I would like to start off by saying how disappointed I am in the NBA for starting the second round of the playoffs when some first round match ups hadn’t even played Game 6 yet of their first round series. I guess I understand that they are in a bubble and want to get everything finished as soon a possible but this felt very early. I know some of the series have started already but my predictions are based on how I felt before the series started. So a certain upset last night will not change what my initial thoughts were and I will stick to them. I would have liked to wait till all the games are finished but I don’t want to make predictions on a series that is already two games in.
Boston Celtics vs. Toronto Raptors: Celtics in 7
I believe this will be a very competitive series. Both teams dominated in round 1 sweeping both of their opponents. This series could really go either way. Both teams have outstanding coaches, play great defense and have a lot of talent and depth. The difference in this series I feel however is the star power the Celtics have over the Raptors. You can’t tell if you’ve watched Toronto all year but this will be the series they miss having Kawhi. We already saw a shade of it in Game 1 but their will be a couple of games this series where not having a superstar talent like Kawhi will keep them from winning and ultimately advancing as they look to repeat as champions. Toronto has had an incredible season but the young stars of the Celtics will bring them back the Conference Finals like they did 2 years ago.
Miami Heat vs. Milwaukee Bucks: Bucks in 6
Yes I know Miami won Game 1 but this is what I thought and I am sticking to that prediction. One thing you should have learned by now is to not overreact to Game 1. Both the Lakers and Bucks lost Game 1 of their first round series and went on to win 4 straight after. Look at last year too. Celtics won Game 1 in Milwaukee and the Bucks went on to win 4 straight. Giannis is just too good to be contained consistently and while he will need to figure out his free throw shooting I believe the Bucks will make the appropriate adjustments going forward. And while Jimmy Butler is a dog and was amazing in Game 1 it’s very likely that will be his best game of the series. Miami’s shooting and depth does make them a very scary team to play in the playoffs but I can’t see them beating the Bucks 4 times. The Bucks are not over what happened to them last year and will not go down sooner than they did the previous year. Middleton was good in Game 1 and he will need to continue to play like that for them to win the series which I believe he will.
Houston Rockets/Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Los Angeles Lakers: Lakers in 6 (HOU); Lakers in 5(OKC)
First off I believe the Rockets will win Game 7 and play the Lakers. So I will write more on that but will give an analysis of both potential match ups. The Rockets are definitely a bigger threat to the Lakers compared to the Thunder. They will be able to win 2 games by simply being on that night and being able to out shoot the Lakers. They won’t win the series however for a couple of reasons. First, if you watched the first round match up against the Blazers you saw the amazing defense that the Lakers can play. They harassed the Blazers guards and really made them work for everything. I see that same trend in this series as they will force the Rockets to out shoot them in every game. If history has told us anything about the Rockets it’s that they will not be able to out shoot great teams to win 4 games in a series. Second, the Rockets do not have anyone to guard Lebron and certainly do not have anyone who can guard Anthony Davis. You saw how that worked for the Blazers. It will be interesting to see how much the Lakers play Howard and McGee versus small ball Houston. If they end up playing the Thunder in the firs round I don’t see it as competitive. The Thunder are a great team but that is because they have good guards. They aren’t a great 3 point shooting team and trying to score consistently inside against this Lakers team is tough with their size. I feel this is a mismatch for LA and they will take advantage of it.
Utah Jazz/Denver Nuggets vs. Los Angeles Clippers: Clippers in 5 (Both Teams)
I do believe the Nuggets will win Game 7 first and foremost. I think Jokic is poised to have a great game as the Jazz will look to limit Jamal Murray and take the ball out of his hands. Regardless of who wins I think the winner will be drained after their series. If Denver wins they will have just completed a comeback after being down 3-1. In order for them to do that Jamal Murray had to go absolutely insane for 4 straight games. While he is great you can’t expect a guy to keep putting up numbers like that. The Clippers will have many bodies to put on him to wear him down and even if he plays really well he’d have to keep playing at the level he is currently at for them to have a chance. The Clippers look as focused as ever after a tough first round match up with Dallas and are not going to waste any time getting the job before before the potential match up with the Lakers. If Utah wins same scenario. Donovan Mitchell has been unbelievable in this series and if he’s able to lead the Jazz past the Nuggets what is he going to have left to give. He is also playing at a level where you can only wonder how much longer can a person sustain that level of play. I also think the Jazz aren’t as talented as the Nuggets and the Clippers again will take care of business in this series.