These are the official Pick and Popovich predictions for every single playoff game. No, really. Every game. Not every round. EVERY GAME. Here we go:
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals:
(4) Atlanta Hawks vs. (5) Boston Celtics
Game 1: Celtics 91, Hawks 82
Game 2: Hawks 100, Celtics 79
Game 3: Celtics 109, Hawks 88
Game 4: Celtics 99, Hawks 95
Game 5: Hawks 91, Celtics 89
Game 6: Celtics 101, Hawks 76
Series Thoughts: Beating Atlanta becomes progressively easier as you play them, their set offense becomes more and more predictable each game in a way that isn’t conducive to playoff success. They don’t have the raw talent to simply shrug Boston out of the way either. Isaiah Thomas is the exact type of point guard that gives their defense fits, Boston gets enough shooting from their bigs to disrupt Atlanta’s defensive scheme, and they’ve been consistently better for most of the season. They move on here.
(3) Miami Heat vs. (6) Charlotte Hornets
Game 1: Heat 95, Hornets 80
Game 2: Heat 88, Hornets 81
Game 3: Hornets 101, Heat 92
Game 4: Hornets 122, Heat 104
Game 5: Hornets 100, Heat 90
Game 6: Hornets 118, Heat 101
Series Thoughts: Think back to Indiana’s 1-8 series with Atlanta in 2014 to get a sense of what this series is going to be like. Charlotte’s shooting big men are going to give Hassan Whiteside fits, dragging him away from the basket and getting into his head. Charlotte’s offense plays too fast for a team that gives meaningful minutes to Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic, Joe Johnson and Luol Deng. The Hornets will start this series badly, they just don’t have that much playoff experience, but once they get home they’ll figure it out and take this series.
(2) Toronto Raptors vs. (7) Indiana Pacers
Game 1: Raptors 106, Pacers 95
Game 2: Raptors 91, Pacers 86
Game 3: Raptors 96, Pacers 90
Game 4: Raptors 109, Pacers 93
Series Thoughts: It’s been a fun season for Indiana and they’re better than most No. 7 seeds, but Toronto is every bit the title contender Cleveland is and should dispatch the Pacers without much trouble. Think of this series as a warm up for DeMarre Carroll. He’ll be guarding Paul George most of the time, a prelude to his eventual Eastern Conference Finals rematch with LeBron.
(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (8) Detroit Pistons
Game 1: Pistons 108, Cavaliers 101
Game 2: Cavaliers 120, Pistons 92
Game 3: Cavaliers 101, Pistons 90
Game 4: Cavaliers 114, Pistons 106
Game 5: Cavaliers 99, Pistons 80
Series Thoughts: Cleveland is going to get caught sleeping in Game 1. They’re looking ahead to Toronto and the Finals, and Detroit matches up against them very well. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s defense on Kyrie Irving is going to make him a household name, Andre Drummond is going to make life at the rim difficult for LeBron, and on the other end Cleveland has no answer for the devastating Jackson-Drummond pick-and-roll. But the Cavs are too talented to lose this series, and once they lose a game they’ll get their acts together and sweep the rest of the series.
Western Conference Quarterfinals:
(4) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (5) Portland Trailblazers
Game 1: Blazers 130, Clippers 88
Game 2: Clippers 106, Blazers 104
Game 3: Blazers 111, Clippers 100
Game 4: Blazers 109, Clippers 98
Game 5: Clippers 101, Blazers 91
Game 6: Blazers 119, Clippers 101
Series Thoughts: If this series took place in two months, with a fully recovered Blake Griffin, the Clippers would probably take it. But he’s been sluggish since returning, and if he’s not at full strength the Clippers won’t be able to take advantage of Portland’s smaller lineups. J.J. Redick is a good defender but not fast enough to keep up with C.J. McCollum, and defending Damian Lillard is going to wear Chris Paul out. This feels like an implosion waiting to happen for the Clippers.
(3) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (6) Dallas Mavericks
Game 1: Thunder 120, Mavericks 100
Game 2: Thunder 108, Mavericks 99
Game 3: Thunder 111, Mavericks 104
Game 4: Thunder 125, Mavericks 102
Series Thoughts: This is an easy sweep. The Mavericks are too injured to make OKC work. They’re going to score at will. The talent gap is too big here.
(2) San Antonio Spurs vs. (7) Memphis Grizzlies
Game 1: Spurs 99, Grizzlies 76
Game 2: Spurs 106, Grizzlies 83
Game 3: Spurs 90, Grizzlies 80
Game 4: Spurs 101, Grizzlies 81
Series Thoughts: The Grizzlies can’t score on the Spurs. That simple. Series over.
(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (8) Houston Rockets
Game 1: Warriors 129, Rockets 102
Game 2: Warriors 114, Rockets 90
Game 3: Warriors 116, Rockets 108
Game 4: Rockets 109, Warriors 106
Game 5: Warriors 120, Rockets 102
Series Thoughts: James Harden alone is going to win one game in a playoff series against anyone. He almost took both games in Oakland in their series last year. But the Warriors are going to move on with relative ease.
