As per usual, the NBA playoffs have been full of unexpected twists and turns. Every year it seems the playoffs turn the NBA into a different league. Intensity ratchets up level, pressure mounts and while some teams crumble, others thrive. It’s like clockwork. Each year many of the teams we thought we knew turn out to be charlatans. They play substantially different when stakes are high and all the chips are down. Take the Hawks for example; they were one of the most dominant, well-balance teams in the NBA regular season. For a while they were even a hot pick to dethrone the Cavaliers as the Eastern Conference favorite. For much of the season they were altogether dominant; they had the best record in the East and put flat out beatings on some of the league’s most elite competition. Heck, they were the number one seed in the East, going into the playoffs. The team we see now, struggling to out play the Brooklyn Nets, is a far cry from the well oiled machine we had come to expect.

In the East

It came as no surprise that Cleveland beat the Celtics with relative ease. The Celtics had a losing record during the regular season and probably didn’t even belong in the post season. They did the best they could and seem primed to improve moving forward. The biggest conclusion to be taken out the Cavaliers, Celtics series was that Cleveland is vulnerable. With Kevin Love’s shoulder injury and J.R. Smith suspended for the first couple games of the next series, a strong start by Chicago or Milwaukee could get the Cavs in trouble. If Chicago can end the series quickly and play at a high level this might be the year they finally get past LeBron. Let’s just hope Tom Thibodeau didn’t burn the team out by grinding on them too much throughout the season already. This is when the season matters most after all.

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It was shocking how fast the Washington, Toronto series was over. Many people were expecting a highly competitive series, but it sure was not. With a four game sweep the Wizards just may be ready to take a big step forward. As a young team brimming with balance and play making ability, they should probably be favored to reach the Eastern Conference Finals. They’ll be rested and ready to go when it comes time to face either the Hawks or the Nets.

The Atlanta, Brooklyn series is quite a surprise. The fact that it is as highly contested is shocking. The Nets are fighting for every game and Atlanta will have to scrap for each win. We’ll see if the Hawks find an answer, but this series could be a harbinger of things to come. If the Hawks lose in the first round it would be one of the worst first round losses of recent history, and it’s not that Brooklyn is terrible, it’s just that Atlanta had been playing so well during the regular season. If the Hawks have to struggle to get past the 8 seed, how could they ever get past a tougher opponent?

In the West

It should not be surprising to anyone that the Warriors dominated the Pelicans. They were the superior team coming into the series and although New Orleans had Anthony Davis it seemed that was about all they had. The Warriors are still the favorite to win it all, but their lack of experience is a bit of a concern. Their key players are all still extremely young and there is a big difference between simply making the playoffs and being the favorite to win it all. If they do make in to the finals, we’ll see how they deal with the pressure of the situation. The level of intensity increases dramatically with each playoff round. That’s the beauty of the NBA playoffs after all! As things progress pressure piles on and style of play gets more physical.

Houston getting past Dallas in five games wouldn’t be shocking. It seems all Rajon Rondo has done since arriving in Dallas is try to sabotage the team. The Rockets are just a better overall squad. When Houston does inevitably make it to the next round, prepare for a highly competitive hard-fought series. With a little extra rest Houston with have to wait to see who comes out of the LA, San Antonio series

The Clippers, Spurs battle is one of the best so far in the playoffs. It probably should have taken place a little deeper into the post season, but you won’t find any observers complaining. The series thus far has been wild. Some games have been high scoring, others low scoring. Some games have been blow outs while others went down to the wire. Whoever does make it out of the series will surly have earned it. My money is on the Spurs. As usual they saved themselves for the postseason and have the overall team depth and defense to make it back to the finals again.

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The Portland, Memphis series hasn’t been what we all thought we were getting. Memphis came extremely close to getting the sweep and Portland barely even managed to get one game in the series so far. Once Memphis gets to next round it will be intriguing to see how their style matches up with that of the Warriors. The Warriors are solid defensively and more of a finesse team. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies are just that, a “bear” to play against. They are extremely physical and could cause major match up problems for Golden State. An upset or at least a 7 game series would be insane.
Final Predictions

In the East a Cleveland Cavaliers, Washington Wizards match up seems inevitable in the Conference Finals. We’ll see how things shape up but it doesn’t seem like anyone in that Conference has the ability to overcome the Cavaliers when they are near 100%.In the West, I have to stick with the Golden State Warriors. I think the Spurs will make it out of their series against the Clippers, but the Warriors have just been too good this year for a Spurs team that is now another year older. Never count the Spurs out though. They have more experience than half the league combined, and Gregg Popovich is by far the best coach in the game.

The finals pick between Cleveland and Golden State is a tough one. However, I lean towards the Warriors. They have this season’s MVP, and the injury to Kevin Love is a huge blow to the Cavaliers chances. If Love hadn’t had the injury I would have picked the Cavs, but he is a huge part of their game. Golden State is a better overall team than the Cavaliers, and in a 7 game series I feel the results would show it.

Landin Murphy covers the NBA for MFST, you can follow him on Twitter @Landinfitness

Landin MurphyAnalysisBasketballBasketball RankingsNBAAtlanta Hawks,Brooklyn Nets,Cleveland Cavaliers,Dallas Mavericks,Golden State Warriors,Houston Rockets,Los Angeles Clippers,NBA,NBA Playoffs,Portland Trail Blazers,San Antonio Spurs,Washington WizardsAs per usual, the NBA playoffs have been full of unexpected twists and turns. Every year it seems the playoffs turn the NBA into a different league. Intensity ratchets up level, pressure mounts and while some teams crumble, others thrive. It’s like clockwork. Each year many of the teams...Why go anywhere else for sports and entertainment?