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2019 NBA Playoff Preview

We’re witnessing a top-3 sports week of the year right now. We had the National Championship on Monday, Dwayne Wade and Dirk Nowitzki’s final NBA games, The Masters from Thursday through Sunday and then the NBA Playoffs beginning on Saturday. The NBA action the last couple of days has been wild, leading to all kinds of different seeding changes. The Nuggets master plan to avoid the Rockets worked, the Thunder were able to avoid Warriors in round one, and the last spots in the Eastern Conference were claimed. We’re going to dive into each first round playoff matchup here, and then discuss potential conference semi-finals and conference finals matchups based on who I think will advance. Let’s get to it.

The Bracket

Odds To Win 2019 NBA Finals

Golden State Warriors -225
Milwaukee Bucks +650
Toronto Raptors +950
Houston Rockets +1100
Boston Celtics +1600
Philadelphia 76ers +1600
Denver Nuggets +1800
Oklahoma City Thunder +3500
Portland Trail Blazers +4000
Utah Jazz +6000
Indiana Pacers +8000
San Antonio Spurs +8000
Orlando Magic +10000
Brooklyn Nets +12500
Detroit Pistons +15000
Los Angeles Clippers +15000

First Round Preview

Eastern Conference Matchups & Predictions:

#1 Milwaukee Bucks vs. #8 Detroit Pistons

Series Schedule:
Game 1: Sunday 4/14, 7 p.m ET @Milwaukee
Game 2: Wednesday 4/17, 8 p.m. ET @Milwaukee
Game 3: Saturday 4/20, 8 p.m. ET @Pistons
Game 4: Monday 4/22, 8 p.m. ET @Pistons
Game 5 (if nec.): Wednesday 4/24, TBD @Milwaukee
Game 6 (if nec.): Friday 4/26, TBD @Pistons
Game 7 (if nec.): Sunday 4/28, TBD @Milwaukee

This Milwaukee Bucks team is special. There’s no doubt that Giannis Antetokounmpo is well on his way to becoming the best player in the NBA. Add in studs around him like Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe and you’ve got an NBA Finals contender. I ultimately think that the Bucks have too much talent for the Pistons to overcome. Detroit is a team with several flaws. Their front court is extremely solid with Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, but their lack of guard talent is something that needs to be addressed in the offseason. The Greek Freak and the number-one ranked scoring offense (118.1 PPG) will roll over the Pistons in five games.

Prediction: Bucks in 5

#2 Toronto Raptors vs. #7 Orlando Magic

Series Schedule:
Game 1: Saturday 4/13, 5 p.m. ET @Toronto
Game 2: Tuesday 4/16, 8 p.m. ET @Toronto
Game 3: Friday 4/19, 7 p.m. ET @Orlando
Game 4: Sunday 4/21, 7 p.m. ET @Orlando
Game 5 (if nec.): Tuesday 4/23, TBD @Toronto
Game 6 (if nec.): Thursday 4/25, TBD @Orlando
Game 7 (if nec.): Saturday 4/27, TBD @Toronto

This Raptors team is built for the playoffs. I don’t want to hear anything about the Raptors never playing well in the playoffs because this team is completely different than years prior. The entire team is lengthy and incredible defensively. Take a look at these names… Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol, Danny Green, OG Annouby, Danny Green, Fred Van Vleet. This team can lock up. It’s also likely that Pascal Siakam is this year’s most improved year with his 16.9 PPG and 6.9 RPG. The youth of this Orlando team will struggle with with Toronto. If they can re-sign first time all-star Nikola Vuvecic, who’s averaging 20.8 PPG and 12.0 rebounds per game, this offseason, then the future could be bright in Orlando. However, the Magic’s playoff appearance will be short-lived this year.

