With all 30 NBA teams crossing the finish line after completing 82 games, it’s time for the 16 best teams to compete against each other for the NBA Championship. The postseason is a test of mental toughness, physical stamina, execution, coaching and no shortage of good fortune. There are many match-ups in this post-season that are predictable, however, we do have a fair share of battles that can surprise many. Anything can happen. Welcome to the NBA Playoffs.
Eastern Conference First Round: (1) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (8) Detroit Pistons
This match-up is even more lob-sided than what the seeding suggests. With the Detroit Pistons barely scrapping their way to the post-season, they’re met with a 60-win Milwaukee team, lead by MVP-candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo. A full-strength Detroit squad would easily be overmatched here, but with Blake Griffin playing on one healthy leg as he recovers from a knee injury, this will be a complete domination in favor for the Bucks. Other than that, there’s not much to look at in terms of viewing Detroit’s roster. Andre Drummond will probably have a good series, but at the end of the day, Detroit will most likely get swept.
Prediction: Bucks win series 4-0
Eastern Conference First Round: (4) Boston Celtics vs. (5) Indiana Pacers
For the Boston Celtics, they’ve gone through many up and downs this entire season as we’re not completely sure what version of them we’re going to see. The Celtics have struggled all season long implementing Gordon Hayward into their rotation, but if anything, Hayward had an encouraging finish in his last 14 games, averaging 14.7 points per game. Many had believed that Indiana would collapse in the standings with Victor Oladipo suffering a season-ending injury. With Indiana playing tough and with Boston not having Marcus Smart due to an oblique injury, it’ll be rough for the Celtics. Despite all that, Boston should have enough to advance to the next round.
Prediction: Celtics win series 4-2
Eastern Conference First Round: (3) Philadelphia 76ers vs. (6) Brooklyn Nets
It’s surprising to see the Brooklyn Nets in the post-season, and especially as a sixth seed. They deserve a lot of credit as they suffered many injuries as a team, and still managed to make the playoffs. This is most likely the most entertaining first round match-up in the Eastern Conference. Brooklyn could potentially do some damage here, and can definitely give Philadelphia a run for their money in a few games of this series. The 76ers should be able to manage despite Joel Embiid’s knee soreness. Philadelphia is just loaded with depth in their roster, as opposed to Brooklyn not having any playoff experience.
Prediction: 76ers win series 4-1
Eastern Conference First Round: (2) Toronto Raptors vs. (7) Orlando Magic
Just like the Brooklyn Nets, many are surprised that the Orlando Magic were able to make it this far. With Aaron Gordon playing well and Nikola Vucevic having an All-Star year, this team isn’t as bad as many people believe. Terrence Ross also had a pretty good year with the Magic, but with that being said, the Toronto Raptors are just the better team. Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry, and Pascal Siakam will just be too much for this young and inexperienced Orlando squad, and it won’t be surprising if they ended up sweeping them. Orlando may be able to get one game in this series, but one is all they will get at most.
Prediction: Raptors win series 4-1
Western Conference First Round: (1) Golden State Warriors vs. (8) Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers are a physical team that surprised many this year. Nobody expected them to even come close to making the post-season this year, and with trading Tobias Harris away in the middle of the season, it definitely seemed that the Clippers were headed to the lottery. They proved us all wrong, and we have to give credit where credit is due. With that being said, the Clippers don’t have a star player to help lead this young team. They’ll be faced against the two-time defending champ as the Clippers will most likely get swept. The Clippers had a great run to make the post-season this year, but when the Warriors turn on the switch, it’s over for them.
Prediction: Warriors win series 4-0
Western Conference First Round: (4) Houston Rockets vs. (5) Utah Jazz
This series between the Houston Rockets and the Utah Jazz could easily be labeled as the most entertaining in the first-round. Just like last season, the Jazz turned it on during the second-half with them being the best defensive team in the league. Unfortunately for them, the basketball gods did not shine in Salt Lake City as this a very bad match-up for Utah. Offensively, the Jazz rely too much on an inconsistent Donovan Mitchell. If the Jazz want any chance winning this series, Mitchell will need to ball out every game of this series. For the Rockets, they also turned it on during the second half, and with James Harden scoring effortlessly, Utah doesn’t stand much of a chance.
