NBA Round Two Preview
NBA Round Two Predictions
Four series, eight teams and plenty of superstars headline Round Two of the 2018 NBA playoffs. Basketball sportsbook odds are available for every series, with Golden State and Philadelphia winning looking like the surest bets. Toronto is the better team in their series, but their playoff failures against LeBron James are well-documented. The other series, which started on Sunday night sees an overachieving Utah team grappling with Houston, the top team in the NBA this season.
Toronto Raptors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
After finishing off the Washington Wizards on the road on Friday, the Toronto Raptors awaited the of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers series on Sunday. After a dominating performance by LeBron James, the Cavaliers squeaked out a four-point win to advance to the Round Two.
James is very successful against the Toronto Raptors in his career. James and the Cavaliers eliminated Toronto from the postseason the last two seasons. Cleveland swept Toronto last year, winning the four games by average margin of 15.25 points.
A lot has changed over the last year. The Cavaliers are nowhere near as talented as the roster this brought to the playoffs last season. Outside of LeBron James, no player scored 20 points in the Cavaliers series win over Indiana. Without the secondary scoring, it is hard to see the Cavaliers having any chance against Toronto and their depth.
Toronto did not look its sharpened against Washington, struggling with turnovers. However, they managed to get their act together and convincingly win Game Six. The return of Fred VanVleet to the lineup played huge in the Raptors win. VanVleet is the leader of the Raptors’ bench mob. With him in the lineup, Toronto’s bench was able to contribute on both ends of the floor, allowing the Raptors starters to rest and close out the game strong.
The Toronto Raptors are the better team this year. While LeBron is the best player in the series, the rest of the Cavaliers roster is noticeably worse than the Raptors. They remain a weak defensive team, especially on the road. James will win a game or two for the Cavaliers, but the Raptors should get the monkey off their back and oust the Cavaliers in six games.
Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers
The two and three seeds in the East clash in the second round. Boston has the home court advantage in the series, but otherwise, it looks like the Philadelphia 76ers have the edge in this series. While Boston managed to stave off a feisty Bucks team in Round One, the lack of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward have will be felt this series.
The 76ers are as dangerous as any team in the playoffs. Although with being ahead of schedule, the young players on the team are developing into superstars. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid of the 76ers are the best two players in this series. In fact, most basketball sportsbooks have moved the 76ers atop their Eastern Conference winner futures.
Health is one concern for Philadelphia. While they got by the Miami Heat without Joel Embiid for a few games, the 76ers need him and Simmons fully healthy if they are to make the NBA Finals. They can probably get by a depleted Boston team without one though, which is a testament to the 76ers talent and depth on their roster.
Health is also a concern for Boston. They will be without the services of Jaylen Brown for at least the first game of this season. Brown is a key defender for the Celtics and played a pivotal role for the team when Gordon Hayward went down with a knee injury. Many expect Boston and Philadelphia to be the class of the Eastern Conference soon, but for now, it looks like Philadelphia is superior.
Golden State Warriors vs. New Orleans Pelicans
One game in the Western Conference series, the Golden State Warriors, reminded NBA fans they are the best team in the league. Despite Steph Curry still on the sidelines, the Warriors blowout the Pelicans in game one, behind a Draymond Green triple-double. The Pelicans need better defence if they want any chance of surviving this series.
The Warriors match up well against the Pelicans. While Jrue Holiday was a force in the Pelicans sweep of Portland, he does not match up nearly as well against Klay Thompson. Davis is an unstoppable force, but he needs secondary scoring and defence from the rest of the team.
Davis and the Pelicans should play better over the series, but they just do not have the right mix of players and talent to stop the Warriors. This series is more about how well the Warriors can integrate Steph Curry back in their lineup. If he comes out looking like the old Steph, slinging 30ft three-pointers and dancing to the basket, the Warriors are the best team in the league.
Even without Steph, Golden State’s depth, talent and experience is too much for New Orleans. While Anthony Davis is arguably the best player in the series (apologies to Durant fans), players two through five belong to the Warriors. Maybe with Paul George or another superstar next year, the Pelicans could win, but right now they strong enough to contend with the reigning champs.
Houston Rockets vs. Utah Jazz
After winning Game Seven against Oklahoma City on Friday night, the Utah Jazz had a quick turnaround, heading to Houston for Game One on Sunday. The Utah Jazz looked gassed on Sunday, but their roster overall matches well with Houston.
The Rockets are the favourites in this series but need James Harden and Chris Paul to keep their foot on the pedal. Both have a spotty track record in the playoffs. Harden’s infamous Game Six against the Spurs last season is the most recent example of his playoff failures. Now Harden did look excellent in Game One against Utah, scoring 41 points. It does remain to be seen if the Rockets can still win a game without Harden putting up monster numbers.
The Rockets are a better team this season, but they do have a tendency to play streaky. They handled their business against the Timberwolves in Round One, but without the help of a 50-point quarter and some terrible play from Minnesota’s stars, the series could have lasted much longer.
The Jazz probably do not have the offensive talent to win the series. However, their big-man (Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors) will cause the Rockets plenty of problems. Look for the Jazz to challenge the Rockets, but ultimately come up short in a potential Game Seven.
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