This year’s edition of the NBA playoffs is well underway and there are now only eight teams remaining as they compete to see who will win the championship. Below is a breakdown of each of the second round matchups, as well as predictions for which teams have the best chance of reaching the Finals.
Chicago Bulls vs. Cleveland Cavaliers — Series Tied 2-2
In what has been by far the most entertaining series of the postseason, these two midwestern foes are going toe-to-toe for a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals. Derrick Rose hit a buzzer-beating three for a victory in game two, but then LeBron James followed up with a buzzer-beater of his own to tie the series up at two games a piece. Two of the final three matchups will be in Cleveland, so if the Bulls want to pull off the upset, they’ll have to win on the road at least once.
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Houston Rockets — Series Tied 3-1
Doc Rivers’ squad has surprised James Harden and the Rockets by winning twice on the road to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. Perhaps even more impressive than the victories themselves are the fact that they’ve both come without the services of star point-guard Chris Paul. He has been nursing a hamstring injury and has seen very little playing time in the series. Los Angeles will now have three chances to win one game and move on to the Western Conference Finals.
Washington Wizards vs. Atlanta Hawks — Series Tied 2-2
This series has been back-and-forth since game one; the Wizards were victorious in their first contest, but then the Hawks came back to tie the series. Then Washington pulled a rabbit out of their hats after surrendering a 17-0 run to Atlanta by winning the game at the buzzer. But the Hawks stormed back once again, winning in DC to even up the series. John Wall, the Wizards’ star point-guard, suffered several breaks in his non-shooting hand, and has been unable to play since game two. Look for him to try and return to the court before the series is over, because otherwise Washington doesn’t have a chance.
Golden State Warriors vs. Memphis Grizzlies — Series Tied 2-2
In a series that has surprised many so far, the Grizzlies have managed to win on the road and tie it at two games a piece against the heavy-favorite Warriors. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, Golden State’s star duo, have been somewhat-neutralized by Memphis’s strong backcourt. They were shooting at amazing rates from three-point range during the regular season, but have slowed down significantly once the playoffs began. Two of the final three matchups will be in Oakland, where the Warriors have one of the best homecourt advantages in the entire NBA.
NBA Finals Prediction: Cavaliers over Warriors in Seven Games
These are clearly the two best teams in the NBA, and even though both are locked in tight battles with the Bulls and Grizzlies right now, I anticipate both to pull out series victories and cruise through the Conference Finals to make it to the NBA Finals. I give Cleveland the slight edge over the Warriors, however, because their tandem of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving will out-duel Steph Curry and Klay Thompson in seven games.