The Predictions: All 4 of these series are decently close and difficult to predict. Excuse my errors in the event that I predict incorrectly.
The Eastern Conference:
Atlanta Hawks (1) vs. Washington Wizards (5)
We saw the Wizards absolutely and unexpectedly plough through the Raptors. Whether it was the Wizards playing well or the Raptors just playing poorly the Wizards will still propose a task for the 60 win Hawks. The only standout weakness that the Hawks have is their rebounding ability. Unfortunately for Atlanta, the Wizards thrived off of rebounding in the first round. Gortat and Nene are going to cause problems for Horford and Millsap. Also, the point guard matchup is an intriguing one. Seeing Wall versus Teague is a huge factor in this series. Even though the Nets took the Hawks to six games, the Hawks manhandled them in the final contest. Also, another big factor in this series is the bench play. If guys likes Otto Porter and Ramon Sessions are hitting their shots, then Washington could find themselves heading to the conference finals. This is shaping up to be a good series, which the Hawks will most likely grind though to the very end.
Prediction: Atlanta in 7
Cleveland Cavaliers (2) vs. Chicago Bulls (3)
Losing Kevin Love due to injury for the rest of the playoffs and J.R Smith for their first two home games against the Bulls, due to suspension, could be the killer for the Cavs title run. Because these two players are gone for the Cavs, David Blatt might have to move Iman Shumpert and Tristan Thompson into his starting lineup. Still a decent starting line, it’s the bench that is going to be killed when this happens. Even assessing the possibility of moving LeBron to the power forward position still requires giving more minutes to guys like Mike Miller. Based on the Bulls final game against the Bucks they must be feeling good. If Derrick Rose plays like he did in the first few games of the first round, then the Bulls are going to be in good shape. However, there are two types of Bulls team we could see, and that’s their weakness, inconsistency. The x-factor is how well Jimmy Butler will be able to defend LeBron. This is going to be an exciting series.
Prediction: Chicago in 7
The Western Conference:
Golden State Warriors (1) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (5)
Two very different styles of play clash in this series. A perimeter-oriented team will go up against points in the paint juggernaut. The big question heading into this series is the health of Mike Conley. Whether Conley returns by game 3 at home or in the opener, the Grizzlies are clear underdogs. The key matchup to watch is Draymond Green and Zach Randolph. Randolph loves to be physical down low. Green will face a task he is not used to, with Randolph’s physicality. In order for the Grizzlies to be successful, Courtney Lee is going to have to come out hitting shots consistently while Gasol is going to score at will on Bogut. While the Warriors have superior guard play, and the upfront matchup is close, the Grizzlies may really only have the advantage at the small forward position, with Jeff Green and Vince Carter going up against Barnes and Iguodala. The way I see it, the Grizzlies will not be able to create nearly enough offense to keep up with this Warriors team even with Conley in the lineup. Their defense can keep them in a few extra games.
Prediction: Golden State in 6
Houston Rockets (2) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (3)
There are two factors working against the Clippers, fatigue and the health of Chris Paul. The Clippers are going to be tired. We just saw them battle the Spurs for 7 hard games. And they only receive 48 hours of rest between game 7 and game 1 against the Rockets. Houston just dealt with the Mavs in only 5. If Chris Paul continues to have hamstring issues throughout the series then I would call the Rockets to advance. However, if he is healthy or battles through it as he did in game 7 against the Spurs, the Clippers have the clear point guard advantage as the Rockets have been starting Jason Terry at this position. Even if Paul is healthy the Rockets will most likely not have Terry cover him on the defensive end. If the Clippers can keep Harden off the foul line and DeAndre Jordan can stop the combination of Josh Smith and Dwight Howard down low, then the Clippers should look like the ones to advance. So many questions with this series, as it’s looking like it going to go the distance.
Prediction: Los Angeles in 7