Triple Threat Weekly: 2015 NBA Playoffs Outlook

Weekly NBA Content by Back of the Jersey

With the NBA regular season coming to a close Wednesday, and the NBA playoffs starting up this Saturday, the most exciting action is finally here. In this week’s Triple Threat, Tyler and Jim bring in their Back of the Jersey colleague, Rory, to make some playoff predictions.
Reader Warning: With how wide-open this year’s playoff match-up’s are – all three writers could be wrong in their predictions. Very wrong.

2015 NBA Playoff Bracket.

(Graphic courtesy of CBS Sports)

Tyler

Western Conference

(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (8) New Orleans Pelicans
Winner: Warriors in five.

(4) Portland Trail Blazers vs. (5) Memphis Grizzles
Winner: Grizzles in five.

(2) Houston Rockets vs. (7) Dallas Mavericks
Winner: Mavericks in seven.

(3) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (6) San Antonio Spurs
Winner: Spurs in six.

Quarter-Final Round:

(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (5) Memphis Grizzles
Winner: Grizzles in seven.

(6) San Antonio Spurs vs. (7) Dallas Mavericks
Winner: Mavs in six.

Conference Final Round:

(5) Memphis Grizzles vs. (7) Dallas Mavericks
Winner: Grizzles in six.

Eastern Conference

(1) Atlanta Hawks vs. (8) Brooklyn Nets
Winner: Hawks in four.

(4) Toronto Raptors vs. (5) Washington Wizards
Winner: Raptors in seven.

(2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (7) Boston Celtics
Winner: Cavaliers in four.

(3) Chicago Bulls vs. (6) Milwaukee Bucks
Winner: Bulls in six.

Quarter-Final Round:

(1) Atlanta Hawks vs. (4) Toronto Raptors
Winner: Hawks in six.

(2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (3) Chicago Bulls
Winner: Cavs in six.

Conference Final Round:

(1) Atlanta Hawks vs. (2) Cleveland Cavaliers
Winner: Cavs in six.

NBA Finals

(2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (5) Memphis Grizzles
Winner: Cavs in five.

2015 NBA Champions: Cleveland Cavaliers

With this season’s NBA playoffs, I believe there are three major story lines: (1) The West is wide open…the East is not. (2) The Mavericks are one of the most talented 7 seeds ever. (3) Golden State will have a major problem matching up against Memphis.

The Western Conference was obviously the better conference all season long, so it makes sense that the teams are much more narrowly separated in comparison with the teams in the East. With that said, you can basically throw seeding out the window. Home court matters in the NBA playoffs, but not very much when the teams are so evenly matched. I love the Mavs and Grizzles this year. Both bring a plethora of experience to the table and run very good half court offenses. Both are also terrific defensively. Experience, half court offense and defense-first mentality usually goes a long way in the playoffs – and this year should be no different.

Dallas is who I will be rooting for in this year’s playoffs. And, yes, it may have something to do with the three former Knicks on the squad (Amar’e Stoudemire, Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler) – but the coaching of Rick Carlisle and experience of NBA champions Rajon Rondo, Dirk Nowitzki, JJ Barea and Tyson Chandler may be a difference maker. The only thing that scares me for the Mavs is they lack depth – but come this time of year, rotations should not be exceeding eight guys anyway. Look for Dallas to make a deep run all the way to the Western Conference finals.

As you can see by my above predictions, I’m a big fan of Memphis in this year’s playoffs as well. They will open up against a banged up Portland Trail Blazer team, who, a few months ago may have been my pick to emerge from the West. With injuries setting in, I think the Grizz will be able to handle them rather easily in the first round. I like the way Memphis matches up with Golden State in the second round. Conley is a “nat” defensively, and the length of Jeff Green and size down low with Gasol and Randolph could give Memphis a big advantage on the boards. Make no mistake – Curry & co. will give the Grizz all they can handle. Ultimately, it’s all about match ups – and I like this one for Memphis versus Golden State.

As for the finals in each Conference, I think Memphis and Cleveland will pull through. The Hawks inexperience and the “we-have-LeBron James” factor should allow the Cavs to prevail. And in the West, Memphis will be too much for Dallas to handle, although I could see that series being extremely physical. Eventually, the NBA Finals will feature LeBron’s Cavs versus Z Bo’s Grizz. The Cavs will end up winning, with Memphis being too fatigued from two grind-it-out series versus Golden State and Dallas.

I went bold with my predictions this year, but this is as wide open of NBA playoffs as I can remember in my lifetime. Let’s see how wrong I am.

Mike Conley.

Mike Conley could be the difference maker in a potential 2nd-round matchup versus Steph Curry and Golden State.
(Photo courtesy of NBA.com)

Jim

Western Conference

(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (8) New Orleans Pelicans
Winner: Warriors in five.

(4) Portland Trail Blazers vs. (5) Memphis Grizzles
Winner: Grizzlies in six.

(2) Houston Rockets vs. (7) Dallas Mavericks
Winner: Rockets in six.

(3) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (6) San Antonio Spurs
Winner: Spurs in six.

Quarter-Final Round:

(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (5) Memphis Grizzles
Winner: Warriors in five.

(6) San Antonio Spurs vs. (2) Houston Rockets
Winner: Spurs in five.

Conference Final Round:

(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (6) San Antonio Spurs
Winner: Warriors in seven.

Eastern Conference

(1) Atlanta Hawks vs. (8) Brooklyn Nets
Winner: Hawks in six.

(4) Toronto Raptors vs. (5) Washington Wizards
Winner: Wizards in seven.

