point competition. Last season a big man won: Karl Anthony-Towns. Unfortunately he won’t be defending his crown.

This year’s participants are Devin Booker (Suns), DeMarcus Cousins (Kings), Anthony Davis (Pelicans), Nikola Jokic (Nuggets), Gordon Hayward (Jazz), Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks), Isaiah Thomas (Celtics) and John Wall (Wizards).

These competitions are hard to predict, but what makes them fun is seeing lightning quick guards go up against some of the more skilled big men.

This event would have been more entertaining if Joel Embiid didn’t have to pull out, but the big men in this competition are still talented, just not talented enough to win it. This year will be the year of the guard.

Prediction Winner: Isaiah Thomas 

 

3-Point Contest

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo Credit:Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports)

In this competition, last year’s winner will be defending his crown. Klay Thompson should be the favorite again this year, but is in for some tough competition. The 2013 champion Kyrie Irving will also be on the court. The remaining participants include Eric Gordon (Rockets), Kyle Lowry (Raptors), Wes Matthews (Mavericks), C.J. McCollum (Blazers), Kemba Walker (Hornets) and Nick Young (Lakers).

The final three participants will most likely be Thompson, McCollum and Walker. Klay’s experience will really help him, but it won’t be enough to repeat.

Prediction Winner: C.J. McCollum

 

 

 

 

Slam Dunk Contest

The dunk contest is usually the most exciting and most popular event of the entire All-Star weekend. Nobody wants to be that one person who missed an epic dunk. There was a short period where fans and journalists believed the dunk contest was lacking in excitement. Thanks to Aaron Gordon and Zach Lavine’s showdown last year, the hype is real again.

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo Credit: www.draftexpress.com)

Lavine won’t be defending his crown, by runner-up Aaron Gordon is looking to capture the title against an interesting field of competitors. Also competing against Gordon are DeAndre Jordan (Clippers), Glenn Robinson III (Pacers) and Derrick Jones Jr. (Suns).

Derrick Jones Jr. is the most controversial participant this year. Jones is a rookie out of UNLV, who has played in the D-League this season and has little experience in the NBA. Some people believe he shouldn’t be allowed to participate.

When they see the show he puts on during the competition, they will soon forget that. Jones can jump out of the gym and is a real threat to win this competition.

Prediction Winner: Derrick Jones Jr.

 

66th NBA All-Star Game

The main event of the weekend is the All-Star Game. The Eastern Conference starters are DeMar DeRozan (Raptors), Kyrie Irving (Cavaliers), Jimmy Butler (Bulls), LeBron James (Cavaliers), and Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks).

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

The Western Conference starters are Steph Curry (Warriors), James Harden (Rockets), Kawhi Leonard (Spurs), Kevin Durant (Warriors), and Anthony Davis (Pelicans).

One of the biggest storylines of the game is that Russell Westbrook was not named a starter and how he will handle being on the same team as Durant and the rest of the Warriors after what transpired this summer. Their recent match-up was heated and lots of words were exchanged. It should make for an extremely intriguing and exciting contest.

The West has won the last two games and five of the last seven. The West is considered the tougher and deeper conference, which is why they are going to be the favorites in this game.

MVP Prediction: Russell Westbrook

Prediction Winner: West 176-170

 

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January NBA Playoff Predictions

As we head into the new year, here are the NBA playoff predictions for who will grab the 16 spots in the NBA playoffs this spring.

East

1. Cleveland Cavaliers: The Cavs will most likely rest their starters heading down the stretch. The Raptors will most likely make a push for the top spot, and could make it close. The easier schedule will let them grab the top seed in the East. Projected win total: 62

NBA Playoffs

DeMar DeRozan (Photo courtesy: chch.com)

2. Toronto Raptors: The superstar backcourt in Toronto, coupled with their depth, makes them almost a lock for one of the top two seeds. They’ll most likely push Cleveland for home field advantage towards the end of the year. The tough schedule down the stretch will have them fall into second. Projected win total: 58

3. Boston Celtics: Boston looks to be a prime candidate to make a big splash at the trade deadline. Either way, the streaking Celtics will grab the third seed and home court in the first round. As their young backcourt and wings continue to develop the team will only continue to improve. Projected win total: 52

4. Milwaukee Bucks: The rise of the Greek Freak and Jabari Parker will propel the Bucks passed the Hawks and Hornets and give them home court advantage in the first round. Their schedule gets easier as the season progresses as well. Look for them to grab a few key wins in the next few months. Projected win total: 44

5. Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks might be sellers at the deadline, but either way they look to rise up in the weak Eastern Conference. The Hawks backcourt may prove to be their downfall in the stretch run. If they can get some solid guard play at the deadline, they may rise even further up the conference. Projected win total: 42

6. New York Knicks: The Knicks will benefit from any easy schedule over the next few months. If Derrick Rose can continue to adapt to the offense and get Kristaps Porzingis more involved in the offense, this team can compete with anyone. Projected win total: 41

7. Charlotte Hornets: The Hornets will drop down the stretch as they face more Western Conference opponents. The pace of the Hornets is unsustainable and they will likely fall in the muddled East. There are so many average teams in the East that it could go any way, but the Hornets will drop down to 7th. Projected win total: 41

8. Washington Wizards: The Wizards will ride their trio of John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter to the last spot in the East. The Wizards bench may be one of the worst in the league right now. But the return of Ian Mahimi an the hopeful improvements of Trey Burke will help this team grab the last seed. The weak Eastern Conference will also help them sneak in with a sub-.500 record. Projected win total: 38

West

1. Golden State Warriors: The Golden State Warriors will remain the top seed in the West. They’ll face stiff competition from the two teams below them. But, ultimately, they are just too good. It’s hard to see the Warriors losing more than six or seven more games this year as they just don’t face enough tough competition. Projected win total: 70

NBA Playoffs

James Harden (Photo courtesy: nba.com)

2.  Houston Rockets: The Rockets have weathered through their tough schedule this far. In the second half, their schedule gets even easier. The Rockets will spend much of the next two months beating up on the weak Eastern Conference teams before holding on to grab the two seed. The Rockets will also pursue the 2nd seed more aggressively than the Spurs will. Projected win total: 62

3. San Antonio Spurs: Greg Popovich will most likely rest some of his starters down the stretch. The seeding doesn’t really matter for these yearly powerhouses. They are just too good to slip much past the 3rd seed though. Projected win total: 58

4. Utah Jazz: Look for the Jazz to make some small moves at the deadline. Home field advantage will be more important to the Jazz as well. Their depth will allow them to chase the four seed more aggressively. Projected win total: 52

5. LA Clippers: The Clippers look to be potential players at the trade deadline. But, their health will make it tough for them to keep up in the second half of the year. Hopefully when Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are back on the same floor they will be able to push back up the standings. Projected win total: 50

6. Oklahoma City Thunder: No doubt, Russell Westbrook’s push for averaging a triple-double will allow the Thunder to win enough game down the stretch. Also, after these six teams there is a severe drop-off in talent in the west. The combination of Westbrook, Steve Adams, Victor Oladipo and Damontis Sabonis will lead the Thunder to the 6th seed. Projected win total: 48

7. Memphis Grizzlies: Memphis has the firepower to compete with anyone, but injuries will make it tough for them to compete with the better teams in the East. Look for them to slump down the stretch as they try to get healthy for the playoffs. Projected win total: 44

8. Denver Nuggets: The 8th seed in the West is a mess. Currently, Denver, New Orleans, Sacramento, Portland and Los Angeles are fighting for it. Denver, ultimately, will grab the last seed in the West assuming one thing. They need to grab a piece at the trade deadline. Denver has to be the biggest player at the trade deadline. They must deal one of their big men to give this team the final push it needs to become a playoff team. If they do, they will get the 8th seed. Projected win total: 36

 

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NBA Game Preview: Lakers vs. Clippers

The Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers are set to deck halls this Christmas.

The 11-22 Lakers are playing the 22-9 Clippers for the second year in a row on this vaunted holiday event. Last year, the Clippers triumphed over the Lakers 94-84 in a relatively ho-hum game. This year, however, should present watchers with a more palatable contest.

Haus-Specialty: The team that’s being highlighted in today’s Matchup

Lakers vs. Clippers

Luke Walton (Photo courtesy: landoflakers.com)

In Luke Walton’s first year as head coach the Lakers have gotten better as far as on court product, are still a ways away from true playoff spot contention. However, they are a team that is beginning to find the joy in basketball again, something seemingly missing under Byron Scott.