Prediction: Raptors in 4

#3 Philadelphia 76ers vs. #6 Brooklyn Nets

Series Schedule:
Game 1: Saturday 4/13, 2:30 p.m. ET @Philadelphia
Game 2: Monday 4/15, 8 p.m. ET @Philadelphia
Game 3: Thursday 4/18, 8 p.m. ET @Brooklyn
Game 4: Saturday 4/20, 3 p.m. ET @Brooklyn
Game 5 (if nec.): Tuesday 4/23, TBD @Philadelphia
Game 6 (if nec.): Thursday 4/25, TBD @Brooklyn
Game 7 (if nec.): Saturday 4/27, TBD @Philadelphia

This is probably the most underrated first round playoff matchup. I legitimately think the Nets make this a series. While I think Brooklyn ends up losing in six games, I think every single game will be close. The season series between the Sixers and Nets this year is tied at 2-2, with two of those games were decided by three points or less. The biggest storyline going into Saturday afternoon is the health of Joel Embiid, who’s doubtful for Game 1 with a knee injury. If he doesn’t play in Game 1, you never know what can happen. Embiid is averaging 27.5 PPG and 13.6 RPG this season. The deciding factor of this series other than injuries is going to be defense. Can the Nets stop Philly’s offense? I don’t think it happens. The 76ers have too many scoring options in Simmons, Tobias, and Butler and the Nets are too inexperienced, and just don’t have the roster to stop that. However, I am extremely excited to watch D’Angelo Russell in his first playoff series. He’s well-worth the max contact he’s going to receive from Brooklyn this summer as he’s averaged 21.1 PPG and 7.0 APG this season. Russell is averaging 26.6 PPG in his last 12 games. This should be one of the best first round series, but I expect the Sixers to get by.

Prediction: 76ers in 6

#4 Boston Celtics vs. #5 Indiana Pacers

Series Schedule:
Game 1: Sunday 4/14, 1 p.m. ET @Boston
Game 2: Wednesday 4/17, 7 p.m. ET @Boston
Game 3: Friday 4/19, 8:30 p.m. ET @Indiana
Game 4: Sunday 4/21, 1 p.m. ET @Indiana
Game 5 (if nec.): Wednesday 4/24, TBD @Boston
Game 6 (if nec.): Friday 4/26, TBD @Indiana
Game 7 (if nec.): Sunday 4/28, TBD @Boston

Everyone wants to count the Pacers out here given that they’re 16-19 since the injury to Victor Oladipo. However, I think it’ll be a competitive series with the Celtics coming out on top. The Pacers are well-coached by Nate McMillan, and still have some solid players such as Myles Turner, Domantas Sabonis, and Bojan Bogdanovic, who’s taken his game to a new level since the Oladipo injury averaging 20.7 PPG in 34 games. The Celtics haven’t looked amazing either, but they do have more experience and depth than Indiana. They also have the best player in the series in Kyrie Irving. The Celtics are also a team that just always seem to come together for the playoffs. Last year, everyone counted them out after the Kyrie Irving injury and they ended up one game from the NBA Finals. I ultimately think the depth of the Celtics, and Kyrie Irving get them through to the second round.

Prediction: Celtics in 6

Western Conference Matchups & Predictions

#1 Golden State Warriors vs. #8 Los Angeles Clippers

Series Schedule:
Game 1: Saturday 4/13, 8:15 p.m. ET @Golden State
Game 2: Monday 4/15, 10:30 p.m. ET @Golden State
Game 3: Thursday 4/18, 10:30 p.m. ET @Los Angeles
Game 4: Saturday 4/21, 3:30 p.m. ET @Los Angeles
Game 5 (if nec.): Wednesday 4/24, TBD @Golden State
Game 6 (if nec.): Friday 4/26, TBD @Los Angeles
Game 7 (if nec.): Sunday 4/28, TBD @Golden State

There’s not even much to say here. As surprising and impressive as the Clippers have been this season, I’d be surprised if they get a game of the Warriors, assuming all of Golden State remains healthy.

