Friday, 4/13 Quick Hitters: Predicting the NBA Playoffs, Quick UofA Wisdom, and more!

Usually I’m not a huge NBA Playoffs fan until the later rounds…as it’s usually a case of the talent-rich crushing the talent less-rich in the early rounds. I think we might see some deviations of that this postseason. Here are my predictions…and yes, spoiler-alert, I’m taking a surprise team to end up in the Finals…

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1st Round

Eastern Conference

(1) Toronto over (8) Washington in 6 games: Wizards are talented but haven’t been able to replicate any part of last year’s success.

(4) Cleveland over (5) Indiana in 5 games: LeBron in the playoffs is an entirely different animal. The Pacers will have no answer for The King whatsoever.

(7) Milwaukee over (2) Boston in 6 games: Like the Wizards, the Bucks are a talented team that just hasn’t put things together as expected this season. But the Celtics are without Kyrie Irving (and Gordon Hayward) and will have to ugly up the games to win them. Milwaukee plays with some tempo and takes the series in six.

(3) Philadelphia over (6) Miami in 5 games: The Sixers have won 16 in a row and still are missing their best player, Joel Embiid. When he comes back, whether in this series or the next, watch out!

Western Conference

(1) Houston over (8) Minnesota in 4 games: The T-Wolves survived an overtime thriller against Denver to qualify for the playoffs on Wednesday night. Unfortunately they’re just not qualified to hang with the uber-talented Rockets in this round.

(4) Oklahoma City over (5) Utah in 7 games: This should be a really fun series and while I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Jazz pull the upset, I hate betting against clearly the most-talented player in the series, Russell Westbrook.

(2) Golden State over (7) San Antonio in 5 games: If Kawhi Leonard were playing for SA, I could see this being closer than expected. Even though the Warriors haven’t played well without Stephen Curry, the Spurs shouldn’t pose much resistance this time around.

(3) Portland over (6) New Orleans in 6 games: If DeMarcus Cousins had been healthy, I would most certainly have picked NO to take this one. While Anthony Davis is phenomenal, I don’t see how the Pelicans will be able to slow down the Blazers’ awesome backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

2nd Round

(4) Cleveland over (1) Toronto in 7 games: I expect this to be an incredible series but once again, bet against LeBron in the playoffs at your own risk. Does Toronto have the firepower to win 4 of 7? I’ll hesitatingly say no.

(3) Philadelphia over (6) Milwaukee in 5 games: The Sixers get home court advantage by virtue of being the higher seed and dismantle the Bucks rather quickly to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.

(1) Houston over (4) Oklahoma City in 6 games: This series would be must-see TV. CP3 vs. Westbrook. Harden vs. Paul George. Carmelo Anthony vs…his reputation as a playoff disappointment? OKC will win a pair of games…just not sure they can win more than one in Houston which will be necessary to win this series.

(2) Golden State over (3) Portland in 5 games: By this time Steph Curry should be healthy and the Blazers won’t be able to keep up with the Warriors’ offensive barrage.

Conference Finals

(3) Philadelphia over (4) Cleveland in 7 games: This might be a crazy pick but hear me out first before doubting it. The Sixers are by far the hottest team in the league of late, they’ll have home court advantage, and outside of LeBron and maybe Kevin Love, where do the Cavs have a talent advantage over Philly? Definitely not depth-wise. In an upset that really isn’t, #TheProcess makes the NBA Finals two years ahead of schedule.

(1) Houston over (2) Golden State in 6 games: Unless the light suddenly turns on for Steve Kerr’s team, I expect the Rockets to simply outscore the Warriors in what should be colossal shootouts throughout this series. Mike D’Antoni is due…for all his years being so close to making a finals with the Suns, here’s his chance once again.

NBA Finals

(1) Houston over (3) Philadelphia in 5 games: Trust me, Sixers fans would be fairly ok with this outcome considering:
a. Their team made it this far – significantly exceeding expectations.
b. The Eagles and Villanova Wildcats have already won championships in 2018.
c. The Rockets have easily the two best players in the series.

So there you have it – James Harden will win the NBA MVP Award and an NBA championship in the same season. Let’s see how well I do with these…

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-For those of you NHL fans, I’m going with the chalk: NASHVILLE over TAMPA BAY. The Predators, to me, are like the Kansas City Royals of several years ago in baseball. Made it to the Finals out of nowhere one year, lost in Game 7 to two-time recent champs, the Giants, then made it back the next year and cleaned up on the Mets. As dumb as it sounds, the Preds are due.

-It’s April…and I’m already starving for college football. Therefore I’ll be down in Tucson this Saturday to see Arizona’s first Spring Game under new coach Kevin Sumlin. I’m expecting BIG things in 2018: new head coach with prior success at big schools, a QB who’s among the Heisman Trophy favorites, and an all-around newfound enthusiasm around the program. September 1st vs. BYU can’t get here fast enough!

-Any Sun Devil want to bet me that ASU has more wins this Fall than UofA? Because I think anything less than 9-3 for the Wildcats would be a disappointment…

Devonaire Doutrive‘s commitment to the UofA basketball team earlier this week makes me think that all is not lost for the Wildcats in 2018-19. But that all depends on getting a decent PG for next season. 5* Brandon Williams, a former UA commit is the goal…as it appears former UConn commit and recent UA target James Akinjo won’t be visiting the school. One thing to point out though as I did on this week’s Wildcat Country podcast with Jeff Dean: next year’s Arizona team will be FUN to root for…as an underdog. They will be a fairly likable, hard-trying squad…and while likely not top-25 caliber, if they can make it to the second round of the tournament, I’d call the season a success.

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-By the way, Jeff also mentioned (and he’s fairly connected to the program being the PA announcer at McKale Center) that the Wildcats should be right around 5th or 6th in the Pac-12 Conference standings next season. I’m very much hoping they’re top-4 but I’m afraid he’ll be correct.

-Last season I had a mini-meltdown before the All-Star break on the blog about the Cubs’ chances of making the playoffs. They went all the way to the NLCS. Please, someone remind me not to panic until August. Thanks…

-Finally, this week’s picks of who will make the finals in what I consider the six most popular sports (new teams from last month in CAPS):

NBA: HOUSTON vs. PHILADELPHIA
NHL: TAMPA BAY vs. Nashville
MLB: Houston vs. Chicago Cubs
NFL (2019): Pittsburgh vs. LA RAMS
College Football (2019): Alabama vs. Michigan
College Basketball (2019): DUKE vs. GONZAGA

To read previous entries of my blog, click here. Also make sure to follow me on Twitter @eacohen83.

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