NBA Playoffs: Get ready for Cavs-Warriors, yet again

The NBA Playoffs are already underway! What is in store this year? Will anyone break the Cavs-Warriors finals? Or, will the two teams meet for the fourth time in a row (Warriors lead the “championship series” 2-1)? Can the Rockets finally break through? Here are The Tartan’s NBA Playoffs Predictions.

Eastern Conference

The East definitely has less star power than the West, but it does have one star above the rest: LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers. In his 15th NBA season at age 33, James hasn’t shown any sign of letting up. He has played all 82 games for the first time, leading in minutes per game, and posting career numbers. He is defying all expectations, is continuing to be the best player in basketball, and is vying for his eighth straight finals appearance. It wouldn’t be surprising if he can carry the Cavs to the finals yet again.

Before all the injuries, first to Gordon Hayward in the fall and recently to Kyrie Irving, the Boston Celtics were on track to make a deep playoff push. The team’s early success helped secure them the number 2 seed in the East, but the path through Round 1 against the Milwaukee Bucks won’t be a breather.

And finally, we have the red-hot Philadelphia 76ers, coming off their 16-game winning streak that finished their season. Even with their best player Joel Embiid out with a friendly-fire injury, the Sixers are young, hungry, and ready to win. This team is young: inevitable rookie of the year Ben Simmons has been impressive this season, and even 2017 first round pick Markelle Fultz has battled back from injury to be effective off the bench. The Sixers are a breath of fresh air, and Philadelphia is ready to sweep sports championships after the Eagles took the Super Bowl, and Villanova won the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

Western Conference

Here are the stars. The Golden State Warriors will be without Steph Curry for at least the first series against the San Antonio Spurs, but the sheer talent of their team should help them coast by the Kawhi Leonard-less Spurs. The Warriors have been riddled with injuries this season, but with Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green playing their best basketball, this team shouldn’t have a problem to at least go to the Western Conference finals, especially when Curry returns to the lineup. But the real question is if they can win their third championship in four years. They can, but that doesn’t mean they will.

The Warriors’ biggest challenger in the West is the Houston Rockets, who set out last offseason to create their own Warriors-style super team, adding Chris Paul to team star James Harden. During the regular season, the Rockets were the best overall team in the league with a 65–17 record, boasting an NBA-leading offense and a defense that can’t be ignored. They have the talent and the ability to reach the finals, but they will have to go through the Warriors.

Among other teams in this very strong conference, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s offseason experiment with adding Carmelo Anthony and Paul George to this Russell Westbrook-led team (after Westbrook’s historic MVP season last year) has led to mixed results, and has not met the pre-season expectations. The Thunder should make it past the first round against an exciting upstart Utah Jazz team on sheer talent alone, but they haven’t put it all together to make a run all the way to the finals.

The Tartan Finals Prediction: Cavs-Warriors 4.0; the Warriors win the championship in six games.