NBA Playoff Predictions

NBA Playoff Predictions

By: and
04/12/2019

The NBA playoffs are finally upon us and, with them, many of our most burning questions will be answered. Can anyone challenge the Warriors out West? Who will emerge out of the power vacuum left by LeBron in the East? Can teams like the Raptors and Thunder finally discard their reputations of playoff ineptitude? How far can MVP contenders, Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden, lead their teams? Here, we give our best guesses of how it all might play out.

East  

FIRST ROUND

Milwaukee Bucks (1) vs. Detroit Pistons (8)

Led by a frontcourt featuring a rejuvenated Blake Griffin, a nine-year veteran with 51 games of playoff experience, and Andre Drummond, the NBA’s best rebounder in recent memory, the Pistons emerged out of a competitive middle of the Eastern Conference to grab their second playoff appearance in 10 years. Unfortunately, they’ll be taking on Giannis Antetokounmpo and the rest of league’s most dominant squad during the regular season. The Bucks finished with the top record in the association and swept the Pistons during the regular season. This matchup will be an interesting contrast between Milwaukee, the league’s highest scoring and second-fastest playing team this season, and the Pistons who play at the league’s third-slowest pace. That said, unless Dwane Casey can come up with a master scheme to contain the Greek Freak, this won’t be much of a contest. Prediction: Bucks in 5

Toronto Raptors (2) vs. Orlando Magic (7)

After seven straight losing seasons, the Magic were able to sneak into the playoffs in Steve Clifford’s first year as head coach. The Raptors will be a daunting challenge, though, with their top-five rated offense and defense, and arguably the deepest roster in the league. After notorious playoff struggles in recent years, Toronto can now rely on a former Finals MVP in Kawhi Leonard to lead them. Without a glaring weakness in their squad, it is hard to see the Raptors losing a game against a squad with far less playoff experience. Prediction: Raptors in 4

Philadelphia 76ers (3) vs. Brooklyn Nets (6)

The upstart Nets will pose an interesting first round challenge to the Sixers, with the teams having split their four games this season. Joel Embiid’s knee injury will be a key factor and he is currently listed as day-to-day going into Saturday’s 2:30 PM EST start time. The Sixers star has been terrific all season, especially when facing Brooklyn, when he has averaged 30 points, 14.3 rebounds, and five assists per game. Look for the Nets to rely heavily on Spencer Dinwiddie coming off the bench as the guard has averaged 23.8 points per game against the Sixers this season. Ultimately, Brent Brown’s elite starting lineup will prove too much for the young Nets squad to handle. Prediction: 76ers in 6

Boston Celtics (4) vs. Indiana Pacers (5)

Coming off an impressive seven-game first round showing against LeBron’s Cavaliers last season, the Indiana Pacers continued to surprise early this season, emerging as one of the top teams in the East. Unfortunately, their best player, Victor Oladipo suffered a gruesome leg injury in January that forced him to miss the remainder of the season. With no true stars, the Pacers have surprisingly managed to remain competitive, nabbing a five-seed. They’ll be taking on a Celtics squad that many expected to finish in the top-two seeds before the season, but has disappointed as its wealth of talent has struggled to mesh well together. Despite their chemistry issues, the Celtics still have one of the league’s best starting lineups and an NBA Champion in Kyrie Irving leading the way. Boston finished the season with a strong 6-2 run, including two wins against Indiana. The Pacers own the best opponents scoring per game in the league, which will pose problems, but the Celtics will do just enough on both ends to come out on top. Prediction: Celtics in 6

CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS

Milwaukee Bucks (1) vs. Boston Celtics (4)

The Bucks-Celtics first round matchup last season was one of the most entertaining series of the entire playoffs, with each host coming out on top en route to a seven-game thriller. This season, there will be a couple differences. First, the Bucks will hold home-court advantage and second, the Celtics will have Irving and Gordon Hayward back after missing last year’s playoffs due to injury. The Bucks won two of their three regular season matchups, including a Feb. 21 thriller when Irving missed a potential game-winner at the buzzer. Marcus Smart is out with an injury, so the Celtics will again have to rely on Terry Rozier who gave fellow point guard Eric Bledsoe plenty of problems last year. Giannis will have to be up to his MVP-level self against the Celtics, especially facing Al Horford, one of the league’s top interior defenders. The Bucks will have the edge with their superior star player, improved depth, and motivation to avenge their defeat from last season. Prediction: Bucks in 6

Toronto Raptors (2) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (3)

The Sixers made two big trades midseason to acquire Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, forming one of the league’s most imposing starting fives. In the process, they lost key role players in Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Wilson Chandler, and Landry Shamet. That lack of depth could prove detrimental to their playoff hopes, especially against a squad as deep as the Raptors with starter-quality reserves at every position. If Serge Ibaka needs a break from guarding Embiid, Nick Nurse can simply call Marc Gasol, a seasoned playoff veteran and former Defensive Player of the Year, off the bench. As long as Leonard and Kyle Lowry can do just enough offensively against their matchups of Butler and Simmons, respectively, the Raptors will advance to their second-ever conference finals. Prediction: Raptors in 7

CONFERENCE FINALS

Milwaukee Bucks (1) vs. Toronto Raptors (2)

