Blogtable: Finding a new playoff gear

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

BLOGTABLE: All-NBA center | Coaches in danger | Playoff team needs new gear

VIDEO: Bobcats big man Al Jefferson talks about Charlotte’s hopes for a long playoff run

Which playoff-bound teams (give me two or three) will play up to another level in the grind of the playoffs? Who will have trouble playing as well as they are now?

Steve Aschburner, I start with the second question (ever notice how most respondents do?): Phoenix and Washington could suffer most from the just-happy-to-be-there approach, the Suns overachieving their way in (if they get in) and Washington desperate to qualify but with no real postseason experience. Atlanta figures to be a quick out but then, the Hawks haven’t played all that well anyway. Shifting into a better gear? Charlotte’s defense is suited to the playoffs and, if the Bobcats face the sideways Pacers, that could get interesting. Chicago always is a team to avoid, but that’s just the way the Bulls grind all the time, not due to any next level. I’d add Golden State, because their coach will feel urgency and the Warriors’ offense can get so dangerously hot.

Fran Blinebury, The Spurs, Thunder, Heat, Bulls, Clippers will rise. The Pacers, Raptors, Nets, Blazers will drop. Why? It’s pretty self-explanatory. The first five teams look like legit contenders while the latter four are not ready for the grind of the playoffs for one reason or another. In particular, the Pacers look like they’re ready to crater.

Jeff Caplan, City has fought through Russell Westbrook‘s situation and injuries to two starters in the final quarter of the season, plus acclimating Caron Butler, so put the Thunder at the top of the list for teams that will play up. It seems weird to put Miami in this category, but the Heat have been coasting. They know what’s at stake starting April 19. Also give me Brooklyn’s vets. On the other side, I expect Dallas, if it gets in, will have trouble reaching another level. And, Toronto, with relatively little playoff experience, could be in for an early disappointment — especially with potential first-round foe Washington expecting Nene‘s return.

Scott Howard-Cooper, The Heat will play up to another level. They can read a calendar as well as anyone. All that talk about the fatigue from carrying the trophy overhead for so many years? Ignore it. This will be the playoff Heat. Maybe someone beats Miami, but the Heat aren’t handing anything over. And the Thunder will play up to another level. Westbrook will be playing big minutes and won’t have to worry about back-to-backs, Kendrick Perkins should have his minutes up and Thabo Sefolosha will have been back about a week and a half and in a good rhythm.

John Schuhmann, I’ll always look at defense to answer a question like this. The Warriors have gone through some controversy and have seemingly been treading water around the No. 6 seed for a while, but they’ve been the best defensive team in the Western Conference, with top-flight defenders on the perimeter (Andre Iguodala) and the interior (Andrew Bogut). That’s a formula for playoff success. For the same reasons, Chicago and Charlotte will be tough outs. Oklahoma City has had some defensive issues of late and could be in trouble if they match up with Phoenix, because no team has been more efficient against the Thunder this season.

Sekou Smith, The Brooklyn Nets look like one of those teams you don’t want to tussle with in the playoffs. The same goes for the Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference. All three have endured their fair share of troubles at some point this season and yet all three seem to have another gear they can get to in the postseason. I love what the Toronto Raptors are doing right now but I wonder if they’re ready for what coach Dwane Casey knows awaits them in the playoffs. They have put together a fantastic season that should be highlighted by an Atlantic Division crown. What comes after that, however, is the problem. A potential first-round matchup against either Washington or Charlotte could be a rough ride.

Lang Whitaker, All Ball blog: Waaaay back in October I was high on the Clippers and the Nets. And while Rick Fox and Sekou Smith may have made fun of me on the Hang Time Podcast for going all in on those teams, I’ve always felt that these were teams that would improve as the season went along, and I think they both have done exactly that. In the postseason, Chris Paul has always turned things up a notch, and now he has the players around him to be as dangerous as he’s ever been. And we’ve all seen how Brooklyn can handle Miami, so I think they’re in as good a place as they could be.