Eastern Conference Semifinals:
(2) Toronto Raptors vs. (6) Charlotte Hornets
Game 1: Raptors 102, Hornets 100
Game 2: Raptors 99, Hornets 90
Game 3: Hornets 111, Raptors 98
Game 4: Raptors 100, Hornets 95
Game 5: Raptors 115, Hornets 88
Series Thoughts: Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are going to do unspeakable things to Charlotte’s defense. That’s all that really needs to be said.
(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (5) Boston Celtics
Game 1: Cavaliers 98, Celtics 91
Game 2: Cavaliers 96, Celtics 88
Game 3: Celtics 101, Cavaliers 90
Game 4: Celtics 99, Cavaliers 91
Game 5: Cavaliers 109, Celtics 105 (OT)
Game 6: Cavaliers 106, Celtics 89
Series Thoughts: This is a really bad matchup for Cleveland. Jae Crowder is one of the best LeBron defenders in basketball, Boston is deep enough to play to any type of lineup Cleveland could use, Isaiah Thomas’ speed is horrible for a lazy defender like Kyrie Irving, the Celtics are going to make Cleveland sweat this one out. But they can’t win crunch times against a team with three stars. That’s going to doom them in this series.
Western Conference Semifinals:
(2) San Antonio Spurs vs. (3) Oklahoma City Thunder
Game 1: Spurs 89, Thunder 85
Game 2: Spurs 99, Thunder 89
Game 3: Thunder 111, Spurs 94
Game 4: Thunder 96, Spurs 90
Game 5: Thunder 105, Spurs 99
Game 6: Thunder 118, Spurs 104
Series Thoughts: San Antonio’s ultra-conservative defense works extraordinarily well over a long sample in the regular season, but teams with as much athleticism as Oklahoma City can exploit it. Teams that have had success against the Spurs this season are the ones who can dictate pace, and the Thunder do that as well as anyone besides Golden State. If they can force San Antonio to run, and once they take the series back to Oklahoma they should be able to, they’ll have the advantage here.
(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (5) Portland Trailblazers
Game 1: Warriors 131, Blazers 115
Game 2: Warriors 120, Blazers 101
Game 3: Warriors 109, Blazers 103
Game 4: Blazers 119, Warriors 108
Game 5: Warriors 124, Blazers 100
Series Thoughts: Damian Lillard is not going to be swept this year. He’ll take a game. But that’s all he can muster.
Eastern Conference Finals:
(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (2) Toronto Raptors
Game 1: Cavaliers 98, Raptors 90
Game 2: Raptors 106, Cavaliers 91
Game 3: Cavaliers 101, Raptors 88
Game 4: Raptors 116, Cavaliers 100
Game 5: Cavaliers 120, Raptors 110
Game 6: Cavaliers 119, Raptors 86
Series Thoughts: The Raptors are going to give Cleveland all they can handle, but a lot of their playing style won’t translate to a deep playoff series. Games are going to be called tighter, cutting into DeRozan’s free throw attempts. Benchers will be shorter, taking away from Toronto’s depth advantage. If these teams played seven games under regular season conditions Toronto might well win four of them, but Cleveland has too much of a talent edge to lose a playoff series to the Raptors all things considered.
Western Conference Finals:
(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (3) Oklahoma City Thunder
Game 1: Warriors 124, Thunder 119
Game 2: Warriors 118, Thunder 110
Game 3: Thunder 120, Warriors 108
Game 4: Warriors 109, Thunder 100
Game 5: Warriors 129, Thunder 102
Series Thoughts: The Thunder still haven’t figured out their crunch-time five and they’ve played 82 games. If it were going to happen it would’ve by now. The Warriors are well-equipped to defend Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook tends to shoot his team out of at least one game per series. The Thunder just aren’t deep enough to hang with Golden State. Everyone outside of their top three is too flawed.
(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (1) Cleveland Cavaliers
Game 1: Warriors 128, Cavaliers 101
Game 2: Warriors 117, Cavaliers 99
Game 3: Cavaliers 105, Warriors 102
Game 4: Cavaliers 112, Warriors 96
Game 5: Cavaliers 126, Warriors 121 (2OT)
Game 6: Cavaliers 114, Warriors 105
Series Thoughts: I think people are forgetting just how close Cleveland came to winning this series last year without Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. I think people are forgetting that LeBron spends the regular season on cruise control and turns back into the one-man war machine we saw in last year’s Finals right around now. I think people are forgetting just how well Matthew Dellavedova defended Stephen Curry last year. And I think people are forgetting just how exhausted the Warriors have looked over the past few weeks, chasing the wins record.
Cleveland has the talent to beat Golden State. They’re the only team in the NBA that can say that with any degree of certainty. They have the pieces to match Golden State’s death lineup as well if they decide to put Kevin Love or even LeBron James at center. They have the testicular fortitude to win a game at Oracle. And, with the luxury of playing them last after a brutal Western Conference gauntlet, they’ll be able to take advantage of Golden State’s exhaustion.
All of that said, this is still probably a stupid pick. But I can’t help shaking the idea that something similar to what happened for the Warriors last year is about to happen to Cleveland. I think they’re going to get waxed early in the series as they stubbornly stick to their old lineups and schemes. Then they’re going to make a change of some sort and figure things out. There will be a legendary Game 5 at Oracle won by Cleveland. And LeBron will close it out at home in front of his home crowd. That’s just what I think is going to happen.