April 19, 2015

2015 NBA Playoffs - Expert's Bracket Challenge - Round 1


Since my friends and I are sitting here and typing on our computers - instead of being at a pre-game shootaround at an NBA playoffs game - you can probably infer that none of our hoop dreams have (yet) come true. But hey, who said that only NBA players can have the fun of competition during the playoffs? For the next few months, as the NBA Playoffs progress to give us the 2015 champions, I have joined ranks with fellow fans and experts of the NBA in India - Akshay Manwani (@AkshayManwani) and Kaushik Lakshman (@_kaushik7) - to have a little competition of our own. Let me introduce to you the 2015 NBA Playoffs Bracket Challenge, where Akshay, Kaushik, and I unleash our inner prophets to predict each series of each round in the playoffs.

The rules, as suggested by Akshay: Each of us will get +2 for getting the series result correct. Additionally, if we get the scoreline right, we get a bonus of +1. I will publish the results of the first round predictions as a separate blog at the end of the first round. Then there will be a new blog post for our predictions for the Conference semi-finals and so on. So keep yourselves updated and feel free to give us your own predictions in the comments section at the end of this post.

(Akshay, Kaushik, and I recorded our thoughts on the NBA season and the growth and popularity of the league in India on Episode 2 of our Hoopdarshan podcast a few weeks ago. Check it out!).

So without further ado, here are our bold predictions for the first round:

Eastern Conference:

Atlanta (1) v Brooklyn (8):

Akshay’s pick: Brooklyn had a good run to end the season, going 17-13 since the All-Star break to make it into the playoffs. But the Hawks just have too much firepower even without Thabo Sefolosha. They blanked the Nets 4-0 during the reason and I expect things to be no different in the playoffs. Hawks win 4-0.

Karan’s pick: Atlanta finished the season 60-22 at the top of the Eastern Conference, while the Nets (38-44) only sneaked into the playoffs on the last day of the season. But Brooklyn can take heart in the fact that they have actually been in better form than the Hawks in the final stretch of the season. Ultimately, Atlanta’s system, team-play, and shooting should be good enough for a series win. Hawks win 4-2

Kaushik’s pick: This is probably the easiest pick to make. Brooklyn Nets apart from a late season run headed by Brook Lopez, have been a truly horrible team and are in the playoffs only because of the (L)eastern conference. Hawks have tailed off a bit compared to how they dominated January, but will still have too much to handle for the Nets. Hawks win 4-0.

Cleveland (2) v Boston (7):

Akshay’s pick: The season series scoreline, surprisingly, went 2-2 between these two teams, but don’t read too much into that as Kyrie Irving didn’t play in both the Cavs’ defeats while LeBron and Kevin Love also didn’t figure in the last loss. However, the Celtics may still infuriate the Cavs by playing small ball, but eventually Cleveland will come through. Cavaliers win 4-0.

Karan’s pick: I’ll give Boston and their exceptional coach Brad Stevens some credit here, but ultimately, the Cavs won’t have to sweat too much to win this series. Beyond LeBron, they are relatively playoff inexperienced (including Coach Blatt), so this series will be important for them to learn the pace of the game for tougher post-season battles ahead. Cavaliers win 4-1.

Kaushik’s pick: The Celtics have been a nice feel good story in the last month or so. They are a team so devoid of stars and are only here because of exceptional coaching and super effort from the players. Unfortunately NBA doesn’t have very many Cinderella stories. The Cavs are a freight train right now and will be too good for the young Celtics. Cavaliers win 4-0.

Chicago (3) v Milwaukee (6)

Akshay’s pick: Milwaukee have done well this season despite the season ending injury to rookie Jabari Parker in December 2014. They also are the second best defensive team in the league behind Golden State. But the Bulls are buoyed by the return of Derrick Rose and have too much firepower in their arsenal to lose this series. Bulls win 4-1.

Karan’s pick: The Bucks have shocked everyone in the league by finishing at .500 even without Jabari Parker. Unfortunately, their youth and inexperience will play against them against the deep Bulls. Chicago is loaded with multiple weapons from top to bottom of their roster and won’t even have to over-work Derrick Rose too much to win this series. Bulls win 4-1.

Kaushik’s pick: Great turnaround from Milwaukee from where they finished last season and Kidd has done a great job with this young team, but this team is still a couple of years away from peaking. Chicago on the other hand is a loaded monster. With Rose back, and their team deeper than ever, it feels like they’re built like a team meant for the playoffs. Bulls win 4-1.

Toronto (4) v Washington (5)

Akshay’s pick: Easily the best first-round matchup in the East as a top-5 offensive team (Toronto) takes on a top-5 defensive team (Washington). Both teams also have near identical records post All-star break, with Toronto going 13-16 and Washington going 13-15. The key for me is Paul Pierce. His experience and Washington’s big men – Nene and Gortat - give the Wizards the edge. Wizards win 4-3.

Karan’s pick: Both teams are the dictionary definition of mediocrity, of playing good but not great basketball and being too inconsistent to truly be contenders. I think that the series will go the full seven games, and will see some heroic individual performances by both the talented backcourts (Lowry and DeRozan, Wall and Beal). Ultimately, ‘The North’ should win their first playoffs series since 2000. (!!!!) Raptors win 4-3.

