The NBA playoffs begin tomorrow, so I am here today with my preview and predictions. I'm so excited for the playoffs. The last couple weeks have been a slog, and now it is finally time. The best basketball will be played now for the next couple months, and I am all in for it. I'm going to start with the East, then do the West, picked a champ, and I will give my playoff MVP as well.
With that said, lets start with the JV of the NBA, the East. I will say, the top 3 teams are really, really good, the Celtics are okay, the Pacers are solid, but missing their star, and the bottom three teams are just not ready yet. There is really not going to be many surprises.
I'll star with the 1-8 matchup, Milwaukee and Detroit. Detroit snuck into the playoffs, winning their final game to secure their spot. Luckily, they played the Knicks, so the win was pretty much in hand. But, the Bucks are going to get their first playoff series win since drafting Giannis, and it will be so very easy. Sure, the Pistons have Blake Griffin, who is nursing an injury, surprise surprise, and Andre Drummond has been great in the second half of the season, but outside of them, they have nothing good. Reggie Jackson is trash. Luke Kennard is garbage. Ish Smith is not a top notch player. They just don't have the guys to keep up with Giannis and Bledsoe and Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton. The Bucks will not miss Malcolm Brogdon in this series either. Bucks in 4.
The 4-5 matchup would have been awesome if Victor Oladipo were healthy. But, the Celtics lucked out, and they get to face the Pacers minus Oladipo. Sure, the Celtics won't have Marcus Smart, but they should win round one. It won't be easy though. The Pacers are tough. Myles Turner is awesome, Domantas Sabonis has made a leap and Bojan Bogdonovic can stroke from three. But, Kyrie Irving lives for the playoffs, and he has something to prove. Also, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown and Al Horford and Marcus Morris helped this team make a run to the conference finals last year. The Celtics will win, but it will be in a very tough 6 games.
In the 3-6 matchup we have the 76ers and Nets. The Nets are back! Yeah! That is about all the praise I can heap on them. They have some good guards that will exploit the 76ers, and Joel Embiid may not be 100 percent, but they should win with ease. D'Angelo Russell and Caris Levert and Spencer Dinwiddie will make it interesting at times, but I just don't see them as a threat. And as good as Jarrett Allen has become as a rim protector, Embiid eats his lunch every time he has played him. Ben Simmons will be fine and Jimmy Butler is on a mission. Oh, and Tobias Harris is a really, really good player. The 76ers will win in 4.
The 2-7 matchup includes the return of the Magic. Who made the playoffs with a 42-40 record, which was good enough to win their division. That should tell you all you need to know about this matchup. The Raptors are going to throttle the Magic. Kawhi is dominant. Kyle Lowry, even if he chokes, has so much help. Pascal Siakim is a burgeoning star. Marc Gasol adds some offense. And the Raptors are insanely deep. Raptors in 4.
In the second round we will have the Bucks facing the Celtics and the Raptors facing the 76ers. This is where the East playoffs get good.
In the Bucks-Celtics matchup, I feel like the Bucks are going to trash them. All the in fighting, all the whining, all the shortcomings all season long for the Celtics will come to a head, and the Bucks will dominate. This is where Giannis is going to solidify his MVP. He simply cannot be stopped, and the Celtics will start to point fingers, and the Bucks will roll from there. I have the Celtics winning one game, but that is it. Bucks in 5.
The Raptors-76ers, on paper, should be a well fought series. It won't be though. The 76ers are so thin after their starting 5, which is one of the best in the league, cannot play the whole game, and this is where the Raptors depth will make an enormous difference. I also think that Kawhi is going to show off his offensive game in this series because no one, including Jimmy Butler, can stop him. It will go 6, but the Raptors will make it look fairly easy.
That means I have the Bucks and Raptors in the East Finals. This is the matchup I want, and I also believe, we will get. These are the 2 best teams, by far, in the East. And the series will not disappoint. I think it goes 7, with Toronto winning. I feel like they will let Giannis get his, as I said, he is impossible to stop, and they will stop everyone else on the Bucks. Lopez won't be able to shoot threes, and Middleton will get shut down, Brogdon will be back, but I feel ineffective, and Bledsoe just isn't as good offensively as he is on defense. I'm stoked for this series, and I picked Toronto at the beginning of the season, and I'm going to stick with them now.
Now, on to the Varsity. The West is so, so much better than the East from 1-8. These are the best of the best teams in the NBA, and I think the West is going to be wild.
In the 1-8 matchup we have the Warriors and LA Clippers. I actually grew to like what the Clippers did this year. They shed all the baggage, got some team guys and played solid basketball all year. They also stayed relatively healthy. Unfortunately for them, they drew the Warriors, and the Warriors are about to flip the switch. This is probably their last go round with KD, and only season with Boogie. They have slept walk through the year, and they still got the one seed. Now, they flip the switch. As much as I now kind of enjoy the Clippers, and my newfound respect for Doc Rivers, they are getting swept out of the playoffs with ease. Warriors in 4.
