Tim's Two Cents: NBA Playoffs Round Two

As we always say at this time of year, Round 1 is in the books. There weren't that many surprises. The only top seed to get bounced was the L.A. Clippers and we could've seen that coming from a mile away regardless of Blake Griffin's injury. So with Round 2 of the NBA Playoffs already under way, who do I have? Read on to find out!

#1 Golden State Warriors vs. #5 Utah Jazz
The Warriors might be complaining that the nightlife in Utah is non-existent, but basketball fans are rejoicing at the idea of this series. In terms of advanced metrics, there's no keeping pace with the Golden State Warriors who boast a net rating of 12.1. But Utah is the type of team that can go back and forth on the court, offering the type of offensive creativity that can make Golden State sweat more than they did against Portland.

The beef between the Warriors and Blazers has totally become a lopsided rivalry, sort of like what happens when a big brother goes through puberty and starts picking on his little brother a little too much. The brooms Golden State cracked out belied how fun their first round series was overall but Portland simply didn't have the depth to handle a Warriors team that lacked Kevin Durant - and even their coach Steve Kerr - for stretches.

Utah caught a lucky break when Blake Griffin went down with a toe injury at the start of their series with the Clippers. They also saw Joe Johnson emerge into the game-sealing superstar that he's inconsistently been for the majority of his career. To be clear, Johnson has always been one of the most talented players in the league (and the best paid) but he's never really had a playoff series where we went "wow can you believe what Joe Johnson did for the whole thing?".

Johnson averaged just 15.2 points for the breadth of the series but has looked more willing than ever to take the playoffs hostage. If there's any x-factor here, it's the combination of him and Gordon Hayward giving the Kerr-less Warriors a big problem. The bigger problem, of course, is that the Warriors are the Warriors.

I love Utah as an upset pick for a Game 7 exact series price, but the Golden State Warriors are the more logical bet to move on to the next round. That being said, the best value is any bet on Utah. Why not? It's the playoffs. Live a little.

Playoff Prediction: Utah in 7

#2 San Antonio Spurs vs. #3 Houston Rockets
The Spurs. What can't you say about them? They manhandled the Memphis Grizzlies in a way that was almost embarrassing. But as we've already seen after Game 1, the Houston Rockets might be a matchup nightmare for the plodding and calculated way Popovich prefers to play.

Houston spent the first round spanking the Oklahoma City Thunder despite Russell Westbrook's best efforts. And we saw the ultimate reason that Westbrook deserves the MVP in that playoff series. The fact is that Harden has way more help than Russ ever did this entire season.

Houston bullied the Spurs in Game 1 already, but you have to expect San Antonio to adjust overall. In the regular season, the Spurs took 3-of-4 straight up but almost all their games were close. The average point differential in their regular season series was just +/- 3.0 points per game.

What does that mean? This series is a lot closer than you think. Houston is amazing this year. San Antonio is…well…they're the San Antonio Spurs. I can see this round closing in 5 games either way. I can also see it stretch to 7. I'd stay away from exact series prices but lean in which ever direction you choose.

Either you believe that Houston's scoring attack is virtually unstoppable, or you have faith in San Antonio doing what it's always done and finding a way to topple even the most impossible giants. After Game 1, it's hard to envision how San Antonio matches the firepower Houston has.

Playoff Prediction: Houston in 6

#1 Boston Celtics vs. #4 Washington Wizards
Well this series seemed destined from the onset. One of the best new rivalries to emerge out of the whole regular season belongs to the Wizards-Celtics. To be frank, I love what the Wizards have become. They're a tough, mean spirited, super talented and balanced squad that has responded to Scott Brooks in a way that I never thought possible.

Washington's perennial problem in the playoffs is that they've just never seemed to have the stones to really do anything spectacular. Nobody ever said to themselves, "This is Washington's year! I can feel it!" And that's peculiar given that the Wizards have been in the playoffs for three of the last four years.

Now they seem to have some sort of identity. These two split the regular season series at 2-2 SU and ATS but the Celtics just smashed them in Game 1 with a final score of 123-111. Boston is the preference of the oddsmakers and I have the Celtics winning in six. But this is one of the more titillating series in Round 2.

Playoff Prediction: Boston in 6

#2 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. #3 Toronto Raptors
Honestly, I don't even know if I have to spend a lot of time here. The Pacers were demolished by LeBron James and company in a sweep that Toronto doesn't look like it can avoid. For all of the great pieces that the Raptors have, they never seem to put things together in a creative way that looks hard to stop. There's almost zero transition ball. It's too many isolations. The roster changes way too often, as if they're always looking for the hottest hand instead of the most reliable.

The Raptors ultimately struggled with a Milwaukee Bucks team that had almost no playoff experience. They may have edged them 4-2 SU and 3-3 ATS overall but if there's one cold, hard fact that we walked away from after seeing that series, it's that Toronto hasn't matured or improved since the playoffs last year.

It's not a matter of them fending off the brooms in a series against Cleveland they have no hope of winning. More than anything, I don't know if the Raptors can fend off their extinction. Fans and management won't be happy with another crushing, playoff defeat against the Cavaliers.

Playoff Prediction: Cleveland in 4