The NBA season is obviously halted currently, so let’s not add any hypotheticals like Durant returning to the Nets. Also, for this prediction series I am not going to factor in a potential restructuring of the playoffs, it will continue as a best of 7 for each series. Let’s get into it!
Los Angeles Lakers (1) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (8)
I think we all know that Lebron James will not lose in the first round of the playoffs this year. I really do not believe that the 32-33 Grizzlies will even get a game in this series. At times during the regular season, the Lakers looked a little lost or not the greatest team around. Come playoffs though, Lebron will whip his guys into gear and we will see the best Lakers team possible. The Grizzlies are extremely young and inexperienced meaning they will just to be happy in the bright lights of the playoffs. I do not imagine any game is close.
Prediction: Lakers in 4
Los Angeles Clippers (2) vs. Dallas Mavericks (7)
Luka Doncic may be the next best thing, but he is certainly not there yet. However, Kawhi Leonard of the Clippers is there at this moment. The best player in the league can be debated between Lebron, Giannis and Kawhi, but Kawhi has the most recent hardware to prove he can get it done. Doncic and Porzingis will have the future in their hands, but this series is going to go to the Clippers with relative ease. I was going to predict a sweep, but I have a weird feeling the Mavs would find a way to steal one of their games at home.
Prediction: Clippers in 5
Denver Nuggets (3) vs. Houston Rockets (6)
This is where things start to get a lot more interesting. Homecourt clearly favors Denver as they are the higher seed, but they only have 3 more wins that Houston. Denver is relatively young, but definitely inexperienced when it comes to the playoffs. At the same time, both James Harden and Russell Westbrook have been considered the biggest playoff chokers in recent memory. Those two former MVP’s have something to prove. As an underdog they will be fighting their asses off in this series to prove themselves as winners. I think Houston will split the first two games in Denver and by doing that immediately have the advantage. Denver has a deeper roster, but Houston has more of that dog in them to take over games. The first upset of the playoffs goes to Houston.
Prediction: Rockets in 6
Utah Jazz (4) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (5)
This series excites me a lot more than most I am sure. I think the backcourt battles of Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley vs. Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will be incredibly fun. Jordan Clarkson and Dennis Schroder going at it off the bench will provide entertainment as well. The paint will be congested will straight-up bully ball as Rudy Gobert and Steven Adams knock each other around to try and be the best big man in the series. In the end, however, I think the surprise success of the Thunder will come to an end here.
Prediction: Jazz in 7
Milwaukee Bucks (1) vs. Orlando Magic (8)
There isn’t any analysis that needs to be done here. This season’s Bucks are one of the best teams we have ever seen.
Prediction: Bucks in 4
Toronto Raptors (2) vs. Brooklyn Nets (7)
If we were factoring in the possibility of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving returning, then this would be an incredible series. Instead, the Nets are just far too inferior to defeat the Raptors in a series. Caris LeVert (one of my favorite non-Celtics players), Spencer Dinwiddie and Jarrett Allen all may shine in moments, but the defending champs are far too good to let that decide a series. Pascal Siakam still wants to show everyone that he is the new face of the Raptors and I predict he will have a huge series here.
Prediction: Raptors in 5
Boston Celtics (3) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (6)
Thank the NBA lords that the Celtics have homecourt advantage here. If the seeding was flipped, I would pick the 76ers in 5 or 6 games. Philly’s size is incredibly difficult to matchup with and they have had the Celtics number this season. Luckily, they may be the worst locker room team this season and have no identity. If the Celtics can win the first two games of the series, the 76ers may simply just give up. The rise of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined with Kemba Walker wanting to prove he can win when it matters will lift the Celtics to a tough series win here against Philadelphia.
Prediction: Celtics in 6
Miami Heat (4) vs. Indiana Pacers (5)
So many people were predicting the Heat to make it out of the Eastern Conference midway through this season. I never bought into that and I will continue my stance. They are an incredible team with a great leader in Jimmy Butler. They are one of the best defensive teams and can halt Indy in the paint, but the Pacers will be scorching it from three. Sabonis, Oladipo and Turner will take turns taking over the game and I think that will be too much for Miami. This series really could go either way though and this is just a prediction so don’t hate on me Miami.
Prediction: Pacers in 7
I hope everybody enjoys my predictions for round 1 of the NBA Playoffs. Next week, we will go into the Conference Semifinals and see how things could turn out. Hopefully, my articles in the next few weeks can provide a good way to get everyone’s basketball mind flowing again while we have no live sports to watch.
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-Brandon Black (Follow @bhblack02)