Prediction: Rockets win series 4-1
Western Conference First Round: (3) Portland Trail Blazers vs. (6) Oklahoma City Thunder
Before the season had begun, many projected the Blazers to regress from last season. With Damian Lillard leading the way, they were able to capture the third seed in the ending moments of the regular season. They’ll provide a big challenge to the Thunder with Lillard and C.J. McCollum leading the offense, as well as Enes Kanter protecting the paint. OKC swept the season-series, and as for Russell Westbrook and Paul George, they both have the ability to pester Portland’s perimeter offense. With Jusuf Nurkic being out and McCollum not being 100 percent, the Thunder are actually the favorites in this series despite the seeding.
Prediction: Thunder win series 4-2
Western Conference First Round: (2) Denver Nuggets vs. (7) San Antonio Spurs
This is easily the most popular upset pick in the first-round of the playoffs. The Denver Nuggets had a huge improvement this year, but that doesn’t always translate to post-season success. The Nuggets have the postseason’s youngest roster, and the San Antonio Spurs have Gregg Popovich. San Antonio is an underrated team as they can dominate on both ends of the court. In order for San Antonio to have any chance of upsetting Denver, they need DeMar DeRozan to ball out in the big moments. Unfortunately for the Spurs, DeRozan has never been a clutch performer, and as for Denver, they have Nikola Jokic, who is easily the best player in this series. This series will be a wake-up call for the Nuggets, but they should be able to squeak out of this one in seven games.
Prediction: Nuggets win series 4-3
Eastern Conference Semifinals: (1) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (4) Boston Celtics
This series can go either way, and if you look at each roster side-by-side, it’s basically a coin flip on who will win. For Milwaukee, they have the best player in this series in Giannis, however, Boston should not be overlooked. Don’t forget what they were able to achieve last year during the post-season without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. Boston hasn’t been as consistent as they would have liked to be, but it’s definitely possible that they can just turn on the switch for the playoffs and become an entirely different beast. The Celtics are ranked second in the league when it comes to making catch-and-shoot threes, which could prove to be problematic for the Bucks as their defense allows more open threes than anyone. This is a tough prediction to make, and as the days go by, the pick could change. But the fact that Milwaukee has the best player in the series as well as numbers favoring them, they might have enough to edge out Boston.
Prediction: Bucks win series 4-3
Eastern Conference Semifinals: (2) Toronto Raptors vs. (3) Philadelphia 76ers
Just like the Bucks-Celtics series, this series between the Raptors and 76ers can go either way. Philadelphia made a few moves during the regular season which included acquiring Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler, so it may seem right to give them the nod in this series. However, team chemistry means everything in this league. Harris and Butler haven’t played enough games in this Philadelphia system in order to maximize their success come post-season time. The Raptors on the other end, have been playing fantastic basketball on both ends of the court. Defensively and offensively, Toronto has it all. Philly’s playoff fate lies with Joel Embiid, however, Toronto has ways to counter him. They can match his strength with Marc Gasol, length with Serge Ibaka, and speed with Pascal Siakam. The Raptors will need Kyle Lowry to show up, and if he does, then the Raptors will most likely be advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Prediction: Raptors win series 4-2
Western Conference Semifinals: (1) Golden State Warriors vs. (4) Houston Rockets
Many people having been begging for a rematch between these two great teams. Last year, it went down to a game seven, however, Chris Paul suffered a hamstring injury, which forced him to sit out. After that had happened, many believed that Houston should’ve won the series had Paul stayed healthy. Now Houston gets a rematch. They even admitted that their obsessed over this series and it’s no coincidence that there’s a rematch. Houston is easily Golden State’s biggest challenge, taking three of the four games in the season series. The Rockets did bounce back in a great way in the second half of the season, but this team is not last year’s squad. If anything, this Golden State team is only better than last year because of the added time they’ve had to play with each other. The player to look out for in this series will be Klay Thompson. If Thompson can play efficiently in this series, then it’s over for Houston.
