It’s April, and that means the spring/summer of NBA hoops heaven is here. It has been a season full of surprises, and the playoffs will surely only build upon that. However, I am here to try to predict these surprises. Here are my predictions for the entire playoffs, including the play-in games that start Tuesday, April 12th.
Play In Games:
9 Pelicans vs 10 Spurs: The Spurs are led by breakout star guard DeJounte Murray. However, Murray has been dealing with a non-COVID illness the past week, and that will likely hinder his performance. Meanwhile, the Pelicans have been red hot since acquiring CJ McCollum. I expect them to continue that, and easily defeat the Spurs to play the loser of the 7/8 west matchup for the 8 seed.
9 Hawks vs 10 Hornets: For the second year straight, LaMelo Ball and the Hornets are in the play in games, needing to wins to make the playoffs. The Hawks, meanwhile, are in the play in after reaching the conference finals last year. The Hornets biggest hole is easily at Center, where the Hawks have Clint Capela. I expect Capela and Trae Young to have big games, as the Hawks earn a chance to become the 8 seed.
7 Wolves vs 8 Clippers: The Clippers have looked good since PG13’s return, and will face former teammate Patrick Beverly in round 1. The Wolves are also led by Karl Anthony Towns, who has the ability to give you 30 any night. And I think KAT will do exactly that, as the Wolves will earn the 7 seed.
7 Nets vs 8 Cavaliers: I mean, come on, the Nets are probably the scariest 1-game playoff team out there. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving will have a field day, and the Nets will move on to the playoffs and play the 2 seeded Celtics in a rematch of last year’s first-round matchup, in which the seeding situation was flipped.
8 Cavs vs 9 Hawks: In the battle for the final spot in the Eastern Conference Playoffs, it will be a down to the wire game. Garland vs Young, Capela & Collins vs the Cavs huge lineup. However, I think experience will win out, and the Hawks will go from 9 seed to in the playoffs and play the Miami Heat round 1.
8 Clippers vs 9 Pelicans: This will be one heck of a game. The Pelicans will be able to put defensive specialist Herbert Jones on Paul George, to hopefully limit his production. Jonas Valanciunas will force Clippers big man Ivica Zubac to guard the perimeter, which should open up the Pelicans offense. In what will be an extremely close game, matchups win out and the Pelicans sneak by the Clippers to become the 8 seed.
Now, to the actual playoffs:
West Round 1:
1 Suns vs 8 Pelicans: The Pelicans simply are not ready for a powerhouse like Phoenix. Suns sweep 4-0.
4 Mavs vs 5 Jazz: The Jazz are playing their worst basketball at the wrong time, while Mavs superstar Luka Doncic is tearing the league up. The Jazz make it a series, but Luka won’t get sent home in round 1 this year. Mavs win in 6, 4-2.
3 Warriors vs 6 Nuggets: If Jamal Murray and Micheal Porter Jr were healthy for the Nuggets, I would most likely take them. Stephen Curry may miss game 1 for GSW, which could give the Nuggets a chance to go up 1-0. However, they’ll need more than that, and they won’t get it. GSW wins in 5, 4-1
2 Grizzlies vs 7 Wolves: Two very inexperienced teams meet here in what will probably be the least viewed first-round series. In the end, the Grizzlies depth wins out, and they take the series in 6 games.
East Round 1:
1 Heat vs 8 Hawks: Trae Young will be the only one to show up for Atlanta this series, and while Jimmy Butler for the Heat may struggle, the Hawks simply aren’t ready for the Heat’s depth and chemistry. Heat in 5
4 76ers vs 5 Raptors: Want a dark horse to root for? Choose the Raptors. Just, don’t expect to root for them too long. 76ers in 5
3 Bucks vs 6 Bulls: The Bulls couldn’t beat a top 4 seed if their life depended on it. Bucks in a sweep
2 Celtics vs 7 Nets: Arguably the best first-round matchup if it happens, you can bet this one goes the distance. But KD’s shoe size won’t ruin the Nets season this time, as Brooklyn wins in 7 and pulls off the upset that isn’t really an upset.
West Round 2:
1 Suns vs 4 Mavs: It would appear the Suns have yet another relatively easy path to the conference finals. Phoenix in 5.
2 Grizzlies vs 3 Warriors: The Warriors will wall up in the paint force the Grizzlies to take outside shots, and the plan will work. Warriors in 5.
East Round 2:
1 Heat vs 4 76ers: What a thriller this one will be. Offense vs defense. Heat Culture vs Philly’s notorious fans. However, I just can’t bet on the Heat with how their star, Jimmy Butler, has been looking. 76ers in 6.
3 Bucks vs 7 Nets: It’s yet another Nets vs Bucks series, and you can bet it’s going to game 7 again. With the Nets now healthy (assuming Ben Simmons is playing by now), many will probably expect them to flip the script and win this time around. I don’t think they will. Bucks in 7, for the second straight year
1 Suns vs 3 Warriors: This series has two X-Factors: Johnathan Kuminga for GSW & Mikal Bridges for PHX. Kuminga will be needed to do the little things to get GSW over the hump, and Bridges will be needed to limit Steph Curry. I think Bridges will do well enough on Steph, Suns in 6.
3 Bucks vs 4 76ers: Come on now, you can’t bet on 76ers star James Harden to ever make it past this stage of the playoffs. We’re getting an NBA Finals rematch folks. Bucks in 7 on a 40 point closeout game from Giannis
The NBA Finals:
Suns Vs Bucks: All the talk about the league being wide open, just for this matchup to repeat itself. And we’re going to get a back-to-back champ. The Bucks manhandle the Suns and win in 5. Giannis is your Finals MVP, also for the second straight year.
There are my predictions for this year’s playoffs! There are a lot of variables and faces new and old appearing this year, so I am excited to see what goes down. The playoffs start with the play-in games on Tuesday, and the NBA Finals start on June 2nd.