Detroit Pistons at Cleveland Cavaliers
2:00 pm CDT
The Detroit Pistons are an interesting team headlined by young, intriguing talent. Stan Van Gundy has done a great job since taking over the head coaching duties at the beginning of the 2014-15 season, helping the team improve their record by 12 wins this season. The Pistons are a great rebounding team, especially on offense due in large part to Andre Drummond, who is a giant formed from stone. If the Pistons are to stand a chance against the Cavaliers, it will be because of their prowess on the boards in combination with players like Reggie Jackson and Tobias Harris catching fire.
The Cavaliers have had a rather tumultuous season; it seems like every week there is a new story or rumor involving the team. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving have totally lost their three-point shots this season, shooting only 30.9% and 32.2% respectively, and the team still doesn't utilize Kevin Love in ways that will best help the team. Yet, the Cavs are still a top five offense in terms of offensive rating and effective field goal percentage, and their defense is pretty formidable as well. They are still clearly the most talented team in the Eastern Conference, despite their warts, and I don't think they'll have too much trouble with the Pistons.
Pick: Cleveland in 5
Charlotte Hornets at Miami Heat
4:30 pm CDT
Steve Clifford is a mad scientist. Despite losing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for all but seven games to two dislocated shoulders, Clifford orchestrated an offense focused heavily on the three-point shot and a top ten denfense. Kemba Walker broke through this game, reviving his Cardiac Kemba moniker he developed during his days at the University of Connecticut; similarly, Marvin Williams also developed into a very solid player after 10 seasons in the league, shooting 40.2% from three on almost five attempts per game and providing stout defense. The Hornets' three-point abilities may prove troublesome for the Miami Heat.
The Heat are almost the exact opposite of the Hornets when it comes to shooting the three. Miami finished 28th in three-point makes and attempts per game and finished 27th in percentage. They tragically lost superstar and overall great person Chris Bosh to blood clots for the second year in a row and his presence on the court will be greatly missed. That being said, the Heat will rely on veterans like Dwayne Wade, Joe Johnson, and Goran Dragic as well as promising youngsters Hassan Whiteside and Justise Winslow to carry them. They will also have to slow down the Hornets three-point barrage if they want to move on to the second round.
Pick: Charlotte in 7
Memphis Grizzlies at San Antonio Spurs
7:00 pm CDT
Poor Memphis. After their roster was completely decimated by injuries (28 players have donned a Grizzlies uniform this season) and their fight to stay in the playoff race, the Grizzlies were rewarded by drawing a first round match up against a team that won 67 games and went 40-1 at home. This series won't be close. Head coach Dave Joerger has done a remarkable job in Memphis this season, but the Griz just won't have the health or the fire power to even pull out a single game against San Antonio. The Spurs, lead by MVP runner-up candidate and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard and his team of ludicrously-talented-at-basketball companions will wipe the floor with Memphis and will waltz into the second round.
Pick: San Antonio in 4
Portland Trailblazers at Los Angeles Clippers
9:30 pm CDT
This may be the most interesting first round match up in the West. Portland shocked nearly everyone this season on their way to winning 44 games after losing franchise cornerstones LaMarcus Aldridge and Wesley Matthews to free agency. Lead by Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, the Blazers posted a top 10 offense that centered around sharp-shooting outside scorers and wonderful offensive rebounding (an area where the Clippers really struggle defending). However, Portland leaves a lot to be desired on the defensive end.
The Clippers are a top heavy team that doesn't have a ton of depth, but the talent at the top is enough to make up for it on a night to night basis. Blake Griffin may still be working his way back into game form after only appearing in 35 games this season due to a quad injury and suspension for punching his friend (and Clippers' staff member) and Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, and DeAndre Jordan are still great, but the team hasn't always lived up to their potential in the playoffs. Los Angeles's greatest strength is their ability to get in the heads of their opponents (read: they complain A LOT and do some...questionable things from time to time), something Paul and Griffin are notorious for. Will their antics on the court in combination with their top end talent be enough to keep the Blazers from playing their best basketball?
This series may come down to the match up at head coach. Clippers coach Doc Rivers has more experience in the playoffs, but Blazers coach Terry Stotts is widely regarded as one of the best in the game; he may be Portland's biggest X-factor.
Pick: Portland in 7...I think