The Lakers have had a tumultuous December, going 1-12, the only win coming against the Philadelphia Seventy-sixers who – let’s just say are not the class of the NBA. The young talent on the team is going to have to be given time to find their niche and what they can be good at as a squad. It should probably start with defense. This team is in the bottom two of the league in defensive efficiency. They allow 110 points per 100 possessions. That is going to get you beaten every night – as it has the last four of their games. The Lakers’ opponents the last four games have, on average, scored 115 points per game.

Even worse, this is a team bereft of rim protection averaging only 3.6 blocks per game. A number good for 26th in the league. Fortunately for the Lakers, the Clippers are surprisingly near the bottom of the league in points in the paint.

Nick Young (Photo courtesy: Dailymail)

Nick Young (Photo courtesy: Dailymail)

What the Lakers can hang their hat on is that Lou Williams and Nick Young seem to be having career years as far as the numbers are concerned. Lou Williams is shooting a career high percentage from beyond the arc per game on the 2nd highest attempts in his career. Nick Young is also having a career year from deep, shooting 41% on almost 7 attempts per game. The “Kids” also have some things to be proud of. Julius Randle is averaging a healthy 12 points, 3 assists and 8 rebounds per game. D’Angelo Russell is second among sophomore players is assists per game and top five in scoring. Jordan Clarkson also pitches in 1.3 steals per game, second on the team.

The Lakers have a lot of developing to do to get to the level of their Christmas Day opponent. The front office has made sound moves and seem to have found a formula has a few years of making questionable moves.

Haus-Work: Things the Lakers and Clippers must address if they want a chance to leave with a win.

Lakers

  • Get stops. Play in the open court. The Lakers are 8th in the league in transition points. The NBA game is about playing to your strengths – transition play is a strength of theirs.
  • Keep the Clippers out of the paint. This is a task easier said than done with the Lakers being 29th in the league in opponent points in the paint, allowing 48 points per game.
  • Start the game well. The Lakers are 22nd in the league in first quarter scoring. If they can match the Clippers’ almost 29 points in the first quarter that should bode well for team morale the rest of the way.

Clippers

  • Get to the free throw line. With Blake Griffin out, and Chris Paul a game time decision, the number one free throw attempting team in the league may be without two of its top three free throw shooters. Against Dallas, the Clippers shot a total of 11 free throws –four coming from Jordan
  • On the same note of Chris Paul’s health, Raymond Felton is likely to start. This means the team will have to adapt to. Felton isn’t the playmaker Paul is – obviously as he only had two assists last game. Sharing the ball and playing with a team concept will be ideal.
  • Respect the game. The Lakers may seem inept at the moment, but this league does not guarantee wins. Never play down to your opponent.

* All stats are current based on Stats.nba.com and basketball-reference.

Notable Injuries

Lakers

Tarik Black (ankle) Gametime Decision

Jose Calderon (Hamstring) Game Time Decision

Clippers

Blake Griffin (Knee) Out

Chris Paul (Hamstring) Game Time Decision

 

 

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2016-17 NBA Season Preview: Pacific Division

NBA Season Preview Series by Danny w/the J: Pacific

Division

Daniel Richardson

Jay Louden

The 2016 NBA season is rapidly approaching and with the wild offseason over, the time has arrived for assessing the status of teams heading into training camp and predicting what fans can expect out of their respective teams. Disclaimer: We in no shape or form claim to know everything about basketball, but we do confess our love for the game and will make statements for each team built on sound arguments. With that in mind, let us begin…

Los Angeles Lakers

(Photo courtesy: losangeles.cbslocal.com)

(Photo courtesy: losangeles.cbslocal.com)

  • Offseason: The offseason of the much-maligned Lakers was very promising. The team selected Brandon Ingram with the second overall pick.  Ivica Zubac was taken in the early second In a surprising move, Timofey Mozgov was given a multiyear contract this past offseason. Jose Calderon joined the team through a trade that sent the draft rights of Ater Majok along with two future second round picks. Tarik Black, Jordan Clarkson and Marcelo Huertas all signed multiyear deals to stay in Tinseltown. Luke Walton, former assistant coach of Pacific division rival Golden State Warriors, now mans the ship for the Lakers.
  • 2016-17 Outlook: D’angelo Russell looked very good in the preseason. He showed off his scoring prowess and passing as well. Ingram and Clarkson both impressed in their own rights. Mozgov has seemingly bounced back, athletically, after a down and disappointing season with the Cleveland Cavaliers last year due to injury. The team as a whole is going to go through some growing pains. If Walton wants to implement what he helped create in Golden State, then patience is going to be his best friend.

