Warriors (1) vs Trailblazers (8)

Fun fact: What is the number of times in NBA history that an eighth seed has defeated a one seed? Five times.

Blazers

The Trailblazers finished the regular season 41-41 to take away the 8th seed from the Denver Nuggets. The Western Conference is just super tough, unless of course if you have Westbrook or Harden, Kawhi Leonard or, have three All-Star players on your team.

The Mid-Major Brothers. (C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard)

In order for Portland to have a chance of winning this series these two have to play exceptionally well each game for Portland. Lillard is having a great year scoring the ball averaging 27-points per game, 5.0 assists per game, while shooting 37-percent from the three-point line. McCollum is also having a great year averaging 23-points per game, while shooting 42-percent from three. In wins this season McCollum is averaging 24.0-points per game, meanwhile  in losses he is averaging 22-points per game. Lillard averages 28.8-points per game in wins and 25.1-points per game in losses. Keeping these numbers in mind and seeing if they are achieved in this series can help determine if the dynamic duo in Portland can carry the Blazers all series long.

Don’t Fall in Love with the Three Ball

The three-point line will be a favorable shot in this series. In order for Portland to have a chance in this series they cannot fall in love with the three ball. As a team the Blazers shoot 37-percent from behind the three-point line this season.:

Portland’s top three-point shooters this season:

  • Allen Crabbe 44-percent
  • Damian Lillard 37-percent
  • CJ McCollum 42-percent
  • Meyers Leonard 34-percent

Lillard and McCollum have to set the tone early by attacking the basket to open up those three points shots for themselves and teammates. Attacking the basket will also put pressure on the Warriors big men in hopes of causing foul trouble early as the Warriors currently rotate JaVale McGee and Zaza Pachulia in the center spot. One thing we will see in this series is how good of a coach is Terry Stotts. The Blazers have versatile players that can play the wing. Allen Crabbe (6’6) Maurice Harkless (6’9) Evan Turner 6’7) and Al-Farouq Aminu (6’9) all of these can guard and play multiple positions.

Evan Turner & Bench

The Mid-Major Bros have and will carry the Blazers but they will need help. Turner is the guy. Turner has the ability to handle the ball when Lillard needs a break, and score and make plays for others as well; but his coming off an injured hand so we will see how effective he can be. Guys like Crabbe, and Aminu need to be aggressive and not be too passive and rely on McCollum and Lillard all the time, but instead try to get their own and stay within the game plan.

Will Jusuf Nurkic Play?

Nurkic is your typical European big. Fundamentally sound, good passer, can score, soft touch and plays solid interior defense for a big man. After coming over from the Nuggets Nurkic is putting up some solid numbers averaging 15-points per game, 10 rebounds per game and 2 blocks per game. He is currently sidelined with a fractured leg but based on reports it is a fracture he could possible play through while taking a risk. If he does play, Nurkic will struggle on the defense when Warriors run pick-n-roll action as he may not be as quick to run down the athleticism of a Kevin Durant or Stephen Curry. Nurkic’s ability to score down low and in pick-n-roll satiation will be an added lift for the Blazers on the offensive side.

Warriors

The Warriors couldn’t have asked for anything more this off-season. Luring Kevin Durant away from Oklahoma City after blowing a 3-1 in last year’s Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers, is certainly the remedy to ensuring a return to the Finals for a potential third straight season. While the Warriors did sign Durant, he missed a total of 19-games in the finishing stretch of the season. That did not stop the Warriors who won 14-straight games without KD and finish as the top seed in the Western Conference with a record of 67-16. Not quite another recording breaking season for the best regular season record but a content Warriors team looking for revenge.

Durant is putting up 25-points per game this season and the Warriors will need to get him going early. Some of the rust of not playing for a month could factor in the first few games. Durant will be the most rested of the entire team so look for Steve Kerr to allow KD to play heavy minutes as he is not on any minute restriction.

