Three Teams on the Brink of Elimination, Game 7 on the Horizon
The first round of the NBA playoffs is very quickly coming to an end with four teams already locking down a spot in the conference semifinals.
The other four matchups are nearing a conclusion. Three teams are on the brink of elimination, while the Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks are heading to a winner-takes-all game 7. The Toronto Raptors, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Utah Jazz are all entering tonight with a chance of eliminating their first round opponents.
The question that of course remains is how will these matchups end? Will there be more Game 7s after today? Who will move onto the second round of the NBA playoffs?
(1) Toronto Raptors vs. (8) Washington Wizards
The Raptors used a commanding fourth quarter to take a pivotal game 5 on Wednesday evening. Now, they have the opportunity to close out the Wizards on Washington’s home floor.
It is still unknown if Fred VanVleet will be ready to play in tonight’s game 6, the backup point guard has been a key piece for the Raptors all season and a vital part of the best second unit in the entire NBA. While the Raptors have been able to take care of business in the friendly confines of the Air Canada Centre, they have struggled on the road once the series shifted to Washington.
Nevertheless, the Raptors are the one-seed and while the Wizards are one of the stronger eight-seeds in recent history, the Raptors must be able to refocus. The key will be to slow down Bradley Beal and John Wall and if they can find a way to do just that, they will lock their spot in the Conference Semifinals for a third straight season. Prediction: Raptors win game 6
(2) Boston Celtics vs. (7) Milwaukee Bucks
A two-fold story, this series has benefited the home team in all six matchups.
While the Boston Celtics showed their ability to defend their home floor, the Milwaukee Bucks have consistently found ways to answer back with big victories in Wisconsin. Despite being undermanned the entire series, the Boston Celtics have somehow found a way to reach a Game 7 on their home floor and with head coach Brad Stevens at the helm and a strong, hard-nosed defense, the theme of the series will not change.
Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Terry Rozier have all been forced to learn the playoff game on the fly in this opening series, and each one have succeeded at carrying the load for the Boston Celtics. The only thing left will be to close the deal. Prediction: Celtics win Game 7
(4) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (5) Indiana Pacers
Aside from LeBron James, the Cleveland Cavaliers have looked everything but invincible.
The Indiana Pacers have been able to take every blow the Cavs have handed them and as the series shifts onto their home floor, they will have the opportunity to claw their way to a deciding Game 7. James has played the role of the best player in the entire league, while the Pacers have been playing the part of spoiler – and doing exactly that rather well. As game 6 nears, the scrappy Pacers will need to continue to pressure the Cavaliers with the goal of surviving just one more day.
It will be up to Victor Oladipo and a strong defensive effort to lead the Pacers tonight and attempt to cancel out yet another big game from King James. Prediction: Pacers force a game 7
(4) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (5) Utah Jazz
Somehow, Joe Ingles and Ricky Rubio have taken Paul George and Russell Westbrook out of the series mentally.
While the Thunder were able to narrowly survive a game 5 on their home floor, game 6 will be completely different. Now, the series shifts to Utah’s house and in front of a loud home crowd, this will be Utah’s chance to close out the series. Donovan Mitchell has been incredible from the start, while Rudy Gobert has been leading the defensive charge of one of the strongest defensive units in the league.
Despite lacking any superstar presence, the Jazz have the 3-2 edge and the mental advantage over an individual-isolation based Thunder team. It should all end tonight. Prediction: Jazz Take Game 7