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2016 NBA Playoffs first round previews & predictions

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The NBA playoffs mean previews, predictions, and pure, unadulterated joy.

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016 NBA first round playoffs are just hours away. Let's get right to these series previews.

Western Conference

(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (8) Houston Rockets

What about it? This has a 1 seed vs. 16th seed type feeling to it. 16th seeds are always glad to be there though, despite knowing full well about the pain they will be sure to endure. Oddly, maybe, the Rockets apparently had enough pride to stay afloat and slip into the field, but why exactly? Bloodshed awaits. They know it too.

There's a great read here from The Dream Shake about this dumb Rockets season and its doomed ending. It also mentions that Donuts Mutantjello guy and the reason he won't see much time against the Warriors: he's too slow to keep up. See, Mutantjello wouldn't have helped Detroit against the Warriors in the Finals anyway. Glad that deal crumbled.

Why Pistons fans should care about this series?  1) If you like rooting against Josh Smith and 2) knowing you'll be right about seeing someone lose, then you are in luck here! 3. You'll also see Stephen Curry do video game stuff in real life every single quarter.

Key Player: Patrick Beverley. With his history, he could injure someone -- say, for example, Stephen Curry. Rockets would still lose the series but it would screw with the Warriors title hopes.

Prediction: Warriors in 6.

(4) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (5) Portland Trailblazers

What about it? We all know about Portland's lethal two guard attack and emergence of support staff like Allen Crabbe, Al-Farouq Aminu and Ed Davis, just to name a few. Notable, too, is Meyers Leonard.

Me being a Big Ten school alumnus, I've been keeping tabs on the former Illinois center's career. He's slowly but surely turned in to a solid role player and is still young at just 24. The legit 7-footer strokes it from downtown like a guard now too (86 made triples this season in 61 games), so should he be called a stretch center? People didn't see this transformation coming at all, considering at Illinois Leonard couldn't and didn't shoot it, just strictly an athlete that made plays at the rim. The current poor news in all of this is that Meyers is out for many months with a shoulder injury.

Why Pistons fans should care about this series? There's going to be a lot of buckets and 6 or 7 games of fun and athletic players doing their thing. It should be a relatively pretty series, at least compared to the slug-fest style of the Pistons-Cavs. Both series will be exciting and engaging in different ways.

Key player: Blake Griffin. If Blake can be effective against the defensive savvy Aminu, the Clippers should have the upper hand. Though perhaps the Clippers don't need Blake's jump shot on consistently wet mode to win this series. Blake's presence alone on offense and hopefully on the glass will go a long way in helping LA's case.

Prediction: Trailblazers in 6. Blazers got this 'no pressure' feeling about them, whereas the Clippers would be in tear down mode if they come up short. It could be in the back of their minds.

(2) San Antonio Spurs vs. (7) Memphis Grizzlies

What about it? The Spurs are cruising in and the Grizzlies are barely limping in, losers of 10 of 11. Jordan Farmar is the Grizzlies' starting point guard (he wasn't even on an NBA roster for most of this season). The current Grizzlies offense relies heavily on Zach Randolph (OK, that's not too bad) and Matt Barnes post-ups and jumpers (eh) and Lance Stephenson 'creativity' (eek). Yes, I have watched a couple Grizzlies games recently. Judge me all you want.

Also, it's worth noting that 39-year-old Vince Carter has a much bigger role than people would have thought. Having said that, Vince only plays 16 minutes per game. He's had a hot April too, currently shooting 55% (11-20) from downtown. If pre-2010 Vince somehow appeared, the Grizzlies would have a fighting chance to be competitive.

Why Pistons fans should care about this series? Well, the Spurs bench crew could handle the Grizzlies in 5 or even 4 games, it really could. So you might want to care about that if Pop indeed rests his core players for a few games. That would be newsworthy as all get out.

Key player(s): Mike Conley & Marc Gasol, as both will be on the sidelines watching the action.

Prediction: Spurs in 4

(3) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (6) Dallas Mavericks

What about it? No Chandler Parsons, no Tyson Chandler, no Shawn Marion, no Jason get the gist here about the Mavs -- not enough of the present, and the several past studs are long gone and missed too. While Dirk and J.J. Barea are still dangerous and Wes Matthews is back to being solid after his Achilles injury last season, it's not going to be enough. It's a hodge-podge collection of talent that Rick Carlisle has molded into a decent team, but in the end they're only playoff fodder.

