2018 NBA Playoffs: Matchups, Players, Player-Matchups, Predictions, and More

Ben Simmons is in the house. Markelle Fultz is in the house. Joel Embiid is in the house. Practically every player on the 76ers is in the house and every player in the playoffs is on the 76ers and is in the house. But does this mean the new and rebuilt 76ers team of rookie superstar hopefuls will succeed in the ol’ playoffs? I ask this question how I’m going to ask the Utah Jazz if their Donovan Mitchell-led squad can make an impact. I ask this question how I’m going to ask the ol’ Spurs if they can withstand the Warriors. I ask this question how I’m going to ask the Pacers how and why they have reached the playoffs just to face Cleveland again and without Paul George this time. I ask this question how I’m going to ask the Toronto Raptors if they can let DeMar DeRozan win a championship, or how I’m going to ask DeMar DeRozan if he can let the Raptors win a championship. I ask this question how I’m going to ask the Houston Rockets if they can roll past all the newness, especially the newness in Minnesota, to win the ol’ ‘ship. So, I’m not picking on the 76ers. Well, maybe a little bit since they have everything to entertain a playoff run. But the playoffs are more about matchups than – well, all of that jazz and stuff. So, I want to see if these teams matched up against other teams can do what they did in the regular reason in the postseason. Let’s take a look.

76ers

Let’s pick on the 76ers. ‘Twas a starry and dreamy night when a 6’10” rookie put on a 76ers jersey for the first time and made a historic return at the same time. ‘Twas a starry and dreamy night when this same 6’10” rookie handled the ball and started playing all positions for his team. ‘Twas a starry and dreamy night when another rookie put on a 76ers jersey for the first time in a return from injury also and made history as the youngest player ever to score a triple-double. That’s a lot of stars and dreaming big for the 76ers. If Philly can keep their superstar rookies Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz up and running, then the 76ers should be able to sneak past a couple of rounds.

The thing to consider is that Philly’s playoff highlights are few and far between since a real life human basketball player ( and my all-time favorite ) named Allen Iverson stepped over Tyronn Lue in the 2001 Finals. Also, their matchup is a strongly-coached and confident Heat team with a real life human basketball player named Hassan Whiteside on their team. So, the 76ers will have some rust to dust off. And in order to do so, they’ll have to do exactly what their other superstar Joel Embiid says, and trust the process.

Don’t rush it, Philly, just play basketball.

Jazz

Let’s not pick on the Utah Jazz. Let’s actually just pick them. If you have not been living under a rock this season, you have been watching the Utah Jazz run through the NBA season like their foe OKC used to do really well down the court. And if you have been living under a rock, the Jazz have seemed to pull you out from under it for just a second to watch some basketball. Or of course, to watch their rookie shooting guard Donovan Mitchell win the slam dunk contest. The Jazz might have just what the playoffs need and will turn this thing into a contest for rookie of the year or a slam dunk contest, or some other fun competition that they’re good at and will win. This, then, will give all of their competitors just what they need – some competition, some fun, and some Donovan Mitchell.

Of course, the Thunder will come rolling in with the big trio of Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony. But this rolling thunder might not strike a rock like the Utah Jazz. Aside from Westbrook squaring up against Utah’s guards and going coast-to-coast on Rudy Gobert, OKC will likely return to their chemistry troubles of the regular season and not know what to do with all of it against the rookie-of-the-year-having, slam-dunking, rolling, striking, squaring, coast-to-coast, perfect-chemistry Jazz.

Spurs

There’s a lot of old versus new in this year’s playoffs, but this couldn’t be more prevalent than in the Spurs matchup against the Warriors. It’s pretty straight-forward here: the Spurs are the old and the Warriors are the new. Let’s go, Spurs and Warriors! The catch is that the Spurs are not just old – they are both old and new. Yes, they have an old system that may not be able to turn up the way the Warriors turn up, especially in the Oracle Arena – but new players are running it. If the Spurs can play their game, pick the right player-matchups at the right time in the right arena, then they can do this new thing and knock the Warriors down.

Yes, they have been missing Kawhi Leonard and this alone changes everything. Like, the Warriors have Kevin Durant and this alone changes everything. They also have Steph Curry. Also, there’s Klay Thompson. There’s Draymond Green. There’s… well, you get the point. But again, if the Spurs can just pick the right matchups against the Warriors who will go isolation with their stars, and perhaps, make this coach versus coach or system versus system – y’know, ol’ Gregg Popovich versus ol’ Steve Kerr – then the Warriors, or at least some of the Warriors, will turn down.

p.s. Hi, Dejounte Murray

Pacers

Pacers, pace yourselves and you might beat Cleveland.

I mean… they might!

Raptors

O DeMar DeRozan, DeMar DeRozan. Where art thou in the playoffs? Where art thou when the new bench is subbed in? Where art thou 50-point games in the playoffs? Because I’ll be looking for it. And hopefully, having the No. 1 seed is there for a confidence-booster.

Look, the Raptors have to face the Wizards. Then, they have to beat Cleveland. We get it. That’s the playoffs. But this is the Toronto Raptors and I expect them to win at everything they, DeMar DeRozan, and their bench do.

Rockets

O James Harden, James Harden. Where art thou when teammates Chris Paul, Trevor Ariza, and Gerald Green stormed into the Clippers locker room? Oh, right, you were right there like always. The Houston Rockets really count on James Harden. It’s time now to make it all count and win a championship. The counting-game has been the name of the game for the Rockets this season, as they have made their way, finally, into the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. And for it, they get to take on the new-coming Timberwolves who haven’t made it to the playoffs since a real life human basketball player named Kevin Garnett played. Yay. Wow.

The matchup is interesting. While we have been awaiting the Houston Rockets to take over the NBA world, I don’t quite know what to say about Minnesota. At least not yet and this will make the Rockets look even better in the postseason than the regular season. The fact that the T-Wolves have made it to the playoffs, and have rebuilt their roster with youth and athleticism is interesting to watch against a team all are looking forward to seeing at the finish line. Karl-Anthony Towns will have to howl in fans in Minnesota to make the Rockets stop. Or else, Houston is going to come storming onto the court and into the locker room like nothing ever happened to the T-Wolves in the offseason. Please, Houston, not too tragic.

p.s. Hi, Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose


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