Jay: The Lakers will be fun to watch as far as development goes. New coach, young talent and Mozgov will be more appreciated than he was in Cleveland last season. No playoffs this year again for La-La. I like what I saw from Russell in the summer league and Ingram has the talent so those two will be the guys to watch grow this year in my opinion. Bottom fourth of the west is where I predict they finish.

Daniel: This squad will be an exciting one for sure. Watching Ingram develop through the year will be interesting. The backcourt of Russell and Clarkson will assuredly gain some chemistry and make for some entertaining and competitive basketball. There is star quality in Los Angeles, but the wins won’t come as easily as fans would like. Vegas has the over/under at 24.5 games. That seems like the safe route to take. 25-82.

Golden State Warriors

(Photo courtesy: foxsports.com)

(Photo courtesy: foxsports.com)

  • Offseason: The runner-ups in last season’s NBA Finals, won the off-season by a huge margin. The Warriors selected Damion Jones with the 30th overall pick, and acquired the draft rights to Patrick McCaw in exchange for cash. Andrew Bogut was traded to the Dallas Mavericks; Harrison Barnes also joined the Mavericks, albeit in free agency. The Dubs sured up the frontcourt by adding veterans David West and Zaza Pachulia. Leandro Barbosa, Festus Ezeli and Marreese Speights were all lost in free agency. The biggest deal was the free agent signing of Western Conference Final opponent Kevin Durant.
  • 2016-17 Outlook: adding arguably the preeminent scorer of the league to a team with historically great shooters, one of whom reigns as the first unanimous MVP, seems like overkill to some fans. In all fairness it shows the incredible guile and shrewdness of the Warrior front office. It should all but wash away the foulness of surrendering a 3-1 lead in the Finals. Watching them play is going to be a mandatory assignment for all. Even with media outlets searching for any thread that can unravel the very fabric of the team, it shouldn’t slow down the onslaught. While some bench depth was lost, there are still some pieces that can alleviate some of the pressure off of the stars. One player in particular is Patrick McCaw. There is a serious buzz around the rookie and fans equally love him after a highlight-filled preseason.

Jay: Golden State is the new “most-hated” team since LBJ’s Miami days. Anything less than a trip to the Finals will be considered a failure, as it should. They won’t shoot for 74 this season, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility they stomp through the league to achieve 67 wins with ease. I’ll be keeping my eyes on the role players like Kevon Looney and rookie Patrick McCaw to provide the spark that was lost by Speights, Barbosa and Ezeli. Can’t wait to watch this team.

Daniel: What can be said about this powerhouse of a team. Eclipsing last year’s wins total isn’t on the mind of any of the players. However, one can predict them easily sliding their way to a 66-16 season.

Phoenix Suns

(Photo courtesy: cbssports.com)

(Photo courtesy: cbssports.com)

  • Offseason: The Suns drafted Dragan Bender with the 4th overall pick, Tyler Ulis in the 2nd round and added rookie Marquese Chriss via a draft day trade. Leandro Barbosa returned to the team after six years away, the two previous were spent in Oakland. three point ace Jared Dudley also signed a deal with the team.
  • 2016-17 Outlook: This Suns team has gone through some flux the past few seasons. Three years ago they seemed destined for the upward trajectory. Injuries, trades and chemistry issues derailed all of it. However, with a healthy Eric Bledsoe, an up and coming star in Devin Booker and two promising rookies, the situation in the desert looks a lot less bleak. Not to mention a collection of talent on the bench. It’s up to second year head coach Earl Watson to continue to create and nurture an environment that’s conducive for winning basketball.

Jay: I like Ulis out of Kentucky; plays with energy and leadership. I also like Bender. They will have to play scrappy in the loaded West, but I have them as my sleeper pick to make the playoffs as the 8th seed. Bold prediction of the year.

Daniel: The West is still too stacked for this Phoenix team. They’ll be scrappy and will play fast. They played with the fastest pace in the league this preseason. With that being said that had a near-bottom of the league offensive rating. The teams in the West can score and score effectively, especially in this division. It should prove too much of an obstacle for them to make the playoffs this year. 36-46

Sacramento Kings

(Photo courtesy thebiglead.com)

(Photo courtesy thebiglead.com)

Offseason: The Kings kept it simple with their off-season business, players were added but no real splashes. They drafted Isaiah Cousins and Marquese Chriss. Chriss was traded to the Suns on draft day for the rights to Bogdan Bogdanovic, Skal Labissiere and Georgis Papagiannis. Arron Afflalo, Matt Barnes, Garrett Temple and Ty Lawson were notable free agent additions.