In last year’s finals Curry was not guarding Kyrie Irving for the most part as the Warriors would have him either guard someone else to hide his defense or lack there-off. In this series it will be much tougher as it’s a “pick your poison” or Lillard vs McCollum. If Lillard or McCollum gets hot look for Klay Thompson to take on slowing down the hot hand. With the Warriors having a big four, there is still a supporting cast needed. Ian Clark, JaVale McGee, David West, Andre Iguodala will need to reinforce the tone that the starting unit of the Warriors set in each game. The Warriors swept the season series against the Blazers this year. The average margin of victory was 17.5 while the Warriors maintained scoring 125-points per game in the four games. The Warriors are the better team with much more firepower.

Series Prediction: Warriors in 6 games

Billy Aristide
Baseline Times NBA Staff Writer

 

Wizards (4) vs Hawks (5)

The Washington Wizards return to the postseason after an underachieving season last year. With a 49-33 record this season John Wall is arguably appearing as the best all-around point guard behind Russell Westbrook. 23.1-points per game, 10.7 assist per game and shooting 45-percent from the field are all the best Wall has played in his career. The 2.1 steals per game he averages for this season sets him second in the league overall behind Draymond Green (2.03-steals per game).

Beal the Wall

An injury plagued backcourt of Wall and Bradley Beal last season never could get them in sync for this Wizards teams. Beal also is having his best year scoring as he’s averaging 23.1-points per game and shooting 48-percent from the field; 40-percent from the three-point line. Between this backcourt duo that’s an average of 46 points combined from Wall and Beal. Again, we could lay the scapegoat of injuries on why these two are blooming late but this is the backcourt that was imagined a year ago.

Dwight Down low

On the opposing side the Atlanta Hawks will certainly have their work cut out on the defensive end. Dennis Schroder and Thabo Sefolosha will need to at their best contain the Beal/Wall combination. At 6-1 Schroder will be undersized coming into this match-up against a 6-4 Wall. The advantage of having a Dwight Howard under the rim however, is what could make the difference in the world defensively for the Hawks. While he isn’t prime Dwight Howard, 13.5-points per game, 12.7-rebounds per game and 1.2-blocks per game is still enough a significant impact in the paint. Howard will be opposed by his former teammate Marcin Gortat who himself can hold his own in the paint defensively.

Hawks Survival

Perhaps the only saving grace for Atlanta is the fact they kept Paul Millsap on the roster despite trade rumors early in the season. In this fourth straight All-Star year all with the Hawks Millsap has been the best player in Atlanta this season. The versatility to post-up or play the perimeter and shoot the ball will help spread the Wizards defense. Defensively, the Wizards will call upon Ian Mahinmi and Markieff Morris to match the size of Millsap.

X-Factor

Another player that benefits with the improvement of Wall and Beal is Otto Porter. Porter is having a career year himself with 13.4-points per game, 6.4-rebounds per game and shooting 52% from the field (43-percent from the three-point line). This a prime example of the Wizards young core finally gaining traction and improving themselves which is translating to winning. Should Porter be able to keep his shooting consistent in the playoffs the penetrate and dish game will be off the wall. For the Hawks keep an eye on Tim Hardaway to come in and give a boost to the offense off the bench. Defensively, the Hawks will need him to help contain Bradley Beal meaning Hardaway could see significant playing time in this series.

The containment of the Wizards will be difficult and hard to match from an Atlanta standpoint. The loss of Al Horford has drawn the Hawks thin of a bolstered frontcourt as Kris Humphries and Ersan Ilyasova round out the remaining Power Forwards on the roster. Although, this is the four and five seed match-up the I believe the Wizards could take this one home quickly.

Series prediction: Wizards in 5 games

Chevall Kanhai
Baseline Times NBA Staff Writer

@BaselineChevy

Raptors (3) vs Bucks (6)

Chevall Kanhai and Jason Tyson breakdown the Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks First-Round series.

Toronto Raptors

Remember the first Jurassic Park? Mainly, the scene where extinct members of our society are tearing apart a specimen with antlers? Fitting that a buck has similar antlers to describe what could potentially happen in this series.