(2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (7) Boston Celtics
Winner: Cavaliers in four.

(3) Chicago Bulls vs. (6) Milwaukee Bucks
Winner: Bulls in six.

Quarter-Final Round:

(1) Atlanta Hawks vs. (5) Washington Wizards
Winner: Hawks in six.

(2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (3) Chicago Bulls
Winner: Cavs in five.

Conference Final Round:

(1) Atlanta Hawks vs. (2) Cleveland Cavaliers
Winner: Cavs in five.

NBA Finals

(2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (1) Golden State Warriors
Winner: Warriors in seven.

2015 NBA Champions: Golden State Warriors

Tyler, I respect the hell out of your picks. I wish I had your cojones. I’m going with chalk in the Western Conference Finals. The Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs have been the best two teams in the Western Conference during the last two months. Golden State enters the postseason winning its last 4 games (3rd best win streak heading into the postseason), en route to a top 10 season in NBA history by all measures. They rank tied for 6th all-time in wins (67) and posted a ridiculous +10.1 point differential this season (eviscerating the next best team, the Clippers, who posted a +6.6 point differential).

Golden State clips the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals due to their superior depth (Marreese Speights, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston & David Lee round out their top 4 off the bench) and home court advantage. Golden State was 29-2 at home this year…I don’t see them losing twice at home in one series…even with the defending champion Spurs in town. The two teams met three times this season, with the Spurs taking two of the games. Keep in mind that the Warriors won comfortably in their one home game against the Spurs this season, on February 20.

Cleveland has been head and shoulders better than everyone in the East, while Atlanta has eased off the gas and coasted a bit into the playoffs (with some injuries to key players to boot, re: Millsap, Paul & Sefolosha, Thabo). In what would be only the 4th Finals to go the full 7 games since 2000, I anticipate Golden State reclaiming the Larry O’Brien trophy for the first time since Rick Barry was manning the wings, in the spring of 1975.

Golden State is too explosive across multiple positions and has the front court chops in Draymond Green, Andrew Bogut and Marreese Speights to counter Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson. Between Klay Thompson, Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala, the Warriors also have a bevy of 6’6″+ wings to throw at LeBron throughout the series. Steph Curry vs. Kyrie Irving will be the most fascinating matchup to watch unfold. Curry gets the better of Irving this year and that’s the difference in which team brings home the hardware. Warriors in 7 games.

Kawhi Leonard.

Can Kawhi Leonard be the X-factor like he was in last season’s playoffs?
(Photo courtesy of Rant Sports)

 

Rory

Western Conference

(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (8) New Orleans Pelicans
Winner: Warriors in six.

(4) Portland Trail Blazers vs. (5) Memphis Grizzles
Winner: Grizzles in seven.

(2) Houston Rockets vs. (7) Dallas Mavericks
Winner: Rockets in six.

(3) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (6) San Antonio Spurs
Winner: Spurs in six.

Quarter-Final Round:

(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (5) Memphis Grizzles
Winner: Warriors in five.

(6) San Antonio Spurs vs. (2) Houston Rockets
Winner: Spurs in six.

Conference Final Round:

(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (6) San Antonio Spurs
Winner: Spurs in six.

Eastern Conference

(1) Atlanta Hawks vs. (8) Brooklyn Nets
Winner: Hawks in four.

(4) Toronto Raptors vs. (5) Washington Wizards
Winner: Raptors in five.

(2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (7) Boston Celtics
Winner: Cavaliers in six.

(3) Chicago Bulls vs. (6) Milwaukee Bucks
Winner: Bulls in five.

Quarter-Final Round:

(1) Atlanta Hawks vs. (4) Toronto Raptors
Winner: Hawks in five.

(2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (3) Chicago Bulls
Winner: Cavs in seven.

Conference Final Round:

(1) Atlanta Hawks vs. (2) Cleveland Cavaliers
Winner: Cavs in seven.

NBA Finals
(2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (6) San Antonio Spurs

Winner: Spurs in six.

2015 NBA Champions: San Antonio Spurs

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

The Spurs were the bane of my NBA-fandom from the late 90s all the way to the mid-2000s. I just hated them. They were boring, monotonous, mannequin-like figures that showed zero emotion. In 2007, I (like the Cleveland Cavaliers) had to slog through a Finals which saw only one team, in one game, score more than 100 points, and in three out of the other 4 games NEITHER TEAM ECLIPSED MORE THAN 85 POINTS.

That must’ve been the turning point, when David Stern forced Gregg Popovich decided to change his offensive style and create what we see now as the NBA equivalent of making love.1 The last two NBA Finals we’ve seen an incredible Spurs offensive output, and Popovich has found a way to rest his guys for the playoffs.

What’s crazy is the realization that in the 18-year basketball marriage of Popovich and Tim Duncan, the Spurs have never won back-to-back titles. Five championships, none in consecutive years. This season that changes. As long as the Spurs survive the first 2-3 rounds without a significant injury, we’ll all be singing the praises of Kawhi Leonard again in June. And when you think about it, any season in which LeBron doesn’t win a title is a good season, isn’t it?

Why go against a tried and true formula? It’s Spurs all the way (again) in 2015. All hail Pop.

 

That wraps up our NBA Triple Threat Weekly for the 2015 season. Those who have read and followed us all year long, thank you. Enjoy the 2015 NBA playoffs!

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About Tyler Michels

Tyler is an NC State alum living in Raleigh, NC. Growing up in Northwest New Jersey, Tyler developed a love for New York sports teams, driving his desire to become a writer. In his free time, Tyler can probably be found on a golf course.

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