By Ryan Moyle | Staff Writer

Lebron James is trying to reach his seventh straight  Finals, but he will have to go through Toronto to get there. (Courtesy of USA Today Sports)

Lebron James is trying to reach his seventh straight Finals, but he will have to go through Toronto to get there. (Courtesy of USA Today Sports)

The second round of the NBA Playoffs kicked off on Sunday, and eight teams continued to battle for a shot at the title. The usual suspects and last three NBA champions made it through the first round relatively unscathed. LeBron James and his Cavaliers look to give Cleveland its second consecutive championship, while the rugged Spurs and their timeless coach Gregg Popovich are hungry for another banner. And of course, the Golden State Warriors are ready to avenge their crushing loss in the Finals last season.

In recent memory, the Eastern Conference has been the weaker half of the NBA. LeBron has absolutely dominated, competing in six straight NBA Finals. This year he continued his streak of first round sweeps as the Cavaliers outlasted the Pacers in a well fought first-round matchup. This time, James and the Cavs face-off against the third-seeded Raptors. Toronto has had a superb season, but they simply don’t have the firepower to hang with Cleveland in a seven-game series. Despite having some high-level players in DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, Toronto will simply struggle to outscore Cleveland’s three-headed offensive attack of James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love. There will be some high-scoring games, but Cleveland should have this wrapped up in five games.

Meanwhile in the West, James Harden is having the best season of his career and has brought his Rockets to be a legitimate title contender. However, they have a tough task in front of them, facing a disciplined Spurs team that has put together another stellar year, earning the second seed in the West. Although Houston has had a great season, there is not enough talent on the Rockets to take down the Spurs, who are led by standout two-way player Kawhi Leonard. Along with Leonard, veteran guards Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili make up a solid backcourt, while LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol make up the frontcourt. Harden has put together a career-season, but there are realistically only two teams from the West who can compete with the Cavaliers.

Look for the Spurs to prevail in six games in a hard-fought and highly entertaining series. The Boston Celtics and the Washington Wizards will also be squaring off in the second round. After a rough start going down 2-0 in the first round, Isaiah Thomas and his Celtics rallied back to win four consecutive games against the Bulls, who struggled once Rajon Rondo went down despite having an excellent backcourt that included Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade. The Wizards beat the Atlanta Hawks in the first round in six games and are looking for their backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal to carry them into the Conference Finals. The Celtics have proven that they can respond to adversity. With Thomas and Al Horford leading the way, they can compete with Cavaliers to represent the East in the Finals. The young Isaiah Thomas has the potential to possibly be league MVP, but for now he will compete in the Eastern Conference Finals to play Cleveland. The Celtics take this series in six games.

The second round of the NBA playoffs should present many great games. After many blowouts in the first round, the field should now be more competitive, as a chance for the Conference Championship is on the line. Expect the Warriors and Cavaliers to turn it up a notch as June comes closer and the stakes become higher.

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