In the 4-5, we get Houston and Utah. I could not dislike these 2 teams more. Houston is boring and plays a dull, slow game. And Utah has the most racist fans in sports. But, the players on the floor are great. Houston has Harden and Chris Paul, Clint Capela and PJ Tucker. That's four great players right there. Utah has Rudy Gobert, Joe Ingles and Donovan Mitchell, 2 of which could be the future of the league. I also think Gordon Hayward leaving 2 years ago was a blessing in disguise. Both team shave been on a tear since the All Star break, and I know that most people have the Rockets winning this series with ease. Not me. The Jazz will muddy this series up, they will play bully ball, they won't let Harden get to the line as much as he is used to, and I'm just waiting for the Chris Paul injury. This is going to be a rough and tumble series, and I think the Rockets will miss having a guy like Trevor Ariza for this series. I have this going 7, and I have the Jazz winning an improbable game 7 in Houston. I also think the Rockets are kind of looking ahead to the Warriors, and that will bit them in the ass.
In the 3-6 we have OKC and Portland. I LOVE this matchup. OKC has come on strong at the end, and Paul George might finally be healthy. Also, Westbrook has been a lot better lately, and the role players are doing solid stuff. Portland has been hot for awhile now. Damien Lillard is in the MVP conversation, they finally have CJ McCollum back and Enes Kanter is a beast on offense. But, the loss of Jusuf Nurkic is a killer for Portland. He was such a key cog, and now that they don't have him, Steven Adams is going to control the paint. This series is going to go 7, and I have OKC pulling out the victory. Lillard will show out, and I think McCollum will play well, but no one on that team can stop George or Westbrook, and as I said, Adams will lock down the middle.
As for the 2-7 matchup, we have the new, young Denver Nuggets facing the old hand, veteran laden Spurs. This is going to be a good matchup of contrasting styles. The Nuggets want to get up and down, and run everything through Jokic. While the Spurs will be perfectly happy running clock and playing a half court game. I really like what Denver is doing, and what direction they're going in, but Greg Poppovich is the best NBA coach ever, and he is going to take this Spurs team to a game 7 win in Denver. I mean, LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan and Patty Mills are all playoff vets. They will know what to do for the series win. But, Denver is about to become a stalwart in the West. They just aren't ready yet.
So the second round will feature Golden State facing Utah and OKC facing San Antonio.
Utah, after taking down Houston, is going to get throttled. Yes, I love Gobert and Mitchell, but the Warriors can start five all stars. Also, the flip switch I keep talking about is coming. I feel like Klay and KD and Steph are going to go off in this series too. The three of them could go for 30 each and win all games by themselves. Once again, I have the Warriors in 4.
The other matchup is interesting because it is 2 veteran laden teams that like half court basketball. I'm going to go with the team with more talent, and that is OKC. They have one of their best chances in awhile to make a playoff statement, and I think they will do it this year. The series will be good, as far as on court lay goes, but OKC is younger and more athletic. The Spurs will fight, but I have Paul George really showing out, kind of how he looked at the start of the season, and I have him leading the Thunder to the conference finals. Thunder in 6.
This gives us OKC and Golden State. I want this matchup so badly. I know the Thunder won't put up much of a fight, but Westbrook and George will, at least, get them one win. They can do it. But, again, this is the only time the Warriors really care about, playoff time, and they are scary good when they turn it on. Look at what they did to Charlotte and Denver when people questioned their talent. Warriors will win in 5, but it will be a fun 5 games.
That leaves us with Golden State and Toronto in the NBA Finals. This is the same matchup I picked in the preseason, and I have seen nothing to change my mind. This will be a solid series. Kawhi always shows up against Golden State, and I think Siakim will give Draymond and Boogie fits. But, the Warriors have KD, Klay and Steph. I mean, pick your poison Toronto. You cannot stop all three of them. You can kind of shut down Boogie by getting in his head, and Draymond is not good offensively. But, just like the Utah series, the three "guards" that the Warriors trot out there can win games themselves. I have the series going 6, with people freaking out after Toronto ties in up after game 4. But, the Warriors will then throttle them in the next 2 games and hold up their fourth Larry O'Brien trophy in 5 years. Things will change drastically after that, but that is another piece for another day. I also have Steph finally winning his first Finals MVP. Now that he can see, he is going to score a ton of points in the playoffs, and especially in the Finals.
There you have it. I am so pumped for the playoffs to start tomorrow. Lets get to it.
Ty is the Pop Culture editor for SeedSing, the other host of the X Millennial Man Podcast, and the greatest basketball writer on the internet.
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