As the NBA season comes to an end, fans prepare themselves for what should be a very different and exciting NBA Playoffs. The first in 20 years to neither include Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan, nor Kobe Bryant.
Throughout the course of these Playoffs we will predict each series winner, leading up to, and including the NBA Finals.
Let’s begin with the first round:
The Golden State Warriors and the Milwaukee Bucks, who hold the first seed in their conferences, are the obvious, without-a-doubt winners (possible sweep) in their series against the Los Angeles Clippers and Detroit Pistons respectively. So, we’ll get those two out of the way.
Up next we have the two seed Toronto Raptors against the Orlando Magic. Another easy one, the boys up North are stacked with playoff experience against a Magic team that hasn’t seen post season action in seven years. Now there are a few things to note about this matchup: The Magic split their regular season series against the Raptors; and they are also the team with the best defensive rating against the Raptors, holding them to only 101 points per game. Even with all that however, I don’t see this same success in the post season for Orlando. 5 games at best.
If there’s one thing 20 years of being an NBA fan has taught me, its to NEVER count out Coach Pop and the San Antonio Spurs. They enter these playoffs as the seven seed against the Denver Nuggets, a fresh face to the playoffs since 2013. In this series we have what I believe will be an upset. Unlike their opponent, the Spurs have not missed the playoffs in more than two decades. The regular season matchup was also split by these two teams, with each home team taking the win. We are taking the Spurs in 7.
As excited as I am to see my Brooklyn Nets back in the Playoffs, I will put bias aside to face the realization that the Philadelphia 76ers have a starting lineup that outmatches us in every position. Our advantage comes in the fact that the Nets have the best Offensive Rating against the 6ers out of all the teams in the East, scoring 117 points per 100 possessions. If the Nets can manage to outscore the 6ers for 3 games, and if Joel Embiid’s knee remains a concern, we might have a good series in our hands. Besides that, Philadelphia takes it in 5.
With a chance at redemption, the Portland Trailblazers find themselves in familiar territory as the 3rd seed in the Western Conference. Last year they were swept by the New Orleans Pelicans in the first round, one of only two top seeds to be defeated in said round. The other? Ironically their opponent this year: the Oklahoma City Thunder, who were embarrassed by the Utah Jazz led by their rookie star Donovan Mitchell. While both teams are hungry to make it past the first round, only one will. The Thunder swept the regular season series and I believe they will also succeed in the playoffs. Thunder in 7.
Here is where this becomes hard. The 4-5 matchup this year hosts 4 teams that are very close to each other in their respective conferences. The Utah Jazz who have the second-best record after the all-star break are facing the team with the best record over that same period: The Houston Rockets.
In the East, the 4 seeded Boston Celtics just barely earned that spot against their 5 seeded counterpart, the Indiana Pacers. The Rockets-Jazz matchup will be the most entertaining in my opinion with multiple key matchups in Paul-Rubio, Harden-Mitchell, Gobert-Capela. I see this one going 7 games, with the reigning MVP James Harden advancing to the second round. In the other coast, the wizard that is Brad Stevens will once again find a way to get his squad past the first round after making it to the Eastern Conference Finals for the last two years. Boston in 5.
Possible sweeps: Warriors, Bucks, Raptors
Possible upsets: Spurs, Thunder
Best matchup: Rockets-Jazz
Image Credits Creator: Thearon W. Henderson Copyright:2015 Getty Images