2018 NBA Playoffs Round 2 Preview

The dust has settled on a memorable first-round start to the postseason and the favourites stuck to the script.

The Celtics have battled through a major injury crisis and found a way to stop the scoring exploits of Giannis Antetokounmpo and win their opening round series against the Bucks 4-3.

The Celtics now face one of the hottest teams in the league when they come up against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Philly are well rested are comfortably accounting for Miami and boast the duo of Aussie wunder-kid Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.

The Raptors face-off against the three-time conference champs and will be aiming to top LeBron James for the first time in the playoffs.

The Cavs can count themselves lucky to still be in contention and survived a tough series against the Pacers thanks to a Game Seven 45-point effort from LeBron.

Round Two has already gotten underway in the Western Conference with the defending champs, the Warriors, making light work of the Pelicans in the opening game of their series.

The Rockets moved through the gears to dispose of the Utah Jazz in their opening game and the top two seeds in the Western Conference are on course to meet in the Finals.

EASTERN CONFERENCE
BOSTON CELTICS (2) V PHILADELPHIA 76ERS (3)

The history between these two ball clubs is unmatched in the league, with the 76ers and Celtics playing some of the greatest games in NBA history.

The last time that these two sides clashed, the Celtics were able to get on top in a Conference Semi-Final in 2012 that went to seven games.

These two sides have met 19 times in the postseason with the Celtics (54 wins), holding a six-game edge over the 76ers (46 wins).

Both of these sides represent the future of the Eastern Conference with some of the best rookies in the game filling out the rosters of both teams.

The Celtics injury woes have been well documented this season with Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving missing for Boston.

The Celtics were able to get past the Bucks and will rely on the experience of Al Horford to control the likes of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.

Simmons is being touted by many as the Rookie of the Year and the Aussie will be wanting to get a confidence boosting win in the series opener.

You get the feeling that the Celtics don’t have a lot left in the tank after an epic series against the Bucks and the 76ers are well rested and injury free.

The 76ers are good enough to take this series in six games as it won go the distance.

Tip: Philadelphia 76ers to win the series 4-2

TORONTO RAPTORS (1) V CELVELAND CAVS (4)

The Cavs are alive in the playoffs thanks to the efforts of LeBron James and will need the King to repeat the effort when they tackle the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

This is the last roll of the dice for Cleveland and if the Cavs falter here, then it could spell the beginning of the end for James’ second stint in Cleveland.

James will enter free agency in the offseason and there are teams lined up all over the league vying for his services and this will be Cleveland’s last opportunity to win another NBA title before a rebuild.

The Raptors have the stats on their side but have been eliminated by the Cavs in their last two trips to the playoffs.

The Cavs are the weakest team in the Eastern Conference and if James can’t get help from Kevin Love then this series could be over quickly. Despite having the best season in franchise history, the Raptors carry some baggage heading into the second round against Cleveland and there’s value in the Cavs winning this in seven games.

Tip: Cleveland Cavs to win the series 4-3

WESTERN CONFERENCE
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS (2) V NEW ORLEANS PELICANS (6)

Things went according to plan for the Golden State Warriors, with an easy first-round win over the Spurs and now the champs have taken the lead in their series with the Pelicans. (123-101).

The Warriors were outstanding in a commanding performance against the Pelicans in the opening game without Steph Curry.

Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson contributed 53 points between them as the Dubs were able to nullify the run-and-gun approach of the Pelicans.

Anthony Davis will be disappointed with his efforts in the opening game, only contributing 21 points and 10 rebounds in a heavy loss.

Davis has been in outstanding form in the month leading into the postseason and has admirably lead the side in the absence of DeMarcus Cousins. Normally Davis would be a shoe-in for the league MVP but he will fall behind James Harden and LeBron James in the race for the league’s highest individual honour.

Despite the nature of the first-up loss to the Warriors, there are some opportunities there for the Pelicans.

Journeyman Rajon Rondo has been in outstanding form over the last month of the competition and has become an assist machine. The Pelicans have the ingredients to cause an upset in this series and if they can get on the board in the second game then this series will go down to the wire.

Tip: Pelicans to win the series 4-3

HOUSTON ROCKETS (1) V UTAH JAZZ (5)

If it wasn’t for the exploits of Ben Simmons, then Donovan Mitchell would be a lock for the Rookie of the Year award.

The young guard was the architect of Utah’s upset over the Thunder in the first round of the playoffs.

The Jazz have faced a short turnaround and struggled to match the frenetic pace of the Rockets in the 110-96 loss. Utah’s defence had no answer to James Harden who bagged 41-points in a massive win. The game was over by halftime with the Rockets able to establish a 25-point lead that they never relinquished.

The Jazz struggled defensively against the Rocket in the regular season and it’s difficult to see them turning this series around before they head to Utah for two games.

The Rockets will win this series with ease as they await the winner of the Warriors/Pelicans match-up in the Conference Finals.

Tip: Rockets to win the series 4-1