The NBA Regular Season is over and the Match-ups for the first round of the playoffs are set! For the first time since forever (more accurately since 2005) there will be no LeBron in the playoffs or in the Finals (since 2010). To make sure you are all set for the first round here is a preview and breakdown of all the match-ups.
(1) Golden State Warriors vs (8) LA Clippers
What an amazing season it has been for the LA Clippers. After trading their star player Tobias Harris to the 76ers everyone expected them to collapse but just like they have been all season the Clippers defied all odds and finished at an incredible 48-34. Mainly a team made up of ‘no-names’ they are going to be big underdogs against Golden State. The Warriors did not have a great regular season, but it should be expected that GSW will find their old strength and overpower the Clippers with their sheer talent of Curry and co.
Prediction: Golden State in 4.
(2) Denver Nuggets vs (7) San Antonio Spurs
The Denver Nuggets have Nikola Jokic and that’s all you really need to know about them. The Big Man has had an incredible season (20ppg-11rpg-7apg) and is central to everything the Nuggets do. The Spurs, on the other hand, are in the playoffs for a record 22nd consecutive time so it is not really a surprise to see them here again. They do not have the talent of past years however and so the Nuggets will likely win this one.
Prediction: Nuggets in 6
(3) Portland Trail Blazers vs. (6) Oklahoma City Thunder
After getting swept in the first round by the Pelicans last year, Damian Lillard has been on a mission and has led the Blazers back to the playoffs. They are facing a daunting matchup in the Oklahoma City Thunder who have an excellent defence and boast two All-NBA players in Paul George and Russell Westbrook. This is going to be a very competitive series.
Prediction: Oklahoma in 7.
(4) Houston Rockets vs. (5) Utah Jazz
This will be a rematch of last years Semi-finals matchup which the Rockets won 4-1. The series is looking to be more competitive this year. Utah’s Donovan Mitchell has had another good season and continues to mature whilst Rudy Gobert is just a defensive menace. But the Rockets have Harden, so they are winning this one, sorry.
Prediction: Houston in 6.
(1) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (8) Detroit Pistons
The Bucks finished with the best record in the NBA this season (60-22) and have arguably the best player in the playoffs in Giannis Antetokounmpo. Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond have had their best seasons in a while for the Pistons, but it won’t be nearly enough in this series. The Bucks will dominate this matchup.
Prediction: Bucks in 4.
(2) Toronto Raptors vs. (7) Orlando Magic
After once again getting swept by LeBron in last years playoffs the Raptors decided to hit the restart button and went all-in for Kawhi Leonard. It worked out well for them this season and they finished 58-24. Orlando is back in the Playoffs after a long absence, but they lack the talent to go far. This is another series that won’t be too competitive.
Prediction: Raptors in 4.
(3) Philadelphia 76ers vs. (6) Brooklyn Nets
This should be a very exciting series for multiple reasons. The Sixers are stacked with star talent but were not able to really put it all together in the regular season. The Nets led by D’Angelo Russell play a fun, fast-paced style of basketball and are looking to keep their great season going. This series will be closer than many would probably expect but ultimately Joel Embiid will win this series for Philly.
Prediction: 76ers in 6.
(4) Boston Celtics vs. (5) Indiana Pacers
It has been a horrible season for the Celtics. In many minds, they were the favourites to win the East entering this season, but it clearly did not work out. Kyrie Irving just was not able to lead this team to any cohesion and so they finished with a disappointing record of 49-33. Lucky for them they are facing the Pacers who lost their best player in Victor Oladipo to injury late in the season. Boston is too talented and will win.
Prediction: Boston in 5.