  • Outlook 2016-17: All in all, the Kings have their flaws as a team and organization. Rudy Gay wants out, with his name being associated with multiple trade rumors. Lawson is still dealing with his own troubles. The one bright spot seems to be DeMarcus Cousins, who’s coming into the season with a Gold Medal. Dave Joerger could possibly bring some stability to bench and connect with the team, specifically Cousins.

Jay: Kings need to trade Cousins before the deadline for a pot of gold in picks. No playoffs. They won’t be a .500 team. Prepare for some drama.

Daniel: No playoffs for the Kings. They have to get things fixed with the roster. It’s devoid of any real perimeter threats and instead of getting younger they seem to be getting older and less talented. Hopefully Joerger can inject some principles and standards for them to at least reach .500.

Los Angeles Clippers

(Photo courtesy: sbnation.com)

(Photo courtesy: sbnation.com)

  • Offseason: With a roster that’s ready to contend and challenge the Warriors in a potential Conference Finals matchup, there wasn’t much for them to do except create some depth. The Clippers took Brice Johnson with the 25th pick in the first round. Cheick Diallo was also drafted, but was traded on draft night for the rights to David Michineau and Diamond Stone. Alan Anderson, Raymond Felton, Marreese Speights and Brandon Bass all joined as free agents. Wesley Johnson, Jamal Crawford, Austin Rivers and Luc Mbah a Moute all re-signed this offseason.
  • 2016-17 Outlook: With a deeper bench than last year, there is no reason the Clippers don’t have the talent and teamwork to make it to the Western Conference Finals. “Can Doc Rivers and CP3 get the team there” will be the question on everyone’s news feed and minds.

Jay: Clippers need to make the Western Conference Finals. The window is closing and I say this is the year they do it. 56-26

Daniel: The Clippers HAVE to stay healthy this season. With the fall of the Oklahoma City Thunder, LAC has real shot at finally getting past the second round in the playoffs. They have the talent and the coaching to make a push at the Larry O’brien trophy. 55-27.

The Race for Kevin Durant

(Credit:Scott Visy)

(Credit:Scott Visy)

Free agency is right around the corner and we all know who the biggest fish is in this year’s offseason. It is Kevin Durant. The obvious question is, does he resign with Oklahoma City or does he decide to venture off into another city to chase that elusive title? If he decides to leave where will he go? He could pick any destination in the entire NBA that he wanted. Teams would do everything to make room to sign him. Could he go to Los Angeles to be apart of the Lakers glorified and rich history? Does he go to Los Angeles to start the creation of a legacy for the Clippers? Does he find he way to San Antonio to play under one of the greatest coaches ever? There are rumors he will head to the bay in Oakland to play for Golden State or to south beach to play for Miami as well.

He could go to New York to play in the greatest arena in the world, Madison Square Garden, and the city dying for a great basketball team. Another likely scenario could be the nation’s capital, which happens to be Kevin Durant’s hometown team. He has shot down all of the rumors about playing for the Wizards saying he has no desire to do so, but it is hard to believe that to be true.

There are pros and cons for each destination and it may be difficult to predict where Durant goes but one thing is for sure; summer ’16 is the race for Kevin Durant.

Durant can go to two teams in Los Angeles. Many players want to play in the city of angels because of the Hollywood lifestyle and the great year-round weather. The Lakers have a long history of legendary players and countless championships. Durant could really thrive in purple and gold. The fans would love him and he could be the next great Laker. One of the cons is the pressure he would have to try and live up to following Kobe. It would be a tall task for any player to take on. Kobe has left a shadow in Los Angeles almost as big as the one Jordan left in Chicago. Another con is the young, inexperienced roster. Going to play for the Lakers would be another rebuild that may take three to four years, and Durant is not at the point of his career where he wants to patiently wait and rebuild and this could be the biggest reason he snubs the Lakers this summer.

If Los Angeles is the city he really wants to be in, he can still play there with the Clippers if the Lakers aren’t enticing enough for him. It would allow him to play for Doc Rivers and possibly with Chris Paul. A major issue is that the Clippers will always be the little brothers to the Lakers, even if they win a title and for that to change they need to win 17 titles. They will never be able to get out from under the Laker’s shadow, Los Angeles is, and will always be a Laker town.

