2018 NBA Playoffs Second Round Preview: Warriors & Rockets Cruising to WCF

  • The Warriors are one step closer to their fourth straight Finals appearance after defeating the Pelicans in Game 1
  • James Harden had 41 points and ran roughshod over Utah’s highly-rated defense
  • LeBron James is in danger of missing the NBA Finals for the first time in eight seasons

The second round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs officially got underway on Saturday night when the Warriors destroyed the Pelicans 123-101. It was an impressive wire-to-wire performance from the defending champs as they matched New Orleans’ fast and furious tempo without compromising their own trademark precision.

That particular series could be over early, but there are three other match-ups to savor as the red-hot Rockets face the upstart Jazz, the Raptors take on the reeling Cavs, and the surging Sixers battle the banged-up Celtics.

We’ve come up with our own championship odds for all eight remaining teams along with a preview of each second-round series.

2018 NBA Championship Odds

  • Houston Rockets: 3/2
  • Golden State Warriors: 13/7
  • Philadelphia 76ers: 11/1
  • Toronto Raptors: 15/1
  • Cleveland Cavaliers: 20/1
  • Boston Celtics: 35/1
  • Utah Jazz: 70/1
  • New Orleans Pelicans: 75/1

NBA Playoffs Conference Semifinals Odds

(1) Houston Rockets vs (5) Utah Jazz

The Jazz had the second best defensive rating in the NBA in 2017-18, but that didn’t matter one iota on Sunday night as the Rockets scored 110 points on 50% shooting from the floor and 53% from behind the arc. James Harden got to the lane with impunity en route to a 41-point performance, and four Rockets finished in double figures.

The Rockets scored 110 points on 50% shooting from the floor and 53% from behind the arc.

Houston won’t be that efficient every game, but they have far too much firepower to be beaten by an undermanned Utah squad missing its top perimeter defender in Ricky Rubio. Whoever said that good defenses beat good offenses never saw a team with this many three-point threats.

Odds to win series: Houston 1/9

Over/Under series length: 4.5 games

(2) Golden State Warriors vs (6) New Orleans Pelicans

The Warriors are so talented that sometimes it’s easy to forget just how hard they work on both ends of the court. That was evident on Saturday night as Kevin Durant swatted shots, Andre Iguodala sprinted into passing lanes, and Draymond Green boxed out everyone within a five-mile radius. Not only did Golden State consistently out-hustle New Orleans, but they also out-rebounded them 65-46 while committing eight fewer fouls.

That’s a pretty good recipe for success, and it’s one the Warriors will look to follow on Tuesday night when Steph Curry makes his long-awaited return. The two-time MVP has been practicing at full speed and is expected to suit up for Game 2 after missing the past six weeks with a sprained right knee. Expect him to pick up right where he left off, and for Golden State to finish this series early.

Odds to win series: Golden State 1/4

Over/Under series length: 4.5 games

(1) Toronto Raptors vs (4) Cleveland Cavaliers

No superstar has ever had to work harder to win a first round series than LeBron James, who did everything but drive the team bus in Cleveland’s seven game squeaker against the Pacers. The fact that he led the Cavs in points, minutes, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks is impressive, but it also highlights the fact that Cleveland suffers from a precarious lack of depth.

The Raptors will look to expose the Cavs’ thin roster with their enviable ten-man rotation. Toronto’s bench unit led the league in scoring in 2017-18 and boasts a well-rounded collection of low post scorers, three-and-D specialists, and long-range gunners. The Raptors don’t have any one player capable of shutting down LeBron, but collectively they can overwhelm Cleveland and return to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2016.

Odds to win series: Toronto 2/3

Over/Under series length: 6.5 games

(2) Boston Celtics vs (3) Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers must feel like they’re living in the Twilight Zone. After years of seeing their young players go down with one injury after another, they’re finally the healthiest team on the court. Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Markelle Fultz are all available for duty, and are eager to build upon their lopsided first round victory against the Heat.

Shooting guard Jaylen Brown is also expected to miss multiple games after aggravating his hamstring in Boston’s victory over Milwaukee.

The Celtics, meanwhile, will be without All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. Shooting guard Jaylen Brown is also expected to miss multiple games after aggravating his hamstring in Boston’s Game 7 victory over Milwaukee. The Celtics likely could have overcome the loss of one of those players thanks to their exceptionally stingy defense, but losing all three will spell disaster.

Enjoy watching both team’s emerging stars and check back on these clubs next season when they renew their rivalry in earnest.

Odds to win series: Philadelphia 2/5

Over/Under series length: 4.5 games

Darren Myers

Darren Myers can list all 35 members of the Miracle Mets, knows every word to Casey at the Bat, and remembers exactly where he was when Michael Jordan scored 63 points against the Celtics in the Boston Garden. Unfortunately, he has no idea where he left his house keys. If you happen to find them please contact him immediately as it's starting to get dark and he's pretty sure he just heard something howl.