Round 1 of the NBA Playoffs tips off this Saturday, April 13. First round matchups are sometimes lopsided. Golden State should have no trouble taking down Houston in 4 games. But, sometimes, first round matchups are desperately difficult to handicap.
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) April 14, 2016
I like to look for possible long shot series winning plays in the first round. To me, it makes sense to take a swing in Round 1. A lot of the matchups have teams that are similar to each other in terms of talent. Why not go with a long shot before getting deeper into the playoffs? See below for my picks in three first round series in the 2016 NBA Playoffs!
A Closer Look At My 2016 NBA Playoff First Round Picks
Indiana +222 vs Toronto -337
Indiana only went 1 and 4 against Toronto during the regular season. But, the Raptors only blew out the Pacers once in all 4 games. I think that’s important to note. Indiana lost 94 to 101 in overtime on March 17. They blew out the Raptors 106 to 90 on Dec. 14, 2015.
Paul George should finally be healthy while Solomon Hill has become a mini version of the Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard. He finished the regular season scoring in double-digits in 4 out of Indiana’s final 5 games. The Pacers won their final 3 games and covered the spread in all 3. I like Indiana to upset Toronto in Round 1.
Pick: Indiana in 7
• Game 1 @TOR: 12:30 p.m. ET, Saturday (ESPN)
• Game 2 @TOR: 7 p.m. ET, Monday (NBA)
• Game 3 @IND: 7:30 p.m. ET, April 21 (NBA)
• Game 4 @IND: 3 p.m. ET, April 23 (TNT)
• Game 5 @TOR: TBD, April 26 (TBD)*
• Game 6 @IND: TBD, April 29 (TBD)*
• Game 7 @TOR: TBD, May 1 (TBD)*
Boston +170 vs Atlanta -238
The Celtics are going to have a tougher time beating Atlanta in a 7-game series than Indiana will have beating Toronto. But, I do feel that Brad Stevens’s team has what it takes to upset the Hawks.
Atlanta’s defense is incredibly effective. The Hawks allow a stunningly low 43.2% from the field. Opponents shoot 33.8% from three versus the Hawks’ defense. But, Boston’s D isn’t terrible. Plus, Boston has the deeper bench. Both Kelly Olynyk and Evan Turner come off the bench for Stevens.
The key will be the play of Celtics’ point guard Isaiah Thomas. He has the ability to be the best player on the court in this series. Thomas averages 22.2 points and 6.2 assists per game. If he takes over, Boston can upset the Hawks.
Pick: Boston in 6
• Game 1 @ATL: 7 p.m. ET, Saturday (ESPN)
• Game 2 @ATL: 7 p.m. ET, Tuesday (TNT)
• Game 3 @BOS: 8 p.m. ET, April 22 (ESPN2)
• Game 4 @BOS: 6 p.m. ET, April 24 (TNT)
• Game 5 @ATL: TBD, April 26 (TBD)*
• Game 6 @BOS: TBD, April 28 (TBD)*
• Game 7 @ATL: TBD, April 30 (TBD)*
Charlotte Hornets +125 vs Miami Heat -171
These 2 teams have the same regular season records at 48 and 34. Out of the 2, Charlotte is actually the preferred team to back. While Miami has excellent veterans on their team in Dwayne Wade, Joe Johnson and Luol Deng, the Hornets have hungry, young players.
Jeremy Lin, Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb off the bench can all score. The Hornets defense is markedly improved this season. To make things more difficult for the aging Heat in this series, Charlotte’s bench is loaded. Frank Kaminsky, Al Jefferson, Troy Daniels, Spencer Hawes, can all start or come off the bench. Charlotte is deep enough to tire out Miami in this series. Once Miami starts feeling its age, I expect the Hornets to shut the door on the Heat.
• Game 1 @MIA: 5:30 p.m. ET, Sunday (TNT)
• Game 2 @MIA: 7 p.m. ET, Wednesday (NBA)
• Game 3 @CHA: 5:30 p.m. ET, April 23 (TNT)
• Game 4 @CHA: TBD, April 25 (TBD)
• Game 5 @MIA: TBD, April 27 (TBD)*
• Game 6 @CHA: TBD, April 29 (TBD)*
• Game 7 @MIA: TBD, May 1 (TBD)*
Pick: Charlotte in 6