NBA Playoffs: First Round Predictions
Great individual match-ups, possible upsets, and more.
Celtics vs Bulls
The Celtics are the number one seed for the first time since 2008. Fortunately, for the Bulls, the Celtics are the worst number one seed in the history of the NBA in terms of record. This does not mean the Celtics are bad, it just means it was an odd season in the Eastern Conference this year. Expect the Bulls to come out swinging. Chicago barely made the playoffs but thanks to Jimmy Butler’s late-season heroics, they can win games. The Bulls have playoff veterans like Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo to face Isaiah Thomas, who has is having a career season. I see this matchup going seven games and would not be surprised if the eighth-seeded Bulls come out on top.
Prediction: Celtics 4–3
Cavaliers vs Pacers
This is another matchup that can probably go to six or seven games. The Cavaliers were dominating the Eastern Conference until they hit a slump during the second half of the regular season. This caused the defending champs to fall the second seed. With the Cavs slumping, the Pacers can put up a good fight in the first round. The Pacers match up quite well with the Cavaliers as we saw back in their last match-up on April 2nd that went to double overtime. Realistically, the Cavaliers will be too tough to defeat. Expect LeBron to lead the Cavs out this first round in six games.
Prediction: Cavaliers 4–2
Raptors vs Bucks
This matchup has two young teams that will duke it out back and forth. The Raptor’s backcourt combo of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan will be an interesting test for the young Bucks and their rising star, Giannis Antetokounmpo. At the end of the day, expect to see Giannis relentlessly lead the Bucks to victory, regardless of the star power in Toronto. The reason being, the Raptors disappointing regular season, while the Bucks are in midst of a great turnaround from last season.
Prediction: Bucks 4–3
Wizards vs Hawks
The Hawks are another Eastern Conference team that have had a disappointing season. The Wizards have had an impressive late-season run after starting off on the wrong foot. This should be an easy first round for John Wall and the Wizards.
Prediction: Wizards 4–1
Warriors vs Blazers
I would not be surprised if this is a sweep. There is no way the Blazers make it out of the first round. The Warriors have Kevin Durant back in their starting line-up and they just have too much talent for the Blazers to handle. This does not mean that this series won’t be entertaining. There is a great back court match-up between Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson vs Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. That will be fun to watch, but the Warriors will easily come out on top.
Prediction: Warriors 4–1
Spurs vs Grizzlies
The Grizzlies are always an opponent that playoff teams never want to face. Luckily for the Spurs, they arguably have the greatest coach in NBA history in Gregg Popovich. Then there is Kawhi Leonard, who has been a dominant force on both ends of the floor. In another interesting paring, Marc Gasol will be matched-up with his older brother, Pau Gasol, so that’s awesome for NBA fans. This series will be all about team play and fundamentals rather than showcasing star power and fancy alley-oops.
Prediction: Spurs 4–2
Rockets vs Thunder
The Houston Rockets had a great turnaround this season led by MVP candidate James Harden. And Oklahoma City made it to playoffs after being led by the other leading MVP Candidate, Russell Westbrook. This may be one of the greatest individual match-ups in the history of the first round. Plenty of people will be watching and will probably witness the most entertaining series out of all the other series in the first round.The system created by Mike D’Antoni in Houston has worked so well this season as the Rockets won the regular season series match-up against the Thunder 3–1. I don’t think that will change in this series.
Prediction: Rockets 4–1
Clippers vs Jazz
The Clippers have been fighting to get passed the second round of the playoffs for the past five years now. This Clippers franchise has seemed to plateau as they have not made any substantial changes to their roster and they still have Doc Rivers as their head coach. Meanwhile the Jazz have had a breakout season led by Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert. Their defense has been outstanding as it’s been their “bread and butter” to their success this season. Sorry Clippers, but the Jazz are taking this one.
Prediction: Jazz 4–2
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