Kawhi vs. Giannis is the MVP-caliber matchup many anticipated after Leonard forced his way out of San Antonio last July. Both teams are deep, rank top-five in both offensive and defensive rating, and boast All-NBA First Team-level stars. While Giannis is one of the toughest players to guard in NBA history, the Raptors have one of the association’s all-time great perimeter defenders in Leonard. Even if Antetokounmpo can get past the Klaw, he’ll have to meet one of the Raptors top-flight interior defenders at the rim. Giannis will lead the Bucks to their first Eastern Conference Finals since a 25-year-old Ray Allen did it in 2001, but the Raptors’ range of defensive options and superior experience will give them the edge. Prediction: Raptors in 6

West

FIRST ROUND

Golden State Warriors (1) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (8)

There’s not really much to be said here. The Clippers had a nice season. Nobody really expected them to make the playoffs, but they won’t stay for long. Golden State makes quick work of the best team from LA in their first round warm-up match. Prediction: Warriors in 4

Denver Nuggets (2) vs. San Antonio Spurs (7)

This series may be closer than most people anticipate. While Denver showed all season long that they have the talent and playmaking abilities to make it to the postseason, actually winning in the playoffs is a whole ‘nother animal. Paul Millsap is the only Nugget who has any playoff experience, so it will be a big test for Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic. On the other side, DeMar Derozan has been deep into the playoffs despite some struggles. Of course, Gregg Popovich has been there and done that, and his playoff squads are always dangerous no matter the seed. In the end, the young Nuggets will pass their first test. Prediction: Nuggets in 6

Portland Trail Blazers (3) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (6)

This matchup showcases the most star power of any first round matchup. Both teams are playing well, with the Thunder finishing the regular season on a five-game winning streak and the Rockets winning eight of their final 10 games. Once again, Russell Westbrook finished the season averaging a triple-double, and Paul George is coming off of his most productive scoring campaign to date.  The dynamic backcourt duo of CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard figure to be crucial for Portland’s success, but without Jusuf Nurkic, they are vulnerable. In turn, expect Steven Adams to be a big part of the series with his rebounding abilities and presence down low. OKC has been doubted all year long, and with a chip on their shoulder, they pull off the upset. Dame D.O.L.L.A and Rip City suffer another brutal first round exit. Prediction: Thunder in 6

Houston Rockets (4) vs. Utah Jazz (5)

Last year, the Jazz took out the Thunder to pull off the 4 vs. 5 upset. This year, they face a much steeper uphill battle. Both teams are hot, as each won eight of their last 10 in the regular season, but Utah won’t be enough to match what James Harden brings to the table. Once again, the Beard led the league in scoring, averaging 36.1 points per game, and while Donovan Mitchell put together another fantastic season, the Jazz can’t rely on him to carry the team. Houston also has an edge in that Ricky Rubio, Utah’s nifty starting point guard, played in just one of the Jazz’ final five games due to a quad injury and may not be 100% for this series. In the end, Houston’s high-octane offense will prove too much for Utah. Prediction: Rockets in 5

CONFERENCE SEMIFINAL

Golden State Warriors (1) vs. Houston Rockets (4)

In a rematch of last year’s Western Conference Finals, the Warriors and Rockets meet in this year’s conference semifinals, but this time, Houston doesn’t come quite as close to knocking off the reigning champions. The Rockets are a watered down version of last year’s squad; while Harden has somehow increased his scoring averages, they are without integral bench piece Trevor Ariza and they simply did not perform as well, as their record shows. Add to that the addition of DeMarcus Cousins to Golden State, and the Rockets can’t be feeling too confident. A consolation prize is that this is probably Golden State’s toughest challenge in the West. Prediction: Warriors in 6

Denver Nuggets (2) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (6)

The Nuggets are the favorites here, but Oklahoma City puts on a great show to upset another higher seed. Westbrook and George will be carrying a lot of momentum after the Portland series, and it might just be too much for the Nuggets to handle. Jokic will definitely play a big role in equalizing the front court battle, a luxury that Portland won’t have, but postseason experience is going to play a big role in this series. Westbrook and George have played in a combined total of 164 playoff games, while Murray and Jokic will have just one series under their belt, assuming they take care of San Antonio. The Thunder continue their string of good basketball and stun the haters by advancing to the conference finals. Prediction: Thunder in 7

CONFERENCE FINALS

Golden State Warriors (1) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (6)

As was said earlier, Golden State’s series with Houston will be the toughest in the West. This Western Conference Finals will be a shell of the exhilarating 2016 matchup. OKC’s big three of Westbrook, George, and Adams will do everything they can to put up a fight, but Golden State is simply too deep this time around. The Thunder will have a good run, but Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and the rest of the crew won’t have a ton of trouble combating Oklahoma City’s scoring capabilities en route to their fifth consecutive NBA Finals. Prediction: Warriors in 5

NBA FINALS

Golden State Warriors (1) vs. Toronto Raptors (2)

The makeup of the Warriors roster makes them nearly impossible to take down over a seven-game series. Although the Raptors came out on top in each of their two games this season, Curry missed the first matchup and Cousins was out for both. A full lineup of Curry, Thompson, Durant, Cousins, and Draymond Green is simply too much for this Toronto squad to handle. Even if Kawhi can slow down Durant (which is unlikely considering he put up 51 and 30 points in their two matchups), or Ibaka can cancel out Cousins’ impact in the paint, or Lowry can play up to Curry’s level, then Golden State is still capable of resorting to Thompson who can go off for 30-plus points on any given night. There are just too many holes to plug. The Splash Brothers win their fourth title in five years. Prediction: Warriors in 5

About Author

Aaron Wolf

Aaron Wolf The Voice's Sports Executive and a senior in Georgetown College. Enjoyer of OPS.


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