By RICK SOLEM
Here are my predictions for the first round of the NBA playoffs. Skipping ahead to the NBA Finals, I think the Warriors beat the Cavs in seven.
(1) Golden State vs. (8) New Orleans
Two of the best three players in the NBA face off in the first round. Steph Curry is the league MVP, while Anthony Davis is arguably the best player in the NBA right now. While everyone on the Warriors understands how incredible Curry is, it seems like nobody on the Pelicans thinks Davis is elite. Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon … they all think they need as many shots as Davis, who averaged 24.4 points on 54-percent shooting to go with 10.2 rebounds. 2.9 blocks, 1.5 steals and just 1.4 turnovers. They don't, but he won't.
Golden State in five.
(2) Houston vs. (7) Dallas
Nobody seems to remember this, but a year ago, No. 8 Dallas nearly defeated the San Antonio Spurs. And, as we all saw, the Spurs dominated their way to a title playing team basketball. The Rockets do not play team basketball. James Harden takes the ball, dribbles around for awhile, drives and either gets fouled or kicks it out for a 3-pointer. That doesn’t work very well in the playoffs. Dallas doesn’t really have someone to stop Harden, so taking the series is will take a heroic offensive effort. Who else is up for that one last time in his career than Dirk Nowitzki.
Mavs in seven.
(3) Clippers vs. (6) San Antonio
I just spent 10 minutes typing and re-typing why the Spurs have finally gotten the respect they deserve heading into the playoffs, only to get taken down by the Clippers. Then I thought about my picking a team with two competent offensive players (Blake Griffin/Chris Paul). Granted, those two are really good – two of the best three in the series. But Kawhi Leonard cancels out what CPIII does, while Duncan has one … last … run in his 38-year-old body.
Spurs in seven.
(4) Memphis vs. (5) Portland
Only one thing to say in this one: Finesse isn’t going to beat power in the playoffs. LaMarcus Aldridge is a jump-shooting power forward who won’t be able to grind it for seven games against Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Mike Conley takes care of Damion Lillard, while Tony Allen wreaks havoc the way Nicholas Batum wants to.
Grizzlies in five.
(1) Atlanta vs. (8) Brooklyn
Nobody gives the Hawks any credit for doing what they did all regular season, and I won’t either. The Nets are healthy. That never happens with Brook Lopez and Deron Williams come playoff time. Throw in Joe Johnson against his old team and you have an upset in the making. Not really, but I just want to pick the Nets.
Nets in seven.
(2) Cleveland vs. (7) Boston
The East is a joke and the Celtics A. shouldn’t be in the playoffs and B. aren’t beating Cleveland.
Cavs in four.
(3) Chicago vs. (6) Milwaukee
The backcourts cancel each other out. It’s the Bulls’ frontcourt that determines this matchup. Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah can’t be stopped by the likes of Zaza Pachulia and Ersan Ilyasova. Read the preview here.
Bulls in five.
(5) Washington vs. (4) Toronto
The absolute worst matchup of the playoffs, it matters not who wins the series. Nobody outside these respective cities cares. Neither do I.
Wizards in 6.