Why Pistons fans should care about this series? Not much to care about besides supporting the Mavs attempts to aggravate Russell Westbrook. If you want a video of a scrum earlier this season between J.J. Barea, Charlie Villanueva and Russell Westbrook, check this out.

Key player: Kevin Durant. He's going to do his thing and it's all the Thunder need. Plus anyway, who's going to guard him? And who's going to guard Westbrook? Mismatches all over the court.

Prediction: Thunder in 5

Eastern Conference

(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (8) Detroit Pistons

What about it? Read lazchance's series preview for DBB, here. Yes we can. Detroit vs. Everybody.

Why Pistons fans should care about this series? Because the Pistons are our team and we don't want the season to ever end, especially at the hands of the LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Key player: Reggie JacksonAron Baynes was my first thought, since he could see the floor for 20+ minutes per game if Cleveland wants to get touchy-feely with Andre. However, Reggie Jackson is my last thought. Reggie will be the deciding factor on whether this series is competitive or not. He's got to set the tone, be the leader and make his mark as an elite point guard in this league. Can't wait for Reggie to do Reggie (the good Reggie). But it may just not be enough.

Prediction: Cavaliers in 7

(4) Atlanta Hawks vs. (5) Boston Celtics

What about it? Paul Millsap and Al Horford are excellent and the whole Atlanta system is well-oiled. They scare no one though. The Celtics are a bit deeper (not at the point guard position though) and grittier, although that word is used too often and too ambiguously that it's rendered pretty meaningless, at least in my view.

Why Pistons fans should care about this series? Obviously the winner of this series will face the winner of Pistons-Cavs, so rev up your scouting report preparations. Since Pistons struggle with the Hawks more so than they do with the Celtics, the preferred matchup seems to be the Celtics. Pistons-Celtics for the second round? Sign us up.

On a different note, as Pistons fans we know how to embrace guys without the big name brand and such. This series has no big named brands. Therefore, us Pistons fans should have no hesitancy about taking in and digesting this series and enjoying it for what it is. Or you should care because Jonas Jerebko will be playing and naturally slaying ladies (gents too) and Hawks alike.

Key player: Isaiah Thomas. It comes down to whatever player can make clutch shots, because with these two such well coached teams expect a ton of dramatic plays at the end of games.

Prediction: Celtics in 6

(2) Toronto Raptors vs. (7) Indiana Pacers

What about it? There will be many close games and it could go either way. The edge should go to Toronto because of Bismack Biyombo's interior defense as well as the rest of the Raptors bench play. Although, I'll have even more interest in this series if Paul George REALLY steps up (like he's obviously capable of) and carries the Pacers on his back.

Why Pistons fans should care about this series? Pistons fans should not care about this series unless you find the Raptors, Goliath's little brother, intriguing. Focus your energy elsewhere. Additionally, I'm certain many Pistons fans will happily wish for the Pacers' Rodney Stuckey to have good moments, as he really doesn't have much playoff experience to his name.

Key player: Kyle Lowry. He will have a challenging test going against George Hill. But with Toronto's past playoff struggles and the fact they are playing a 7th seed, Lowry's got to get the better of this point guard matchup and lead Toronto to victory -- no excuses.

Prediction: Raptors in 6

(3) Miami Heat vs. (6) Charlotte Hornets

What about it? On paper the Heat are way sexier (name recognition wise, at least) and are more playoff experienced. Even if we were talking about physical sexiness, the Hornets are going to be second in that category, too, because of Spencer Hawes on their roster. All you need is one Spencer Hawes and sexy you indeed are not. Want evidence? Go here and also just refer to Spencer's hairdos during most of his NBA playing career.

Getting back to the hardwood -- this Kemba Walker guy and Jeremy Lin guy need to wreak havoc inside and outside on this Heat defense so it may open things up for Big Al Jefferson to beast. Big Al deserves added recognition and definitely deserves a trip past the first round, something he's never experienced.

Why Pistons fans should care about this series? Miami's rookies Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson (as of the past month or so, anyway) have largely outplayed Stanley Johnson. We are aware of this. Most of us Pistons fans expect Johnson to end up as the superior player to Winslow, yet it's an ongoing dialogue/debate around the league about who will be better. Winslow gets the edge in the debate because he plays more minutes and better defense, normally. What Pistons fans get irritated by is the lack of attention Stanley gets compared to that of Winslow. Fret not, Stanley will be the better all around player in the long run, and that's all that really matters.

Key player: Nicolas Batum.  If his ankle issue isn't too major, the Hornets are in good position to take this series.

Prediction: Hornets in 7


Let the postseason party begin!