Prediction: Warriors win series 4-2
Western Conference Semifinals: (2) Denver Nuggets vs. (6) Oklahoma City Thunder
In the regular season, the Denver Nuggets took care of business, sweeping the Thunder in the season-series with a 9.25 point average margin of victory. Many are beginning to picture an OKC-Golden State match-up in the next round, and that’s exactly why Denver is being written off so fast. After winning a tough series against San Antonio, Denver will be much more well-equipped this time around. They will have the feel for the playoffs, and will not back down from the Thunder whatsoever. One factor we can look at is experience. Obviously Denver doesn’t have much experience, as opposed to Oklahoma City having much more. Not so much with their players playing together, but individually, like Russell Westbrook, who appeared in four western conference finals and one NBA Finals, and Paul George, who went to the conference finals three times. The main player to look for is Westbrook, and if he can play efficiently, then it might spell doom for Denver. With stakes this high, expect Westbrook to crumble in a few games, as Denver will be able squeak out of this series in seven games.
Prediction: Nuggets win series 4-3
Eastern Conference Finals: (1) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (2) Toronto Raptors
Despite the Eastern Conference becoming more competitive this season, it’s safe to say that the Milwaukee Bucks and the Toronto Raptors are easily the two best teams in the conference. There were two teams that finished in top-5 in both offense and defense this year: Milwaukee and Toronto. This is as good as it gets and we can at least expect a six-game series. Toronto has been known to fall apart in the big moments of the post-season, however, that was always against LeBron James. They also had DeMar DeRozan, who is a good performer during the regular season, but never a clutch performer come playoff time. This time around, they have Kawhi Leonard, an MVP-candidate, and has proven to be clutch in the big moments by winning the Finals MVP in 2014. Danny Green and Marc Gasol are also good playoff performers as well. If the Raptors can make this a match-up between the supporting casts, Toronto will most likely win that battle. They’re more consistent, experienced, and have added depth into this team. Unfortunately for Milwaukee, they may be just one year away.
Prediction: Raptors win series 4-2
Western Conference Finals: (1) Golden State Warriors vs. (2) Denver Nuggets
Unfortunately for Denver, this is where their playoff run comes to an end. After squeaking past Oklahoma City, Denver will be completely dominated by the Warriors. Golden State is on a mission to achieve a three-peat, and in order to do that, they have to make sure that nothing bad happens to them. The only team in the Western Conference that can beat Golden State is Golden State. They’re just too great at this point, and they’re light years ahead of every other team in the conference. Kevin Durant will be an unstoppable offensive force, and Stephen Curry will continue being that all-time great player that he has been for the past four seasons. The one thing Denver has going for them is their home-court advantage. The Nuggets have the best home-record in the league, and it’s definitely possible that they can get a couple in Denver. With that being said, they’re also terrible on the road. Denver went 20-21 on the road, and in the playoffs against Golden State, that’s not going to get the job done. The run stops here for Denver, and for Golden State, they’re headed to the finals for the fifth straight year.
Prediction: Warriors win series 4-1
NBA Finals: (1) Golden State Warriors vs. (2) Toronto Raptors
For the first time in Golden State’s dynasty, they won’t be matched up against a LeBron team. Although they won’t have to face LeBron, Toronto will definitely be a tough match-up for Golden State. We can all agree that Golden State’s biggest threat are themselves. With DeMarcus Cousins not being fully implemented into their system, and with Stephen Curry suffering a minor ankle injury recently, the concerns grow bigger for the Warriors. Draymond Green has probably had his worst year since the Warriors had begun winning championships. Kawhi Leonard can definitely slow down Durant, as we saw that happen in the 2017 playoffs. Marc Gasol can eliminate Cousins as a secret weapon for Golden Sate. Utilizing Pascal Siakam could be the key in finally solving how to counter Golden State’s death lineup. The Raptors can definitely give the Warriors problems, but defeating them four times in a seven-game series is unlikely at this point. Toronto checks most of the boxes when it comes to possibly upsetting the Warriors, however, Golden State’s star power is just too much for any team in this league. Toronto had a great run, but Golden State will repeat once again as the champs of the NBA.
Prediction: Warriors win series 4-2