The Toronto Raptors have progressed in each of their last couple of seasons in the playoffs. Pushing the Cleveland Cavaliers to a six game series in the Eastern Conference Finals last season is something to build upon this playoff run. “The six” is back into the Playoffs this season with a few roster adjustments. Trade deadline deals that brought Serge Ibaka in from Orlando and P.J. Tucker from Phoenix without the Raptors losing any significant players definitely shows the commitment Raptors GM Masai Ujiri has to win now. The road to the Finals in the East means you have to face the defending champions, the Cavaliers. The addition of Ibaka gives the Raptors an upgrade over Bismack Biyombo from last season. Should small ball ensue Ibaka can shift to the five spot while still being a perimeter threat with his shooting. Defensively, he can still block shots and be a solid big to hold the interior. Adding P.J. Tucker solidifies another wingman who can defend. Alongside DeMarre Carrol and Norman Powell the rotation for the Raptors will be flexible should they need to go small or big with the likes of Jonas Valanciunas.

The Raptors recently welcomed back Kyle Lowry after a 21-game absence due to a wrist injury. In his absence Cory Joseph and Delon Wright shared the point-guard duties for the Raptors while this has allowed them to gain valuable playing time with their new additions. However, with their floor general back Toronto will go as far as DeMar DeRozan and Lowry take them. DeRozan is having a career year averaging 27.3-points per game, 5.2 rebounds per game while shooting 48-percent from the field. DeRozan will be the offensive motor for the Raptors as he’s had few scoring outbursts this season in which seven games he scored 40 or more points. The positive of Lowry is that he is shooting 46-percent this season which is a career high this opposed to his career 42-percent. Plagued by shooting woes last postseason Lowry will need to continue a good shooting performance alongside DeRozan.

“We the North” will be heard loud and clear from all the way north of the United States. Toronto and Canada are ready to roar. Oh, it wouldn’t be right to not mention the Raptors Ambassador, Drake. The “6God” and Grammy award winning rapper hopefully shouldn’t have to sweat too much.

Series Prediction: Raptors in 5 games

Jason Tyson
Baseline Times NBA Staff Writer
@Tandrew_3

Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks finished the 2016-2017 Season with a winning record of 42-40. A nine game improvement from last season’s 33-49. The assumption was that the Bucks may have folded into another Eastern Conference team that is lottery bound. Jason Kidd has defied that notion as the Bucks are a top shooting team at 47.4-percent which is good enough for fourth place this season only behind the Golden State Warriors (49.5-percent), Los Angeles Clippers (47.5-percent) and Washington Wizards (47.5-percent). The Bucks also average 24.2 assist per game which is good enough for fifth place this season out of the entire league. Two words that can connect the Bucks to these offensive strengths?

Giannis Anteokounmpo

“The Greek Freak” will be on showcase this postseason as the only player in NBA history to ranking in the league’s top 20 in all five major stat categories. Once again, the only player in the history to do this. Anteokounmpo finished 14th in scoring, 15th in rebounding, 18th in assist, fifth in blocks and ninth in steals. Can we say all-around? The thought of only being age 22 today has the mind running wild of the potential he has and a favorable Most Improved Player candidate for this season. As the leader by default Anteokonmpo will have his hands full trying to contain DeMar DeRozan. Hard not to imagine that Coach Kidd will utilize The Greek Freak should DeRozan catch a hot hand in parts of this series.

Experience vs Youth

It’s always near easy to side with experience in the postseason when matched against inexperienced youth in the NBA. This series however, maybe a bit indifferent based on the Raptors track history in the postseason. As a two seed last year the Raptors struggled with the seventh seed Indiana Pacers in which they squeezed by with a five-point victory in a game seven. The follow series in the Conference Semifinals the Raptors again, were taken to a game seven by the fifth seed Miami Heat. This gives the young Bucks a careful consideration that the possibilities of getting to a game seven is likely and they can potentially upset a higher seed.

Support for Giannis

At the start of the season the Bucks added Matthew Dellavedova and Tony Snell and drafted Thon Maker in last year’s draft. Maker did not have much playing time until March and April where it seems he should be continuing to be a part of the line-up. Should the Raptors go big Maker alongside Greg Monroe should be a solid counter to an Ibaka and Valanciunas line-up Dwane Casey could show. Minus Jabari Parker who has a season ending knee injury, the Bucks will need solid bench play behind their all-around leader in Giannis. Rookie of the Year candidate Malcolm Brogdon will get his first shot of a playoff series in his first year. Defensively, should he be assigned to handle DeRozan the rookie will have to make all the effort to slow down one of the league’s best Shooting Guard.