  1. mulawin877 says:

    BKN is a tough match up for the bulls… They have veteran players with playoff experience.

  2. LeBron says:

    Good Lord, what are you talking about? Raptors? Who are they? 2nd round, that’s all, because 8-6 teams are also weak. By the way, I hope miami will get : 1st round: NYN, 2nd round (if they reach 2nd) Chicago (or even Brooklyn), ECF Indiana. In finals SAS, but I don’ think Miami will get to the finals this year.

  3. 416 says:


  4. Raptors All Day says:

    Raptors Are Going To Surprise Everyone We May Not Get The Champion Ship But We Not Going Down Easy Washington Will Get ran Over In The 1st Pacers Will Lose In Game 6-7 Rd 2 And The Heat Will Be Tough The Raptors Are Hungry And Will Do What It Takes J.V Stepping Up Huge In the Pait Ross And Wasquez Dropping Threes Its Going To Be a Problem They Just Need To Maintain Physcial Defense Through Out The 4 quarters With Getting Drained Rember I told You RAPTORS ARE HUNGRY!!!!!

  5. IbakaFan9 says:

    Wow… The Raptors will make it to the second round, and they have a legitimate chance to make it to the ECF.

  6. Bob Slydell says:

    Team I’m rooting for:
    Oklahoma City

    Teams I’m rooting against:
    San Antonio
    L.A. Clippers
    Golden State

  7. TDOTtime says:

    Raptors fans are out here !!! tdot stand up ….its not carter days but ..we hungry

  8. EWalk says:


  9. sid says:

    Its clear Sekou doesn’t watch basketball north of the boarder, Toronto will destroy Washington in the first round but unfortunately Washington will probably finish 7th and play Indiana. Toronto has always had a difficult time against the bobcats but I would say chuck hays can somewhat contain Jefferson on the low block to edge them out a win, plus home court advantage. if the raps finish 4th and play Brooklyn that series is going 7 games and its a toss up, pierce is a beast in the playoffs, and amir Johnson cant guard him at the 4 position. on the other side of the ball no one on Brooklyn can guard lowery.

  10. tdot says:

    The amount of disrespect that is shown to the raptors is insane.

  11. Sonny says:

    The pacers are a team that can pick it up and play however they want under preasure , the heats seem to only play hard when it counts as well , the spurs are extremely consistant ,,, the raptors are fresh young and have a “Good team” all around but nothing excellent however I think they have a good shot to get far , as for the clippers gone in the first round … brooklyn has been a wonderball of suprises all season long up and down so it comes down to how bad they will want it and can they keep and play consistantly throughout the post season without losing limbs and having heart attacks but my bitcoins is on the blazers .

  12. smh says:

    what is seoku smith talking about lol. charlette and wizards are pretty new to the playoffs as the raptors. either two would be perfect for the raps in a playoff series.

  13. TDOTtime says:

    wait hold up spurs always gets slept on a couple bad games and now yall think pacers are soft …..playoff going to hurt a lot of ppl …ps raptors might not be the best but they can beat almost anyone

  14. mr k says:

    Wow the disrespect the raptors get on these blogs is ridiculous. To even think Washington or Charlotte is a threat is laughable. As usual everybody is pushing Miami who is in for a reality check this post season.

  15. Wonton says:

    Raps to ecf

  16. ryan says:

    wow , alot of raptor talk .to me its seems the nba wants toronto to fail?

    • lol says:

      Right? The NBA always seem to be against the Raptors. If they had been researching properly they would know that the Raptors beat the Wizards in the season series 3-1. And the one loss was a 3OT game. The Raptors have a great chance if they faceoff against the Wizards in the first round regardless of a returning Nene. If the Raptor bigs could handle the Pacer frontcourt then they absolutely can take on Nene and Gortat. The bigger matchups in that series would be Wall – Lowry and Beal – DeRozan.

