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Cerritos College • Norwalk, Calif.

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Shmackem: NBA Playoffs round one shmackin’ predictions

The National Basketball Association Playoffs – 2018 kickoff on April 14, as the battle for the Larry O’brien Trophy begins in the first round, between eight teams each in two conferences in a best of seven showdown.

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Western Conference


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No. 1 seed Houston Rockets versus No. 8 Minnesota Timberwolves

The Rockets won a franchise record 65 games, James Harden will win MVP, and yet in this matchup I have them going down in flames.

Jimmy G. Buckets, the “G” stands for gets, will be the difference.

The T-Wolves’ All-Star made his return in the last three games of the regular season, after missing 17 games due to a meniscus tear he suffered on Feb. 17, ironically against the Rockets.

The two main reasons why the Rockets will fall, are one because their two best players in Harden and Chris Paul have been known to go M.I.A. in the playoffs and second because Butler will serve them.

Not to mention the Wolves are a loaded team, they have former All Star Jeff Teague running the show at point guard, rising star Andrew Wiggins, first time All Star seven-footer Karl-Anthony Towns, three time sixth-man of the year winner Jamal Crawford, although 38-years-old still has smooth crossovers and And-1’s left in the tank and former MVP Derick Rose, who’s not the same as he was before injuries, but still can help win a game—the latter two both coming off the bench.

Yes, I’m picking a team that clinched its first playoff berth in 14 years on the very last day of the regular season in a win or go home game, ending the longest playoff drought in the NBA.

In the Wolves’ playoff clincher Butler torched the Denver Nuggets for 31 points, five rebounds and five assists, in only his third game back.

And he’ll do the same to the Rockets, as they have no one to stop him.

Butler is also one of the league’s best defenders and will put the clamps on Harden, defensively, making scoring harder for Harden, the leagues scoring champ.

Timberwolves in seven.


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No. 4 Oklahoma City Thunder versus No. 5 Utah Jazz

The Thunder have had an up and down season, integrating two All-Stars who were leaders of their own teams, yet they still have home court advantage in the playoffs.

They are facing a gritty Jazz team, lead by top two Rookie of the Year candidate Donovan Mitchell and Defensive Player of the Year candidate Rudy Gobert, the Jazz came out of nowhere to make the playoffs.

A year after losing its best player Gordon Hayward to free agency, the Jazz find itself in a position most thought unlikely after its best player bolted for the Boston Celtics.

However, Russell Westbrook averaged a triple-double for the second consecutive season and the Thunder won 80 percent of the games that Russ had a triple-double in.

If Westbrook averages a triple-double for this series, it’s a wrap for the Jazz, who’s primary scoring comes from rookie Mitchell, a 20 point per game scorer.

According to All Star Paul George, an elite defender, self-proclaimed “Playoff P” will lockdown Mitchell.

Thunder in five


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No. 3 Portland Trailblazers versus No. 6 New Orleans Pelicans

Dame time will prevail in this matchup. Portland’s Damian Lillard is a man on a mission after being consistently underrated and undervalued—and he’ll look to prove to doubters why he’s an MVP candidate.

Although, Anthony “The Brow” Davis will have something to say about that. Davis is New Orleans’ All-Star power forward, the leader in the race for Defensive Player of the Year and also an MVP candidate.

The Pelicans have two defensive minded guards in Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo, who will look to lockdown the dynamic offensive Trailblazer guards, Lillard and CJ McCollum.

However, Lillard is built for the playoff stage, as he’s lead his team to five postseason berths in six seasons in the league while averaging 24 points in those games.

He’s also a clutch player, who won’t hesitate to hit a team with a cold-blooded dagger with the game on the line.

And McCollum is no slouch, he’s averaged over 20 points in each of the last three seasons.

Both guards also had a 50-point game in the 2017-18 season.

It will be tough for the Pelicans to stop the offensive attack of the Trailblazers guards.

Trailblazers in six


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No. 2 Golden State Warriors versus No. 7 San Antonio Spurs

In the least anticipated matchup of the playoffs, the reigning-defending champs, the Warriors take on the injury depleted Spurs.

The Spurs won 47 games and squeaked into the playoffs without last season’s top-3 MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard, who was limited to only nine games this season.

Without Leonard there’s virtually no chance for the Spurs to win the series, even with Stephen Curry out the Warriors with a grade 2 MCL sprain

The main reason why the Spurs will get a win at home is because head coach Greg Popovich is one of the best coaches of all time so he’ll lead his team to one win, that’s all they’ll get.

All Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge is a walking 20 points and 10 rebounds player, but he’s going to need all the help he can get from the Spurs other role players to pull out a win.

On the other end, the Warriors have three All Stars, including top-3 player Kevin Durant.

The Spurs won’t stick around long with the Warriors star power and shooting ability.

Side note: The Warriors swept the Spurs last year in the Western Conference Finals, after Leonard went down with an ankle injury in Game 1 and did not return for that series.


Warriors in five


Eastern Conference


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No. 3 Philadelphia 76ers versus No. 6 Miami Heat

Ultimately, the Sixers have the two best players in this series and more young talent overall than the Heat do, which will put them over the top.

All-Star center and social media MVP, Joel Embiid will go head to head against the center who’s just trying to get his 2k rating up, Hassan Whiteside, the individual matchup between the two All Star caliber seven footers will be hands down the best square up we’ve seen in many years by centers.

“No one’s doing it with blocks.” – Whiteside. The social media and post-game commentary between Whiteside and Embiid will be legendary.

Seeing as the two team’s each split the regular season series at two a piece, this is destined to be an all-time great seven game playoff series.

The Sixers are riding a 16 game winning streak heading into the playoffs and won the last half without Embiid, whose expected to miss a couple games in the first round, after undergoing surgery for a fractured bone in his face.

The team has shown that it can win without Embiid, but when he returns, the series should favor the Sixers even more.

76ers in seven


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No. 1 Toronto Raptors versus No. 8 Washington Wizards

This will be a battle of the All Star backcourt, with the best pair of guards winning it for their team and the best guards between these two teams play in Washington.

The Raptors have been one of the best regular season teams for the past few years, however, in the postseason they look like a team that should be at home watching the playoffs from the couch.

All Stars Demar Derozan and Kyle Lowry have not shown up the past couple postseason’s.

Even the wins that the Raptors have gotten in the playoffs have been ugly grind it out games for a team that’s dominant in the regular season.

This is a team that has not won an opening game of a playoff series ever.

The Wizards have point guard John Wall, who might be the best PG in the East and sharpshooter Bradley Beal, both All Stars.

Although the Wizards are an eight seed, that’s primarily due to Wall missing exactly half the season, following knee surgery.

This eight seed is not like the rest, the Wizards or any team for that matter don’t seem scared of the 59-win Raptors

Wizards will use its magic to make the Raptors go extinct.

Wizards in seven


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No. 4 Cleveland Cavaliers versus No. 5 Indiana Pacers

The Pacers won the regular season series, 3-1.

However, this is the playoffs and LeBron James has never lost a first round playoff series (12-0).

They might as well give that man a first round bye and have his team start in the second round.

The Pacers are lead by slashing guard Victor Oladipo, a first time All-Star and Most Improved Player leading candidate.

They were lead last year by George and he couldn’t stop the Pacers from getting swept.

The only way Oladipo can avoid getting swept off the floor is by staying home and playing Fortnite.

Cavaliers in four

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No. 2 Boston Celtics versus No. 7 Milwaukee Bucks

The Celtics get it done as a unit, everyone knows their role and they just play the right way—which will lead to a series win.

As for the Bucks, the team has underperformed for the past several seasons—they should be much better with Swiss Army knife All Star Giannis Antetokounmpo, a 23-year-old player who averaged 27 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists during the regular season.

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However, the Bucks aren’t a threat, even with the Celtics not having their best player available.

The Celtics have had a crazy year—they lost Hayward to a gruesome leg injury on the very first game of the regular season, then All-Star starter Kyrie Irving had knee surgery on and was ruled out for the playoffs.

The Celtics have All Star Al Horford, although, Horford is not a player who’s going to put up big numbers, he’s a winner.

To go along with Horford, the Celtics also have a great young coach in Brad Stevens.

The Bucks fired its head coach throughout the season, so they don’t even have a full-time coach currently.

The Celtics are just a more consistent team, with a better coach and better role players—they’ll make it out this round, without Irving.

Celtics in six

About the Contributor
Jah-Tosh Baruti, Staff Writer
Jah-Tosh Baruti is author of the sports column titled Shmackem. Previously he was sports editor for Talon Marks. Baruti also took home an award for his sports writing at the Journalism Association of Community Colleges’ state conference in 2018.
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Shmackem: NBA Playoffs round one shmackin’ predictions