In case you missed it, I recently wrote my full First Round Predictions for the NBA Postseason as per Bayou Report (click here).
I caught most of the Clippers and Mavericks game 1 last night, which was fantastic. I talked about this on the recent No Huddle as well as the column for Bayou Report. It is just wonderful to have playoff basketball back. I wrote my early finals picks over a year ago for 2019. Let that sink in. It’s utterly insane.
Nonetheless, the bubble is working and we should have an electric conclusion to the season. My early pick was the Clippers over the Bucks. When I wrote the original one year ago, Steph Curry was still healthy and some others factors played a role. But, here were my predictions on playoff seeding as of last July compared to the actual seeding.
Western Conference – Prediction (Actual)
- Los Angeles Clippers (Lakers)
- Golden State Warriors (Clippers)
- Los Angeles Lakers (Nuggets)
- Utah Jazz (Rockets)
- Portland Trail Blazers (Thunder)
- Houston Rockets (Jazz)
- Denver Nuggets (Mavericks)
- San Antonio Spurs (Blazers)
*Just Missing Cut: Dallas Mavericks*
Eastern Conference – Prediction (Actual)
- Milwaukee Bucks (Bucks)
- Boston Celtics (Raptors)
- Philadelphia 76ers (Celtics)
- Indiana Pacers (Pacers)
- Toronto Raptors (Heat)
- Miami Heat (76ers)
- Detroit Pistons (Nets)
- Atlanta Hawks (Magic)
Overall, I think the league will continue to work toward being more competitive and less one sided which is a great place to be. I feel like young stars like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, Damian Lillard and Zion Williamson will lead a class of stars who are hungry to compete against each other. Lillard, for example, signed a mega deal to stay with the Blazers last off-season. Gut feeling tells me many of these other young studs will do much of the same. After seeing the criticism LeBron received for Miami and then especially Kevin Durant for Golden State, the NBA could be in a paradigm shift of less ring chasing and more competing for the ring.
For the record, fans suck for creating that standard with the “how many rings he got” mentality.
Even though this is likely the Covid talking due to a lack of sports in recent months, I am on cloud 9 for the NBA postseason right now. I think we are in for a treat as many of these series will be ultra competitive. However, I do think it is a four horse race to the finals with a small potential for upset from a few teams.
First Round Predictions
Milwaukee Bucks v Orlando Magic
Pick: Bucks in 4 (already wrong)
Whether it is 4 or 5, this series is ending early. I am not taking game 1 THAT serious. Often times, the NBA fans overact and hit panic. In 2017, LeBron and the Cavs lost their first playoff game and the narrative became upset alert city. They ended up making the Finals.
Toronto Raptors v Brooklyn Nets
Pick: Raptors in 4
Even losing Kawhi Leonard after last season’s championship run, Toronto has reason to be excited. They have one of the league’s most suffocating defenses. That will pay huge dividends in the postseason. That should get them out of this series quickly.
Boston Celtics v Philadelphia 76ers
Pick: Celtics in 6
Losing Ben Simmons hurts the 76ers in a big way here with the Celtics having three players averaging 20 points per game. The Celtics are much deeper and healthier. The one reason this series could end up real competitive is Joel Embiid. If he can everything he is capable of being, he can punish that Celtics defense inside with ease.
Indiana Pacers v Miami Heat
Pick: Heat in 5
Despite nearly identical records, the consensus on this series is the Heat. I am sticking to the status quo. Star players matter in the postseason. Jimmy Butler is the best player in this series by far. Pair that with the fact the Pacers are battling injuries, give me Miami.
Los Angeles Lakers v Portland Trail Blazers
Pick: Lakers in 5
It’s a shame that Damian Lillard’s run is coming to an abrupt halt. While some may be putting the Lakers on upset alert, I am putting the Blazers on life alert. The defense is terrible and will have no answer for the Lakers. Even if Dame averages 50 for the series, they’re not getting out with a series victory.
Los Angeles Clippers v Dallas Mavericks
Pick: Clippers in 5
As I alluded to, Clippers were my pick. They were my pick the day they signed Kawhi Leonard. I loved what I saw from them in the postseason last year. I thought they just needed a star who could takeover and they could have made a bigger splash than they did. I love Luka, but the Mavs are going to get smothered.
Denver Nuggets v Utah Jazz
Pick: Nuggets in 7
This should be the most competitive and best series of the first round by far. As I write this, game 1 is looking that way. I will take the Nuggets.
Houston Rockets v Oklahoma City Thunder
Pick: Rockets in 7
With Russell Westbrook set to miss a few games, I see many are taking OKC in this one to outlast the Rockets. I will be the black sheep and take the Rockets here. If for nothing else, I trust James Harden to be great in the postseason. If there is something to be said about him much like Chris Paul, he makes those around him better because of style of play.
Los Angeles Lakers v Houston Rockets
Pick: Lakers in 6
No matter the match up in Round 2 for the Lakers, it should be a fun series. However, I think whoever wins out of OKC / Hou is as good as done come round 2. I am not saying neither can beat nor push the Lakers. They can. But when push comes to shove, it is hard not to trust LeBron. As long as he and more importantly Anthony Davis can elevate the play for the postseason, they should get out of the series with a dub.
Denver Nuggets v Los Angeles Clippers
Pick: Clippers in 5
The Nuggets are fun and exciting with the 1-2 punch of Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic. While I could see Jokic putting up numbers, the Clippers defense is just too damn good down the stretch. Pair that with two guys who can take over, deadly concoction for the postseason.
Milwaukee Bucks v Miami Heat
Pick: Bucks in 5
Going back to the theme of upset alert city. Look up Bucks upset takes and there’s literally one for every freaking round somewhere out there. While I will take the Bucks in 5, Miami could pose a real threat for the Bucks to struggle. They shoot a ton of threes and the Bucks by in large just don’t cover the three. That being said, I am still selling more than I am buying.
Boston Celtics v Toronto Raptors
Pick: Raptors in 6
Despite having three 20+ point per game scorers, the Raptors are well-run and arguably the best defensive team in the league at their peak. Of course the Celtics are talented and could very well win the series, Boston lacks depth though. They need Kemba Walker for too many minutes to win. I believe that will hurt them against the Raptors.
(West) Los Angeles Lakers v Los Angeles Clippers
Pick: Clippers in 6
LeBron v Kawhi is enough to sell me. But then to have the battle of Los Angeles, yes please. I have been high on the Clippers since landing Kawhi. I think they have more depth, better coached and they’re just tougher mentally. They may be the most mentally tough team in the league. I have no doubt this series will go 6 or 7. Barring a loss of someone like Kawhi, I will take the Clippers.
(East) Milwaukee Bucks v Toronto Raptors
Pick: Bucks in 7
Another series that I think ends up being ultra close and can go either way. I really like the Raptors, but I will stick with the Bucks for the sake of sticking with my pick last year.
Los Angeles Clippers v Milwaukee Bucks
Picks: Clippers in 6
My original pick from last year. That is my story and I am sticking to it.