Kaushik’s pick: It doesn’t speak much about the conference that this is the best matchup of the first round. Both these teams, so similar in storylines, have dragged themselves to the end of the season and neither is really a force for later on in the post-season. However, I think Toronto still has a little more fire and experience from losing last post-season and will nick this one in a close series. Raptors win 4-3.

Western Conference:

Golden State (1) v New Orleans (8):

Akshay’s pick: Anthony Davis has been a star for the Pelicans all season long and the team will look to him to carry their fortunes. But in Golden State, they have an opponent, which is the best team in the league by some distance, with All-Star players and a deep bench. Warriors win 4-0.

Karan’s pick: The Warriors have been a historically good squad this season, and will continue to play at the highest level on both ends of the floor. All signs may point to a Warriors' whitewash, but the Pelicans will have the best player in the series - Anthony Davis - and I think he will be able to lead them to at least one win. Warriors win 4-1.

Kaushik’s pick: This is going to be such a fun series. I don’t think the Pelicans will actually win, but Anthony Davis. That’s all that needs to be said really. Davis is a beast, and has the perfect tools of a big man that can trouble Warriors’ small ball front court. There will be a couple of close matches, but Warriors ultimately are too good and too deep for the Pelicans. Warriors win 4-1.

Houston (2) v Dallas (7):

Akshay’s pick: This could be interesting if Rajon Rondo and Monta Ellis can make things work for Dallas in the backcourt. Also, Dallas coach Rick Carlisle is known to spring a surprise or two with his strategies in the playoffs. The Rockets are also missing the underrated Donatas Motiejunas and Patrick Beverley. But in the end, James Harden and Dwight Howard should do the job for the Rockets. Rockets win 4-2.

Karan’s pick: I have faith that the brilliant Coach Rick Carlisle will find a way to make Rondo, Monta Ellis, Dirk Nowitzki, Tyson Chandler, and former Rocket Chandler Parsons work out for a huge upset. Houston are struggling with various injuries and will be exposed for having no offensive direction beyond what James Harden. As the series progresses, I think Dallas will contain Harden, negate Houston’s other options, and score an upset. Mavericks win 4-2

Kaushik’s pick: Houston Rockets or Harden Rockets? My MVP pick for the season has single handedly carried the Rockets to the second seed! This team may not look deep but Harden is having a career season and the Mavericks don’t have enough in my opinion to stop him. Rondo isn’t a good fit, Dirk doesn’t seem like Dirk and they’re not as deep as they have been in prior runs. Rockets win 4-1.

LA Clippers (3) v San Antonio (6)

Akshay’s pick: The best matchup in the first round across conferences, vindicated by the 2-2 season series scoreline. The Clippers have players in their prime, but the Spurs have experience and a terrific young player in Kawhi Leonard. The Clippers are lacking in bench strength but have home-court to make up for it. My head says Spurs, but for once I will go with my heart. Clippers win 4-3.

Karan’s pick: I expect Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to play the series of their lives to finally win a playoff series; unfortunately, the Spurs have more than enough experience in thwarting star-driven teams that break down without multiple options and depth. The Spurs have been in scorching hot form primed for another deep post-season run. This will be a tough series for them, but ultimately, I think they will pull out an upset and advance. Spurs win 4-2

Kaushik’s pick: OMG! Why is this match up so early in the playoffs?! Both teams are ON FIRE at the moment and are meeting only because of another dumb NBA rule. Paul is balling right now and the Clippers starting unit is one of the best there is. Spurs too look great led by the monster that is Leonard. This will be a close series, but I pick Spurs because of their experience and depth. Spurs win 4-2.

Portland (4) v Memphis (5)

Akshay’s pick: This could have been a terrific series had Portland been completely healthy. Right now they are just too banged up, with the season ending injury to Wesley Matthews being the biggest handicap for the Trail Blazers. Memphis has also won all four regular season meetings. Grizzlies win 4-1.

Karan’s pick: Portland seems to be snake-bitten with all the injuries they have suffered in the lead up to the playoffs. Memphis have been out of form slightly in recent weeks too, but they are a team built to capitalize on slowing down in the post-season, and they should be able to get through to the second round. Grizzlies win 4-2

Kaushik’s pick: Portland were my dark horse pick for the title had they been fully fit but Mathews’ injury is just so tough that I can’t see them going too far. Memphis themselves haven’t been very impressive in the past couple of months but I think they’ll have too much grit and grind that will help overcome the beaten down and seemingly cursed Blazers. Grizzlies win 4-2.

Scorecard
  • Akshay Manwani: 0
  • Karan Madhok: 0
  • Kaushik Lakshman: 0

2 comments:

  1. I like Akshay's picks better in the first round... are you guys doing first round bracket or full stretch bracket?
    Any room for outsiders to challenge you guys on the bracket?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We'll do a new set of predictions at the beginning of every round.
      Feel free to challenge us! Write down your predictions in the comments section and keep score. But you already have an advantage of knowing how all Game 1's have proceeded

      Delete