A popular rumor on where Kevin Durant might end up is in Golden State. Playing with Steph Curry would be intriguing for anyone, but the major appeal is that Golden State is on the verge of coming off back to back championships along with breaking a record for wins in a season.  Another reason Durant may want to play in the bay is that Steve Kerr has proven to be a phenomenal coach.  One issue though, is this move would not make sense for Golden State, because to pull this off they would have to do a sign and trade which would mess up the current roster that has been very successful and is still relatively young. Why would they want to mess up the chemistry of this highly successful team? I don’t think they would nor should they. I know in my introduction I said he could pick any destination, but this is the one exception.

Miami has said that one of their biggest goals this offseason is to get a sit down with Kevin Durant. Miami has a lot to offer as a city, with the night life and amazing beaches. Pat Riley is also a legendary basketball mind. He would also get to play in the eastern conference which may allow him an easier path to the finals. With all that said, it is unlikely Durant follows in LeBron’s footsteps and takes his talents to south beach.

Along with all these places Durant can go to he can also play for New York, San Antonio and his home, in the nation’s capitol, but there is only one place for him this summer. Kevin Durant will stay in Oklahoma City. Why would he go anywhere else? He has a team with an extremely talented roster that features big men, shooters and a top five player in the NBA in Russell Westbrook. It will be hard to find a team more suited for a title than the current one he is on. He needs to fight through adversity and continue on the mission he started with the Thunder. It also makes sense financially for him to sign a two year deal with an option in the second year. The reason it is smart for Durant to take this option is because he would be able to opt out in the second year of the deal and then sign a contract worth approximately 200 million dollars.

At the end of the day it will be hard for Durant to find a franchise that is capable of giving him better pieces than the Thunder already have to win a championship. Oklahoma City also allows him the opportunity to make the most money and for these reasons, Kevin Durant will stay in Oklahoma City this summer.

Can the Golden State Warriors Win a Championship Without Curry?

Credit: The Associated Press

Credit: The Associated Press

How far can the Warriors go without Curry? Can they beat Portland or Los Angeles? Can they win the Western Conference? Can they win a championship without Curry? There is a simple answer to that question that I will answer with another question. Could the Chicago Bulls win their six championships with Jordan being out or hurt? No. The question is able to be answered because Jordan retired and played baseball and the Bulls did not win a title until he came back.

The Warriors are a great team with or without Curry but great teams don’t always win a title. The Warriors did a great job finishing off the Houston Rockets but that was the worst team in the playoffs. They will get a few days of rest as the Trailblazers and Clippers have to finish their series.

Even though Curry got hurt, the Warriors caught a break when Chris Paul and Blake Griffin went down with injuries because this Warriors team would not beat a completely healthy Clippers team. They can however beat a full strength Trailblazers team. The Blazers are a good young team but they can not match the Warriors ball movement and depth in a seven game series even without Curry.

The Warriors will advance to the Western Conference Finals and meet either the San Antonio Spurs or Oklahoma City Thunder. The least likely opponent would be the Thunder. If they were to play the Thunder they would struggle to match up against Westbrook. He would be able to dominate both sides of the ball. I don’t think the Warriors are good enough without Curry to advance past the Thunder.

The same goes for the possible matchup against the Spurs. The Warriors are good but not good enough. The Spurs are dominant on the defensive side and without Curry the Warriors would struggle to create open looks against the Spurs. The Spurs are just as good offensively as they are defensively. They won 67 games for a reason and the Warriors without Curry would be no match for the Spurs.

Without Curry the Warriors are still a competitive playoff team but not a title contender. He is going to win the MVP for the second straight year and was the scoring champion. He means so much to the Warriors and without him they cannot defend their title. If Curry is unable to return and fight with his team there will be a new NBA champion.

Game 1 Recaps

John Amis/Associated Press

John Amis/Associated Press

Pacers @ Raptors- The Toronto Raptors continue to struggle in the postseason. The pressure for the Raptors will be at an all-time high because game two is a must win. There is a lot to look forward to for the Raptors. Even though they dropped game one they out rebounded the Pacers 52-38. Kyle Lowry and Demar DeRozan had bad games by their standards. The Raptors also shot an abysmal 38 percent from the field and 21 percent from the three point line. Toronto also committed 19 turnovers. It took all these things going wrong, and a phenomenal effort by Paul George for the Pacers to win this game. Look for the Raptors to come out strong in game two and even the series up at 1-1. It will be a big game for Kyle Lowry and Demar DeRozan and they can absolutely not afford to go down 0-2 heading to Indiana.