  17. NZspursFAN says:


  18. Jim says:

    Re: Fran Blinebury, Riveting take on the playoff situation for the Pacers, Raptors, Nets, and Blazers… “It’s pretty self-explanatory. …the latter four are not ready for the grind of the playoffs for one reason or another.” Wow, I am drowning in the depth of this comment. You would be an excellent candidate for a reporter position at fox news.

  19. #30 says:

    BG should step up in LAC unless he choke again and again.

    Raptors can be legit contender in ECF.

    Lets go GSW!

  20. okc2014 says:

    Wow. I think the Bobkittens and the Brooklyn Nets are the only top bottom 4 seeds who have a serious chance for 2nd round.

  21. dustydreamnz says:

    There is always upsets and experience helps but it is not everything. Things like injuries and bad calls come into it.
    Remember when the Bulls were touted highly and D Rose got injured right at the start, they were awful without him.
    Same goes for every team. What is the Raptors record since the trade? Must be huge.

  22. dd def says:

    as long as harden doesn’t flop all day and get bs calls whenever he misses a shot blazers have as solid a chance as anyone. saying simply “they’re not ready” is stupid and lazy as a journalist. at least PRETEND like you’ve watched the teams you’re talking ish about right

  23. some dude says:

    You People are craaazy!
    This is what’s going to happen:
    The Raptors will beat Washington in the first round (Raptors 3-1 on season series, only washington win in 3OT, by no means an easy win), then the Raptors will be against Indiana in the 2nd round and will BEAT Indiana (2-2 season series). They will BEAT the Nets in the East Finals and go against OKC in the finals, which they can also beat…. If the standings remain exactly the same. Raptors could be looking at a championship!

    Remember that some dude told you it would happen.


  24. Tim says:

    And the Spurs still get slept on… Only one mention.

    • Tyler jacobson says:

      They are old news, the nets swept the heat, and the thunder swept the spurs.

      • theholyspectator says:

        regular season facts have nothing to do with the post season

      • LOL says:

        Right. Ask the Bulls and other teams that have either went undefeated against the Heat or wont he season series how that turned out in the playoffs LOL

  25. Ed says:

    I understand that the raps are young and inexperienced, but saying that washington and Charlotte (!!) are such big threats is just ridiculous. This is just the USUAL prejudice against the only canadian team.

  26. IC says:

    Another thing that deserves to be mentioned is that the Raptors recently picked up injuries to two starters: Lowry and Amir Johnson. Everyone thought they would cede ground to Chicago and Brooklyn as a result. Instead, they turned around and locked up big wins against the Pacers and Rockets using a team including second and third stringers. This team has depth and quality.

  27. Tom Abel says:

    I get why the Raptors could be considered an underdog vs Bulls and Nets, considering their veterans (Heat goes without saying). But the implied sentiment that they’d be considered underdogs vs Washington or even Charlotte boggles my mind. Caplan’s comment re: Nene’s return is nonsense – he logged significant minutes in all three games Toronto won against Washington this season.

    I can understand why commentators were waiting for Toronto to collapse in January-February, but I think it’s now clear that the team has moved from “overachiever” status to legit playoff club. I guess it’ll take some playoff success to break out of the stereotype they’re mired in with US media.

  28. I am fan of the Raptors and wish them well, it has been a long wait to see them in the post season.
    They have some chances against Washington/Charlotte if they can stay at 3rd position, however against Chicago or Brooklyn I don’t see much of it. Chicago will be a tough pill to swallow for anybody, even for the defending champ.

  29. answer_to_Heat_is_COLD says:

    The good thing about youth is that they are willing to LISTEN and follow a structure set by the coach. That’s better than having a bunch of stubborn old vets doing what THEY think is right. Toronto is a selfless team that is 15 players DEEP…not 5. They have all been playing a strong defensive-minded game which has led to a solid offense….the numbers speak for themselves. I love the humility of Coach Casey at all the post-game victory interviews because he never boasts (or even rarely praises his team)…he is more focused on letting the rest of the league know that as good as the Raps are NOW, we’re still getting better and there’s tons more that these guys will be building on.
    I see these guys doing well in the playoffs…Casey wont just throw them into the fire and watch them fail…he’ll guide them through the flames the best he can…Hope we extinguish that Heat with some good old Canadian COLD!…go Raptors!

