First Round NBA Playoff Predictions
Eastern Conference Matchups
Celtics (1) vs. Bulls (8)
In the regular season, the Bulls split with the Celtics 2-2 out of their four matchups. The problem that the Bulls give the Celtics is that they have three veteran guards in Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade, and Jimmy Butler; three guys have been in the playoffs and know what it takes to move on. Now, on the other hand, I believe Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg is their weakness. Brad Stevens will learn from those two regular season losses, adjust and they will ultimately win the series in six.
Cavaliers (2) vs. Pacers (7)
The Cavaliers have had a strange couple of months, by having a losing record since the All-Star break. At first, I was concerned thinking this could be the year that LeBron James doesn’t make the Finals. Then I saw that key matchup against Boston for the number one seed and the Cavs blew them out, showing me that they still run the east. I believe the Cavs will win this series in 5 games only because PG-13 won’t allow a sweep.
Raptors (3) vs. Bucks (6)
The Raptors are 13-2 against the Bucks over the past four seasons, including victories in three of the four meetings between the teams this season. The Raptors only loss came Kyle Lowry sidelined with an injury. I believe this will be a coming out party for Giannis Antetokounmpo in his first playoff appearance. Unfortunately for him and the rest of the Bucks, the Raptors have too much fire power. My prediction is that Toronto wins in a sweep. Bring out the brooms
Wizards (4) vs. Hawks (5)
This is probably the best first round matchup in the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs. You have a battle of the bigs, where the Wizards and Hawks feature a couple of old-school post players in Dwight Howard, Paul Millsap, Marcin Gortat, and Markieff Morris. Additionally, Atlanta who has the fourth-best defensive rating in the league is attempting to slow down the dynamic backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal (who averaged 46 points combined this season). The Wizards were 3-1 against the Hawks in the regular season and I think that will carry over into the postseason. I have the Wizards in six.
Western Conference Matchups
Warriors (1) vs. Trail Blazers (8)
The Trail Blazers have the 25th best defensive rating in the league allowing 108.5 points per game. Now imagine a team that is that bad defensively, beating a team with Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, and Klay Thompson. Need help? Well in the regular season the Warriors won by an average of 19.5 points in four matchups, their highest margin of victory landing at 45 points. I believe this will be an easy sweep for the Warriors
Spurs (2) vs. Grizzlies (7)
The Grizzlies are always a team that you want to avoid in the playoffs. They are a tough physical team that will try to wear you out and punish you with their frontcourt. The problem is, that in this series the Grizzlies are going against a Spurs team that has the size to matchup with them (Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldrige). The key in this series is that 1st team defender Tony Allen will be out and he’s the only one who could contain Kawhi Leonard. Spurs in five.
Rockets (3) vs. Thunder (6)
In a battle of MVP candidates, this is the matchup that everyone wants to see to figure out who is the true league MVP. I’m glad they don’t hand out regular season awards based on what happens in the playoffs because I don’t think this is a good matchup for Russell Westbrook and the Thunder. Westbrook will get his stats but when you really look at this matchup, the Rockets have a deeper bench who can score from deep. Expect shooters like Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, and Lou Williams to hit a lot of threes. The Thunder like to beat teams on the inside because their frontcourt is physically superior, but OKC doesn’t make a lot of threes. To beat Houston, you have to outscore them if they are making their shots and the Thunder can’t do that. Rockets in five.
Clippers (4) vs. Jazz (5)
In a must win series for the Clippers, history is on their side. The Clippers have dominated the Jazz recently, winning three of four during the regular season and 18 of the past 20 games. On the other hand, the Jazz are more than capable of beating the Clippers. They are third in defensive efficiency, they have the size in their frontcourt to matchup with Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan, they have scoring threats in Gordon Hayward, Shelvin Mack, Joe Ingles, and Rodney Hood. Utah also boasts a deep bench, and they have playoff veterans in George Hill and Joe Johnson. I really want to go with the upset here but in a must win series for the future of this Clippers squad, I have them winning in seven.