Rockets @ Warriors- Did anyone expect anything different from the team that broke the single season win record and is trying to defend their crown? The Warriors dominated the game from start to finish and will do so for the remainder of the series. Curry’s ankle injury is a non issue because the Warriors are good enough to beat the Rockets without Curry if need be. The Warriors do not get the credit they deserve on the defensive end but that is where they are winning games. Their ability to force the Rockets into isolation basketball is what led to the majority of their success. If you were looking for the Rockets to upset the Warriors I have news for you- wake up. This series will be over in four, maybe five games, with or without the MVP.

Celtics @ Hawks- This was arguably the best game on Saturday in the NBA. It looks like it is going to be a long, tough series. The Hawks won by one point and the majority of the statistics would show that close of a game. The two teams were virtually identical in rebounds, offensive rebounds, turnovers and fast break points. The Hawks were able to do most of their damage in the paint and if you’re looking for a reason on why this game will prove the Hawks to be the eventual winners of the series all you can look at the Hawks 18.5 percent shooting from behind the three point line. They will shoot better in most games and that might be all that is needed to win these games. One big blow to the Celtics is the loss of Avery Bradley due to injury. He is expected to miss the remainder of the series due to his hamstring injury. That is a huge loss for the Celtics. Look for the Hawks to shoot better in game two and win another close game before heading to Boston.

Mavericks @ Thunder- The Thunder had to make a statement that said we don’t care who you are but we will run through you to get to the Finals. They did just that by beating the Mavericks 108-70. It was the most dominant playoff game for Durant and Westbrook and the lowest point total in Dallas Maverick playoff history. The Thunder dominated almost every aspect of the game. Durant mentioned earlier in the week that he was tired of feeling like the forgotten superstar in the NBA. It seems like he is out to prove that he is still a dominant force. The Mavericks are simply out matched in this series and it will be tough for them to win more than one game, if that. The Thunder will take a commanding 2-0 lead before heading to Dallas.

Pistons @ Cavaliers- The Pistons squandered away an opportunity to steal home court advantage. The game was tied 88-88 with 6:29 left and that is when the the Cavs began to pull away. The Pistons did a great job in keeping their turnovers to only 10 but they need to force more turnovers as they only forced four. The Pistons will not make this series easy on the Cavs but they are not good enough to beat them in a seven game series . Game two will be another close game and look for the Pistons to steal game two.

Hornets @ Heat-  Everything went right for the Heat on Sunday. They played a perfect game of basketball in route to a complete blowout of the Hornets. The Heat shot 57.6 percent from the field and an amazing 50 percent from three. They also out rebounded the Hornets 42-28. The Hornets seemed completely overwhelmed and outmatched in this game and it was mostly just playoff game jitters. The Hornets are young and inexperienced. This series should become tighter and game one should be an anomaly. With that said I still think the Heat win game two but in a much tighter game.

Grizzlies @ Spurs- The theme of the first round so far seems to be epic blowouts. This one was no different, and this one is expected. The Grizzlies have too many injuries and not enough talent. The Spurs have been great all year and this was no different. The Spurs used a total team effort offensively and defensively to dismantle the Grizzlies. This series will be a short one and the Spurs will roll again in game two.

Trailblazers @ Clippers- The Trailblazers are fighting an uphill battle. The Clippers on paper are a much better team and it showed in game one. Chris Paul and Black Griffin had outstanding games to lead the Clippers to an easy victory. The series won’t get close until it shifts to Portland because the Blazers are much better at home. Look for the Clippers to push this series to 2-0 but a much closer series when back in Portland.

The Second Season

Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) fouls Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) during the first half in Game 3 of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals Saturday, May 23, 2015, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) fouls Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) during the first half in Game 3 of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals Saturday, May 23, 2015, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Has there ever been a better final day of the the regular season in NBA history? The Warriors broke the Chicago Bulls’ record of 72 wins in a season. The Warriors beat the Grizzlies by a score of 125-104 to finish the season 73-9. Steph Curry finished with 402 made three pointers this season which is also an NBA record. He also scored 46 points to make sure the Warriors broke the win record. Impressive isn’t even enough to describe what the Warriors were able to do. It is truly an amazing feature but it doesn’t even hold a candle to what happened in Los Angeles for Kobe’s final game.

