These will be very short and concise since my flight landed right as Game 1 of Jazz-Thunder was starting.
No.5 Utah Jazz vs. No.4 Oklahoma City Thunder
How the Jazz can win the series: Donavan Mitchell is unstoppable. The Thunder have multiple options for him (Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Terrance Ferguson). It’s gonna be tough, but Mitchell could end up being a top ten player in the league someday. This is only the beginning.
Utah ranked 2nd in defensive rating this year. They are a literal wall. If you put Ricky Rubio on Westbrook and Joe Ingles on Paul George, you’re in good shape. Rubio’s tenaciousness can pester Russ, leading him to take more bad shots and try to do more than usual (Or, more than he already does).
That will happen at least once this series. Russ will take 25 shots and hit eight or nine of them. Will it happen four times? Ehhhhhh
How the Thunder can win the series: They have much more firepower than the Jazz. When Russ is on, he’s unstoppable. When Paul George is hot, he’s unstoppable. When Carmelo Anthony is standing in the corner, he’s standing in the corner.
The Jazz’s defense is amazing. But the bowling ball that Russ is should be able to get through it. I would put a no jumpshots allowed rule on Russ.
Who wins?: Oklahoma City in seven. I think the Jazz are gonna make the Thunder work. Mitchell will go off once, Russ will suck once or twice, and Utah will give OKC a “scare”. I don’t like Oklahoma City enough to consider them heavy favorites in this series.
No.8 Minnesota Timberwolves vs. No.1 Houston Rockets
Why the Timberwolves can win: Ummmmmm…. because the Rockets offense isn’t one that takes advantage of bad athletes? Even though Houston’s offense is a historic one, it’s not only that’s really hard to guard.
Here’s what I mean: Houston literally puts five guys around the arc. Either James Harden or Chris Paul start with it and try to shake-and-bake someone. If they do, it’s a bucket! If they don’t, they pass it to the guy standing 10 feet to their left or right and he either shoots a three or tries to isolate.
Because of this, the Wolves aren’t getting their defenders put in pick and roll or ball screens. They have to defend one-on-one and close-out on guys. That should be a little easier for them. I’m looking right at you, Andrew Wiggins!
None it matters though. The Timberwolves still won’t play defense, and even if they did, Houston is still gonna nail 28 foot threes in their face, which the Wolves won’t be able to counter.
What happens if Harden and Houston choke this series, carrying on the Rockets’ tradition? How would you explain that?
This is why Minnesota can’t win.
Why the Rockets can win: I really have to think hard about this.
Jimmy Butler can only guard one of Harden or Paul. The Wolves are close to the bottom of the league in three point percentage. Houston plays defense. Yeah, it’s not hard.
Prediction: Houston in five. The Rockets will shoot cold one game, and Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns will take advantage.