    • Tyler jacobson says:

      The raptors are my third favorite team, I loooppove Demar, but I have a feeling they will get dismantled the first round.. They just dont seem ready.

      • Gerald Flemming says:

        Really? They’re 8-2 in their last ten games. In the EC only Chicago is currently matching them. And they’ve been dealing with the late season injury bug with Lowry and Amir going down. What about them doesn’t seem ready?

  30. Jay Leung says:

    Atlantic Division Crown and Conference finals here we come for the Toronto Raptors. 19 years in the waiting and this is what the city has been waiting for! Every team has their city, but this team has the whole country behind their back! The Raptors will win the first and second round purely because the opposing team will be afraid to play in Toronto. These fans and team are HUNGRY, and we will stop at nothing to make a huge mark in the America friendly NBA. Let’s Go Raptors, Let’s Go Canada!

  31. thespectator says:

    fran is right on the money with his response…okc/spurs/miami/clipps are by far the top title contenders, everyone else dont have that next championship level gear to help them move and advance to the next round.

  32. Ioan says:

    Toronto Raptors was a write off at the beginning of season and after Rudy Gay trade, however they proved many wrong and they are heading for Atlantic Division crown. Granted that Raptors have little experience on playoffs, anyway Washington or Charlotte are not necessary a big treat. So, don’t write off Raptors just yet … they may not go deep in playoffs but I think they have a good chance to reach second round.

  33. steppx says:

    when toronto beats washington and then beats chicago or brooklyn, you guys willeat your words. I think this is such pro forma non reporting. The raptors are on a roll and playing the Casey philosophy., PHYSICAL defense. Brooklyn isnt athletic enough and chicago cant score. Not enough. Your all wrong about the raps. When they advance ….i want to hear what is written then.

    • v1ncente16 says:

      Keep dreamin stepp, raptors’ll be history after 2nd round, probably diggested by nets. Experience over youth all day long …

      • DDD says:

        lol the raps will be facing the pacer second round and will beat them in 6. they will then lose to the heat in the ECF. just as Chris Webber predicted. this raptor team is deep and has a top 10 defence and offence, so the only reason they get written off is because no one follow them. they will finish in the third seed and take the atlantic division. plus there is literally no way the raptors face the nets in the second round bro.

      • Bryan says:

        Its impossible for raps to play bulls or nets 2nd round.

      • dinoinside says:

        they wont be playing the nets in the second round, they’d face the pacers or bobcats, the only other way is if they dropped to 4th then they would play them in the first round.

      • Blake says:

        No way Raps vs Nets 2nd round can even happen #v1ncente16

      • Kaudstar says:

        There is no doubt that the Raptors lack experience, and ‘grit’ in previous years. We won the Atlantic in 2007 and lost to the 6th seeded Nets because of those exact factors… That being said, I’m wary about the Raptors against any first round matchup this year (especially nervous to play the Nets…. Have you seen what they did to the Heat this year?!). However, things like homecourt advantage, Casey’s level-headed approach, and the momentum of our dynamic, athletic core are all reason to be hopefully optimisit. Lets just pray Kyle LOWryyyy & Amir are healthy, Ross can show some consistency and JV is not in jail… Go Raps Go!!

      • IC says:

        Experience is a polite word for old age. The Raptors have the tenacity of youth on their side in addition to veteran guys like Patterson and Salmons, as well as Hansbrough who has significant playoff experience. We’ll see what happens, but it’s a mistake to view the Raptors as just a bunch of young guys. Demar and Lowry have been in the league for several seasons now as well. When you look at the Raptors, they have a top 10 defense, solid 3 point shooting with Ross, Lowry, Demar, big frontmen in Johnson, Valanciunas and Hansbrough, and playmaking with Lowry and Vasquez. They have everything you need a big team to have.