On paper the team from “The 6” appears to be better this postseason and have taken small strides in each of their past postseasons to achieve more. There is the hesitation based on the Raptors recent postseason history that I believe they may not be able to sweep but good enough to take the series. Just hold on as we’re going home to the second round is my prediction for the Toronto Raptors.

Series prediction: Raptors in 6 games

Chevall Kanhai
Baseline Times NBA Staff Writer
@BaselineChevy

Cavaliers (2) vs Pacers (7)

Going back-to-back (word to Drake) starts now and I would be lying if I said that I was 100% confident that this current Cleveland Cavailers team could do that. This Cavailers team finished with a 20-21-road record, they have lost 4 straight, looked out of sync since the start of the New Year. The good thing for them is that they face an Indiana Pacers team who barely squeaked into the playoffs and who have offensive identity issues. Cleveland also has LeBron James who just had another incredible season and who became the only player in the history of the association to average 26 points per game, 7 rebounds per game and 7 assist per game, while shooting 54% from the field. While most players tend to decline in their 14th year, LeBron got better and set career highs in rebounds and assists. Will LeBron get to his 7th straight NBA Finals and win his 4th ring? I’m not sure but will he/Cleveland will ease by the undermanned Indiana team and look to defend their title vs. a strong Eastern Conference.

Prediction: Cleveland in 5 games

Demario Jackson
Baseline Times NBA Staff Writer
@demariojackson_

Celtics (1) vs Bulls (8)

Could this be the year? Could someone in the Eastern Conference other than LeBron James reach the NBA Finals? The Boston Celtics are certainly vying for that spot as they took home the number one seed in the East. They will face off with the 8 seed, the Chicago Bulls, in the first round. This series is very interesting because these two teams split their season series, 2-2. However, the Celtics lost those game by a 3.5 point average, while they average 13.5 point wins in the other 2 games. Boston will certainly be large favorites, but a 7 game series is not out of the question. That is not typical of 1-8 matchups, so it just goes to show how even every team in the East is this year.

Home court will certainly be advantageous for the Celtics, as they finished the year with a 30-11 record at the Boston Garden. Conversely, the Bulls suffered when playing away from Chicago, going 16-25 on the road. Having been rumored to be interested in trading for Jimmy Butler at the trade deadline, it will be fascinating to see if the Celtics have enough fire power to make a run despite making no moves. Butler has been on fire lately, averaging 27.3 points, 6.8 assists, and 6.1 rebounds while playing just over 38 minutes per game over the last 10. Expect the Celtics to make it a point to shut him down and make the likes of Rondo and Wade beat them. Isaiah Thomas will have to extend his fantastic regular season into the playoffs. He ended the season 3rd in scoring, averaging 28.9 points per game. The Boston offense will continue to run through him.

I personally think the Celtics will take care of business. With the way that Jimmy Butler is playing right now, I think the Bulls will get a couple of wins, but Boston will win in 6. Expect some nail-biters.

Series Prediction: Celtics in 6 games

You can catch game 1 of the series on Sunday, April 16th at 6:30 PM ET on TNT.

Game 1 – Sun.  April 16 Chicago at Boston, 6:30 p.m., TNT
Game 2 – Tue.  April 18 Chicago at Boston, 8 p.m., TNT
Game 3 – Fri.  April 21 Boston at Chicago, 7 p.m.,  ESPN
Game 4 – Sun.  April 23 Boston at Chicago, 6:30 p.m., TNT
Game 5 * Wed.  April 26 Chicago at Boston, TBD
Game 6 * Fri.  April 28 Boston at Chicago, TBD
Game 7 * Sun.  April 30 Chicago at Boston, TBD

Calder Hill
Baseline Times NBA Staff Writer
@BT_Calder

NBA Playoffs First-Round Schedule is Set

The field is set and the NBA Season has officially come to a close. 16 teams start a journey this Saturday in hopes of becoming champions. Lebron James will attempt to lead his Cavaliers to their third straight NBA Finals while he personally seeks his seventh straight.

