NBA

Toronto Raptors and Portland Trail Blazers to advance with hard-fought series wins in first-round predictions

Jay Asser 00:59 14/04/2018
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Toronto's DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry are aiming for a deep playoff push.

Golden State Warriors v San Antonio Spurs

If anyone can flip the switch whenever they want, it’s the Warriors.

Even with no Stephen Curry, Golden State are capable of playing much better than they have of late and it’s been impossible to quantify just how little interest they’ve showed in the regular season.

The Gregg Popovich-led Spurs are exactly the type of team to take advantage of mental lapses and it’s hard to imagine them not taking at least one game, simply on their cohesiveness and playing style alone.

But the talent gap is just too wide without Kawhi Leonard and even though they’ll go down fighting, they will go down.

Warriors in 5

Toronto Raptors v Washington Wizards

The Raptors have to win Game 1. It seems short-sighted to suggest a series opener is a must-win and while it won’t technically decide anything, Game 1 is symbolically crucial for Toronto to show that this season is, in fact, different.

Otherwise the pressure will rise quickly, which won’t help someone like Kyle Lowry who hasn’t exactly been reliable in previous playoffs.

Fortunately for the Raptors, Lowry and DeMar DeRozan won’t have to win the guard match-up with John Wall and Bradley Beal to advance because Toronto’s bench should continue to be one of their better advantages.

Raptors in 6

Philadelphia 76ers v Miami Heat

Points should be at somewhat of a premium in this match-up, which pits two teams who finished the season in the top seven of defensive rating.

Especially with Joel Embiid missing at least the start of the series, there’s a chance this turns into a grind-it-out series with physical play on both sides.

When Embiid returns could prove to be important, but even in his absence Philadelphia have the talent edge, although Erik Spoelstra’s coaching helps negate some of that.

However, it’s just hard to see where Miami’s points come from on a consistent basis, with firepower their biggest deficiency.

76ers in 6

Portland Trail Blazers v New Orleans Pelicans

The teams split the season series with two wins apiece and it’s likely their first-round match-up will be similarly competitive.

Both have star players capable of winning games on their own, with Damian Lillard on one side and Anthony Davis on the other, which is why the supporting casts may ultimately be the deciders.

On paper, Lillard seems to have more help with CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic, but New Orleans’ ancillary players are somewhat underrated, especially point guard Jrue Holiday who has the ability to defensively neutralise one of the Blazers’ guards. Portland will have to earn this.

Trail Blazers in 7

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