With the NBA playoffs set to begin next week I am here to give you my predictions for the first round. Being that it’s 2020 I am not going to predict the entire playoffs because who knows what will happen so we will do it round by round.
Memphis Grizzlies vs. Portland Trailblazers (Play in game for #8 seed): Blazers in 1
We all wanted to see Portland vs. Phoenix for the play in spot but the work the Grizzlies did in the regular season earns them a shot at making the postseason. Sadly the road will end for them Saturday as Memphis has been one of the worst teams in the bubble. Posting just a 2-6 record it’s clear that they took the regular season more seriously compared to some of the other teams who were chasing them in bubble. Now that everyone is giving max effort in every game you are seeing who the superior teams are, in regards to the teams vying for the #8 seed. Portland just has much more talent than the Grizzles and while it has been a very good season for them it will end Saturday.
Portland Trailblazers vs. Los Angeles Lakers: Lakers in 6
While there are many really exciting first round match ups this potential 1 vs. 8 has everyone talking. Portland is arguably the best 8th seed ever, if not one of the best. With the Lakers not looking like themselves so far in the bubble and Portland being one of the hottest teams right now some people are predicting they will upset the Lakers. While it is a tempting thought I have learned my lesson over the years. I will not bet against Lebron James unless I truly believe he is outmatched. He has made me look stupid so many times in the past and especially during the 2018 playoffs. While I think it will be a good and competitive series I think the Lakers will ultimately find their groove and be too much for Portland.
Dallas Mavericks vs. Los Angeles Clippers: Clippers in 6
What’s crazy about the playoffs this year is that in most series outside of a sweep you are always going to pick the winning team to close out at home. In the bubble though there is no home court advantage so it’s truly who is the best team on a neutral site. In normal circumstances I would pick the Clippers in 5 but since we are in the bubble I think Dallas can get 2 games. Luka is going to be fantastic but the Clippers have several different players that can match up with him and I see them doing that over the course of the games tiring him out by the end. Clippers also have the deeper team with more star power that gets them into the next round.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Houston Rockets: Rockets in 7
This will be one of the best series to watch as well cause this past year both teams traded their stars away to each other. Russell Westbrook will be playing against the team he spent his entire career with and Chris Paul will look to get revenge against the guys that didn’t want him. This series is so hard to predict because Westbrook will be out for at least a few games from what they are saying. If he misses more than half of the series than I could easily see the Thunder winning. This prediction is based on him coming back and playing like he has been. I believe at full strength the Rockets are definitely the better team but without Russ the Thunder could easily steal this.
Utah Jazz vs. Denver Nuggets: Nuggets in 6
The Jazz and Nuggets are two really good but not great teams. Both have All Stars and are a team that can win a playoff series. They aren’t among the great teams yet and are a couple more players away, or having one of their All Stars become a Superstar away from being a team that can make a run. The difference in this series is Michael Porter Jr. We know what we’re going to get from Donovan Mitchell and Nikola Jokic but Porter is the X factor. If he plays the way he has so far in the bubble than the Nuggets will definitely advance. It’s a lot of pressure on a young kid who hasn’t proven much but at the end of the day he will be the one that moves the needle in this series.
Orlando Magic vs. Milwaukee Bucks: Bucks in 4
This one is too easy. Bucks steamrolled through the Detroit Pistons last year in the first round. This year they face the Magic who they also swept in their regular season series 4-0. In those games they won by an average of 17 points. And now the Magic don’t even have the luxury of playing in front of fans to back them up. Nothing more to write here this will be quick.
Brooklyn Nets vs. Toronto Raptors: Raptors in 4
I was going back-and-forth thinking whether this would be a sweep or if the Nets could steal a game and a sweep just makes more sense. Toronto has not missed a beat this season and even have a better winning percentage this year after losing Kawhi Leonard. That added with a depleted Nets roster has this series feeling like a sweep. The Nets have played very well thus far in the bubble but they have too many good players out and the really good teams are done coasting and ready to make a championship run.
Miami Heat vs. Indiana Pacers: Heat in 6
Another super exciting to series in the first round thanks to the beef between Pacers forward T.J. Warren and Heat forward Jimmy Butler. T.J. Warren’s performance in the bubble has been nothing short of extraordinary. Warren averaged 34.8 PPG in the first 5 games of the restart before being held to just 12 points vs. Butler and the Heat. He’ll have to be the player he was in the first five games for them to have a chance. I like the Heat in this series for a couple of reasons. I think they currently have the deeper team and have a lot of really good shooters to complement their All Stars. I also haven’t seen Victor Oladipo come back to the player he was 2 years ago. He’s been dealing with injures and hasn’t consistently gotten to that level he was a couple of years ago when he was an All Star. If Oladipo and Warren play to their potential I would take Indiana but I don’t see that happening this series.
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Boston Celtics: Celtics in 5
I am not sold on the 76ers at all in this series. Philly doesn’t have a lot of depth and now they won’t have Ben Simmons for the entire playoffs. Joel Embiid may have a game or two where he completely dominates but could just as easily lay an egg in the other games. I believe Boston is a top 5 team in the playoffs and will show it in this series. They have 4 different players that could easily put 30 points on you. They can defend the perimeter as good as any team. They don’t match up with Embiid and Horford but they are too talented to not handle business in this opening series.