The Warriors will look to avenge a horrific memory of losing afoot of a 3-1 lead in last year’s NBA Finals against the Cavs. With Kevin Durant on their side he to is familiar with the bad fortune of losing a 3-1 series lead as he did in the Western Conference Finals as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

There is a new top dog in the Eastern Conference. The Boston Celtics are officially entering the Playoffs as the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. Isaiah Thomas or known as “Mr. Fourth Quarter” will look to lead his team deep into the East and upset the Cavaliers from repeating as champs.

The great debate of who should get MVP could be determined no better than whoever wins the series out of the Houston Rockets or Oklahoma City Thunder. James Harden and Russell Westbrook will square off against each other. In an MVP race too close to call can we just say winner takes all based on this series?

Here is your Game 1 Schedule set for tip-off this Saturday, April 15th and Sunday, April 16th.

Game 1: Saturday, April 15

Indiana at Cleveland, 3:00 p.m. ET, ABC/R

Milwaukee at Toronto, 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Memphis at San Antonio, 8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN

Utah vs. LA Clippers, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Game 1: Sunday, April 16

Atlanta at Washington, 1:00 p.m. ET, TNT

Portland at Golden State, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/R

Chicago at Boston, 6:30 p.m. ET,  TNT

Oklahoma City at Houston, 9:00 p.m. ET, TNT

NBA Season closes out with history again

The talk of the town and drama unfolded last July 4th, where Kevin Durant announced his decision to move on from the Oklahoma City Thunder where he spent nine seasons of his entire career. He would make a move to join the “enemies” as the Golden State Warriors were fresh off a Finals loss and conceding a 3-1 series lead. This struck the NBA drama line as it also fired up Russell Westbrook who did not have the kindest the well wishes for his former teammate. Westbrook instead chose to sign a three-year deal to remain in OKC. He fired up an entire city in distraught weeks later after the Durant announcement.

Now it wasn’t really impossible or crazy that some suggested that Westbrook could average a triple-double or take on the role as the Thunder’s leader. There was no doubt that in KD’s shadow was a motor that could push a team to win over 45 games and do a few extraordinary things, well like averaging a triple-double and breaking Oscar Robertson’s record for most in a season.

When Mike D’Antoni took over as the Houston Rockets Head Coach last summer he eventually announced that James Harden would be his point-guard. A move that raised the eyebrows since Harden has ever known the two-guard spot for his career. How does 29.1 points per game, a career high 11.2 assist per game while the Rockets are the third best team overall in the league record wise sound? A dramatic turnaround for the Rockets as they have 13 more wins than last season’s 41-41 record. Harden will enter the postseason as an MVP candidate next to his former teammate Westbrook.

How about the defending champs? The Cleveland Cavaliers found themselves in a bit of a dramatic stories this season. In January, Lebron James claimed the Cavs needed a playmaker. In comes Deron Williams and Andrew Bogut off the wavier wire. Bogut would eventually be wavier after injuring himself two-minutes into his first game as a Cavalier but the signings show the King that Cleveland is all in again this season. The Cavs find themselves in second place in the Eastern Conference. Majority of preseason analysis locked in Cleveland as the East’s best team all season long. The Boston Celtics now hold a one game lead over the Cavs and will look for bragging rights as the top seed. Let’s not ignore that King James is having a career year in other departments in the mix of a Russell Westbrook triple-double season. Lebron is averaging 26.4 points per game, 8.6 rebounds per game and, 8.7 assists per game. All while managing to shoot 55-percent from the field. He will make another postseason run and attempt to reach his 7th straight Finals, this time as a defending champion once again.

Last year the record breaking all centered around the Golden State Warriors. Stephen Curry shattered the record of most three-point fields made in a season formerly held by Ray Allen. Curry went on to pouring in 402 three-point baskets. This season he currently sits at 319 and with one game left he’s safe from breaking his own record. Instead of talking about breaking the Bulls single season record of most wins again, the Warriors may have quietly won 66 games. While 19 of them were without Durant due to a knee injury, they still managed a 14 game win streak without their All-Star Forward. Luckily, for the Warriors their new recruit in Durant knows the feeling of losing after leading a series 3-1. If this is the year of revenge then faith may be with the Warriors.

