NBA: 8 playoff series, 8 predictions — let the debate begin

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 15 2017 05:20 PM | Updated as of Apr 15 2017 06:13 PM

The NBA playoffs begin in the wee hours of the morning Sunday (Manila time) and, to prepare for the battles ahead, ABS-CBN News scoured the net and compiled expert takes — both sensible and scorching hot — so you, our basketball-obsessed readers, won’t have to.

There’s little argument about the outcome of the more predictable series (Warriors, Spurs, Cavaliers), although how many games those will last is up for debate. And obviously some series feature two teams that boast an equal chance of winning.

Whether you agree with the experts or not, one thing is sure — these playoffs promise some drama and boatloads of fun.

CELTICS VS. BULLS

Jeremy Woo, SI.com (Celtics in 5)

Boston scoots to a gentleman’s sweep with strong play from Isaiah Thomas and slows Jimmy Butler effectively enough to remind us all that the Bulls have little else going for them . . . But Chicago’s wheels have been slowly falling off all year, and Boston punches its ticket to the semis.

Tom Ziller, SB Nation (Celtics in 7)

The Celtics are better, deeper, and more well-coached than the Bulls. But Chicago is coming in hot and Boston’s defense has remained underwhelming despite the excellent win-loss record. The Celtics will pull it out, but it’ll take seven games to do it.

NBA: USA Today/Reuters

CAVALIERS VS. PACERS

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com (Cavaliers in 4)

They lack the depth and the defensive counters to LeBron James and the array of shooters to whom he’ll kick the ball. Cleveland needs time to get back its edge, and the best way to do that is to carve out practice days before the conference semifinals. This one’s quick.

Chris Broussard, Fox Sports (Cavaliers in 6)

I think Paul George will go at LeBron. LeBron will outplay him, but I think he'll play well, and I think he'll get them two games, as Cleveland kind of gets back its swag and who it really is.

NBA: USA Today/Reuters

RAPTORS VS. BUCKS

Tom Ziller (Raptors in 4)

I don’t understand the high expectations of competitiveness for Raptors vs. Bucks. Toronto has been as good as the Spurs and Clippers. The Raptors don’t have the best player in this series, but they have the next three best. 

Benjamin Hoffman, New York Times (Bucks in 6)

While Toronto has rebuilt its defense, Kyle Lowry is probably not ready, which could lead to a coming-out party of sorts for Giannis Antetokounmpo and his team. 

NBA: USA Today/Reuters

WIZARDS VS. HAWKS

AJ Neuharth-Keusch, USA Today (Wizards in 6)

This team — led by a healthy John Wall and Bradley Beal, who are accompanied by a much-improved supporting cast of Otto FPorter, Markieff Morris, Bojan Bogdanovic, et al. — has Eastern Conference finals potential. This will be a closely-fought series, but the Wizards have no plans to let the Hawks end their season for the second time in three years. 

Darren Hartwell, New England Sports Network (Hawks in 7)

Atlanta is a more seasoned bunch that's playing in its fourth consecutive postseason under coach Mike Budenholzer, and Dwight Howard has the ability to neutralize John Wall at the rim. The Hawks go into Washington and steal this series in seven. 

NBA: USA Today/Reuters

WARRIORS VS. BLAZERS

Jeff Zillgitt, USA Today (Warriors in 4)

Portland has the ability to make the games close – as it did in last season’s playoffs – but not the ability to make the series long. 

Juliet Litman, The Ringer (Warriors in 6)

Damian Lillard has had so many bust games against Steph Curry and Co. that he is due for a breakout. Jusuf Nurkic is hurt, but if he’s back by Game 3 or 4, he could be a problem for the Dubs . . . The Warriors are Finals-bound, but the first round won’t be easy. WARRIORS IN 6: 

NBA: USA Today/Reuters

SPURS VS. GRIZZLIES

Tim Bontemps, The Washington Post (Spurs in 5)

Spurs win if they stick to what they do, and Tony Parker and Pau Gasol aren’t taken advantage of defensively by the Grizzlies. With Tony Allen less than 100% -- or perhaps not available -- the Grizzlies’ slim chances drop to basically non. 

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com (Spurs in 6)

The Grizzlies won the first two meetings this season in Memphis because they were able to keep the pace under control and get Randolph pounding away with his brute strength on the inside. But in the end, you have to go with the team that has the best all-around player and that’s Leonard. 

NBA: USA Today/Reuters

ROCKETS VS. THUNDER

Darren Hartwell (Rockets in 7)

Outside of the two MVP front-runners, though, the Rockets have a better supporting cast, and James Harden is a (slightly) better facilitator who can help Houston win without scoring all of its points. 

Benjamin Hoffman (Rockets in 4)

With the stars canceling each other out, this series comes down to teammates and coaching, and that gives a distinct advantage to the Rockets, a squad reworked into something beautiful by coach Mike D'Antoni. If Houston's shooters go cold, this could be a series, but that is a rather huge if.

NBA: USA Today/Reuters

CLIPPERS VS. JAZZ

Josh Martin, Bleacher Report (Clippers in 5)

It's difficult enough to figure what the Clippers and Jazz will look like in the playoffs, let alone how they might match up. The Clippers, though, may be too talented and too experienced as a group for a Jazz squad that's new to the postseason. 

Jake Fischer, SI.com (Jazz in 6)

A 7-game series can ultimately prove to be a battle of attrition and the Jazz are objectively better suited to win a marathon than their opponent. Utah can mix and match a variance of playing styles . . . Utah just comes in waves. If the Jazz can crescendo at the right time, the Clippers don't have the bodies to counter. 

NBA: USA Today/Reuters