Hollywood couldn’t write a script as great as Kobe wrote for his final performance in Staples Center. The show that Kobe put on reminded us of Kobe in his prime while chasing championships. It was magical. It was mesmerizing. He poured his heart and his soul into his final game in the same way he did for his entire career. It was poetic.

60 points in his final game; it is the most ever for a player in their final game. It was the most points in the NBA scored the entire season. It was the 25th 50 point game of his career. He never ran. Not when times got hard instead he fought through. When the injuries tried to stop him he fought back to make sure he went out on his own terms. There is only one quote to sum up up Kobe and his performance, “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.”

It was a perfect way to end the regular season and get us all ready for the NBA’s second season. Now that the regular season is over let’s take a look at all the first round playoff matches and who will win.

Eastern Conference

(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (8) Detroit Pistons: Do not sleep on the Pistons. They are a well coached team with lots of talent. Andre Drummond will get his first action in the playoffs and Reggie Jackson has some experience with the Thunder. LeBron James does not want to be one of the few players to lose to an eight seed but it is possible. The Pistons won three of the four matchups in the regular season which will give them the confidence in the playoffs to pull a possible upset. Although it is possible, I don’t see the Pistons beating the Cavaliers in a seven game series.

Cleveland wins series 4-2

(2) Toronto Raptors vs (7) Indiana Pacers: The Raptors are in the perfect position heading into the playoffs. They are a quiet two seed who nobody is talking about or picking to do much in the playoffs. They had 56 wins which is a franchise record. The Pacers are a surprise team in the playoffs this year. Paul George is a star and Myles Turner is an up and coming star as well but the Pacers are not equipped to make a run this year. The Raptors had much success against the Pacers this year and this series will be no different.

Toronto wins series 4-1

(3) Miami Heat vs (6) Charolette Hornets: The Heat are one of the teams perceived to have the capability to dethrone the Cavaliers as the Eastern Conference Champions. They have the talent to do so but the Hornets will be no easy out. The teams split in the regular season and I believe this series has a chance to be one of the most competitive first round series. I see this series going seven games but Dwayne Wade will lead the Heat to a series win.

Miami wins series 4-3

(4) Atlanta Hawks vs (5) Boston Celtics: The young Celtics are scrappy and play with a certain toughness that leads to success. Atlanta has a lot of playoff experience but they usually don’t go far into the playoffs. This Hawks are one of the best passing teams in the league as they were second in the NBA in team assists with an average of 25.6 per game. The Celtics are one of the best teams at forcing turnovers so it will be a clash of styles and strengths. This will be a highly competitive series and the regular season was won by the Hawks. This time will be different.

Boston wins series 4-2

Western Conference

(1) Golden State Warriors vs (8) Houston Rockets: The Golden State Warriors just broke the record for most wins in a season. The need 16 wins to go back to back. This is the chance to defend their title which is always harder than getting the first championship. They will play against James Harden which will be no easy task but the Warriors play a true team game. James Harden is good enough to possibly steal a game and it will be in Houston if it happens but the Warriors are determined to win. They will.

Golden State wins series 4-1

(2) San Antonio Spurs vs (7) Memphis Grizzlies: The Grizzlies remarkably made the playoffs through an up and down season filled with injuries. Memphis would barely have a chance to beat the Spurs with Mike Conley Jr. playing but with him out the chances are even more slim. The Spurs are a well oiled machine that has no chance of breaking down against the Grizzlies.

San Antonio wins series 4-0

(3) Oklahoma City Thunder vs (6) Dallas Mavericks: The Thunder are the third best team in the West and an afterthought to contend for the title. The stigma is that its going to be Spurs vs Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. The Thunder have to prove to themselves they can win the West and it starts with beating the Mavericks. The Thunder swept the Mavericks in the regular season and I don’t see the Mavericks upsetting the Thunder in this series.

Oklahoma City wins series 4-1

(4) Los Angeles Clippers vs (5) Portland Trailblazers: The Clippers are a great team with great talent but talent can only take you so far. The Trailblazers surprised the entire league with how good they have been. Damian Lillard is probably the most underrated player in the NBA and the fact that the Trailblazers made the playoffs should attest to that. The Clippers are going to be the clear favorite in this series but I won’t count out the Trailblazers completely. We have seen in the past that Lillard can hit game winners in the post season. The Rockets have experienced this. The Clippers should pull this series out but I am not totally confident in their ability to beat Portland in a seven game series.

Los Angeles wins series 4-3

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