While the season certainly had its upside there tends to be a downside. The project in Chicago did not work as planned for the Bulls to compete as a contender in the Eastern Conference. They currently find themselves in a must win tonight in their final game to earn a playoff berth. With Dwyane Wade having a player-option after this season and the Bulls heading in a different direction could he be one-and-done in his hometown?

The New York Knicks were supposed to be a super team according to point-guard Derrick Rose. That super team is officially out of the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year as a franchise. The Knicks have had their share of drama this season as the Charles Oakley incident put a dent in their selling point to potential free agents this summer. Phil Jackson and James Dolan both are on ice as the future of Carmelo Anthony must be determined this off-season.

As we embark on the 2017 NBA Playoffs, this NBA season will be one that will have that little asterisk next to it. Likewise last year the Warriors broke a team record but today have a individual player record. Primarily, we can thank Russell Westbrook as he joins Oscar Robertson as the only player to achieve averaging a triple-double. The suspense continues as if this becomes a common theme what can we expect to be broken next season?

Chevall Kanhai
Baseline Times NBA Contributor
@BaselineChevy

Episode 34: NBA Playoffs 2017 First-Round Preview

Chevy and DeMario tag team to provide you with a Playoffs Preview. The duo runs through the highs of this season and previews each of first-round series in both the Eastern and Western Conferences. See who the fellas pick and follow us on Twitter for updated Playoffs coverage @BaselineTimes!

NBA to host player awards during live telecast

Speaking of Adam Silver being the progressive type there is also a new concept in town. The NBA will be announcing their player awards via a live broadcast on TNT on June 26th. This event will be hosted at at Basketball City at Pier 36 in Manhattan.

The event will host celebrities, current and former players, and many league executives. Traditionally, the NBA announces their player awards throughout the playoffs. However, everyone will have to wait until June 26th to find out the coveted MVP. The Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Sixth Man Award, Most Improved Player and Coach of the Year will be announced during the live show as well.

The league also announced that a few new awards will make its debut which are soon to be announced as time draws closer to the end of the regular season. Currently, the NBAPA debuted a Players Award show in 2015 and followed-up again in 2016. The concept was to introduce a peer-to-peer recognition which was aired on BET networks. No indication if the current NBA-led show will impact the 2017 version of the NBAPA Players Awards show.

New York Knicks Guard Derrick Rose Out for Season with Knee Injury

Derrick Rose has been officially ruled out for the rest of the season. What is familiar to Rose, another torn meniscus will need surgery to repair torn cartilage. Acquired by the Knicks a day prior last summer’s NBA draft the Phil Jackson brought in the one-time MVP to rejuvenate a team desperate for some help for Carmelo Anthony. Thurs far, the project has not worked well as the Knicks are currently eliminated from the playoffs with a 29-48 record. Rose’s teammates echoed much support and remained optimistic the point-guard can return with high hopes.

“I feel bad for him. I know how hard he worked throughout the season just to maintain the shape that he was in,” said Kristaps Porzingis. “To see that happen to him, right now, at the end of the season, it’s tough. I feel he’ll come back stronger.”

James Dolan and Jackson will have to be the world’s best salesmen this summer as the point-guard free agency market picks up. Chris Paul and Kyle Lowry can exercise their player-option to become unrestricted free agents. Filling out the list will be Jeff Teague, Patty Mills, Stephen Curry, Jrue Holiday, and George Hill as a few notables.

Another reason why the Knicks turnaround may be tough is the Charles Oakley incident. Players from around the league had spoken in favor of Oakley and expressed their support for the former New York Knick. One person at the helm of support is Chris Paul, who is a potential free agent the Knicks may want to target to pair with his buddy Carmelo Anthony.

As the season wraps-up the Knicks will be missing the playoffs for the fourth straight season. What’s next in New York is a prayer to turnaround the franchise impression of disappointment and return to a destination for big market stars.

Chevall Kanhai
Baseline Times NBA Contributor
@BaselineTimes