Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! This is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to basketball video games, the real NBA or another area of interest to our community, either as a list of five items or in the form of a Top 5 countdown.
So, here we are at the 2015 NBA Conference Finals. The Golden State Warriors have just gone up 2-0 on the Houston Rockets, the Cleveland Cavaliers will look to go up 2-0 on the Atlanta Hawks today, and most people seem to be expecting to see the Warriors take on the Cavs in the NBA Finals. This year’s NBA Playoffs haven’t been without controversy or criticism – when are they ever? – but on the whole, I feel it’s been a fairly entertaining postseason.
Since we’re down to the final four and inching closer and closer to finding out who will be the 2015 NBA Champions, I thought I’d take a look back at the predictions I made in The Friday Five at the beginning of the Playoffs, and see how I fared. Getting predictions wrong has become something of a running gag for us on the NLSC Podcast, but did I do a better job in written format? Read on to join me in revisiting my 2015 NBA Playoffs predictions!
1. The Golden State Warriors Will Go Deep: Yes
And what a wild, far out prediction that was, wasn’t it? I mean, that one’s a no-brainer, hardly worth mentioning as a prediction. But as I said in my previous Friday Five, we’ve seen teams have spectacular regular seasons, only to falter and bow out way sooner than expected come Playoff time. That certainly hasn’t been the case for the Golden State Warriors though, as they’ve kept on cooking throughout the Playoffs so far, and look unstoppable as they sit just six victories away from their first NBA Championship in 40 years.
What a season it’s been for the Warriors! 67 wins, the most ever for a rookie head coach, and a new franchise best. Two All-Star starters in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, with regular season Most Valuable Player honours for Curry. They might not exactly walk all over the Houston Rockets – it took a savvy defensive play, and a bit of a blunder on James Harden’s part to preserve their victory in Game 2 – but I don’t see them faltering, and no matter who comes out of the East, it seems like the Larry O’Brien trophy is Golden State’s to lose.
2. The San Antonio Spurs Will Have A Shot At Repeating: No
Well, they had more of a shot than the fourteen teams in the Lottery, and a couple of teams who were destined to be first round fodder this year, but as they fell well short of an NBA Finals or even Western Conference Finals appearance, it’s a no for this one. We may have seen the Spurs’ run as one of the top teams in the league finally come to an end…then again, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili reportedly aren’t done yet. If they add a big name via free agency – Marc Gasol is a name that keeps coming up – then we could see them back in the thick of the championship hunt once again next season.
While they won’t have a chance to win back-to-back championships – a distinction that has eluded them throughout their incredible run these past eighteen years – they did at least have the series of the 2015 NBA Playoffs with the Los Angeles Clippers. Now, I’m sure that a lot of people agree with Doc Rivers that this match-up should’ve happened later on in the postseason, and that the format of the NBA Playoffs should be changed accordingly. I’m not so keen on that. While it would’ve been nice to see that series take place in a later round, that’s not the way it turned out. Sometimes, classic series happen early on in the Playoffs. So be it. I say, let’s just enjoy the fact that we got the great series that we did.
3. Both 4th vs. 5th Series Will Go The Distance: No
I was really off on this one, as both fifth seeds advanced without a whole lot of trouble. The Memphis Grizzlies polished off the Portland Trail Blazers in five games, while the Washington Wizards swept the Toronto Raptors. Maybe I gave the Blazers and Raptors too much credit, or perhaps I gave the Grizzlies and Wizards too little. In any event, what seemed to be reasonably competitive match-ups on paper turned out to be rather anti-climactic.
That’s just the way it goes, sometimes. The Raptors ran into a brick wall, but it’s worth mentioning that the Blazers were without Wesley Matthews, Arron Afflalo missed the first two games in the series, and LaMarcus Aldridge had been playing with an injured thumb since January. Their series with the Grizzlies might have been a little more competitive had they been healthier, but it is what it is. As it stands, I was certainly wrong with this prediction.
4. The Only Upsets Will Be In The West: Debateable
It really depends on how you define “upset”. We saw a couple of series that were technically upsets, with the aforementioned 4th vs. 5th series in both conferences that saw the fifth seed advance. Once again though, those teams seemed evenly matched, at least on paper. Additionally, the Grizzlies actually had home court advantage in the series, as the Trail Blazers were the fourth seed only by virtue of winning the Northwest Division. You could even argue that the fifth seed in both series was the superior team, so in practice, neither series was really an upset…though certainly less competitive than I had anticipated.
Given how competitive it was out West this season, with tiebreakers and a mere game or two deciding seeds two through six, “true” upsets weren’t all that likely. However, the Rockets’ defeat of the Los Angeles Clippers could been seen as such. Even though it saw the second seed defeat the third, the Rockets’ improbable comeback from a 3-1 series deficit arguably counts as an upset. I suppose I should really list this one as To Be Determined; the Cavaliers defeating the Hawks could technically qualify, and the Rockets might pull off the seemingly impossible, again. I’m not picking against the Warriors though, and the Cavs are probably too good for a win over the Hawks to really be considered an upset.
5. The Cleveland Cavaliers Won’t Win, But Will Come Close: TBD
But probably yes. After their shaky start, the Cleveland Cavaliers have come together, made some great trades, and had themselves an outstanding season. It’s an impressive turnaround, and a testament to the impact that LeBron James can have on a team, and his status as an all-time great player. I’m liking their chances of defeating the Atlanta Hawks – especially with DeMarre Carroll’s unfortunate knee injury – but I can’t see them overcoming the Golden State Warriors, who I’m expecting to see finish off the Houston Rockets and advance to the NBA Finals.
Things might have been a little different had they not lost Kevin Love to injury in the final game of their first round sweep of the Boston Celtics. LeBron’s looking a little banged up, and Kyrie Irving is, by his own admission, playing on one good leg at the moment. Of course, LeBron is still the best player in the league, even at less than a hundred percent, and players like J.R. Smith are stepping up when it matters the most. Still, the Warriors are something else right now, and even if the Cavs were healthy, I’d have to go with the team from Oakland. I think this prediction will turn out to be true.
How have you fared in your predictions? Have you been enjoying the 2015 NBA Playoffs so far? Have your say in the comments section below, and as always, feel free to join in the discussion taking place in the NBA & Basketball Talk section of the NLSC Forum! That’s all for this week, so thanks for checking in, and please join me again next Friday for another Five.