Prediction: Warriors in 4

#2 Denver Nuggets vs. #7 San Antonio Spurs

Series Schedule:
Game 1: Saturday 4/13, 10:30 p.m. ET @Denver
Game 2: Tuesday 4/16, 9 p.m. ET @ Denver
Game 3: Thursday 4/18, 9 p.m. ET @San Antonio
Game 4: Saturday 4/20, 5:30 p.m. ET @San Antonio
Game 5 (if nec.): Tuesday 4/23, TBD @Denver
Game 6 (if nec.): Thursday 4/25, TBD @ San Antonio
Game 7 (if nec.): Saturday 4/27, TBD @ Denver

I’m sure that a ton of people are picking the Spurs to upset the Nuggets. The Nuggets are the young new team that everyone assumes can’t play in the playoffs. There might be a point there, but we don’t know yet, as this is the first playoffs this Nuggets team has been in. However, the Nuggets have the best player in the series in Nikola Jokic, and also have the home-court advantage. I ultimately think that’s what makes a difference. However, I also love the depth of this Nuggets team. There’s just so many different options. You have Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Paul Millsap, Will Barton, Malik Beasley, and Monte Morris who are all averaging in double-figures. They’re also the sixth best defensive team in the league in terms of opponents points per game. Denver is just a really balanced team, where everyone heavily contributes and that’s just not something you see much of anymore in what’s such a star-driven league. In terms of the Spurs, I think they’re a fantastic seven seed, and DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge are both extremely experienced. However, I’m sticking with Denver in 7.

Prediction: Nuggets in 7

#3 Portland Trail Blazers vs. #6 Oklahoma City Thunder

Series Schedule:
Game 1: Sunday 4/14, 3:30 p.m. ET @Portland
Game 2: Tuesday 4/16, 10:30 p.m. ET @Portland
Game 3: Friday 4/19, 9:30 p.m. ET @Oklahoma City
Game 4: Sunday 4/21, 9:30 p.m. ET @Oklahoma City
Game 5 (if nec.): Tuesday 4/23, TBD, @Portland
Game 6 (if nec.): Thursday 4/25, TBD, @Oklahoma City
Game 7 (if nec.): Saturday 4/27, TBD @Portland

This is a series that I originally thought would go to 7, but Jusuf Nurkic’s injury put a major dent into that prediction. I don’t think this team can advance with Enes Kanter as the starting center. Even if Nurkic was there, you still have Russell Westbrook and Paul George on OKC, who I think is going to be a much harder playoff win than in the regular season. Westbrook has averaged a triple double in three straight years, and Paul George, who’s averaging 28 PPG and 8.2 RPG with 11.9 win shares this season. George is also a favorite to win Defensive Player of the Year. Portland has Damian Lillard, who’s a clear top-15 player in the league and C.J McCollum, who’s averaging 21 PPG this season. However, I don’t think that they’re enough to beat two top-ten players in Paul George and Russell Westbrook.

Prediction: Thunder in 6

#4 Houston Rockets vs. #5 Utah Jazz

Series Schedule:
Game 1: Sunday 4/14, 9:30 p.m. ET @Houston
Game 2: Wednesday 4/17, 9:30 p.m. ET @Houston
Game 3: Saturday 4/20, 10:30 p.m. ET @Utah
Game 4: Monday 4/22, 10:30 p.m. ET @Utah
Game 5 (if nec.): Wednesday 4/24, TBD @Houston
Game 6 (if nec.): Friday 4/26, TBD @Utah
Game 7 (if nec.): Sunday 4.28, TBD @Houston

I ultimately think that the Rockets have too much talent for the Jazz, despite the fact that I expect this to be a really good series. First off, James Harden is having the best scoring season since Michael Jordan as he’s averaging 36.1 PPG to go along with 7.5 APG and 6.6 RPG. The Rockets were a game away from the NBA Finals last year, and have a similar team from last season, so I expect them to handle the Jazz in this series. Utah has an incredible corp of Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, two of the most underrated players in the league, but it’s hard to believe the Jazz will upset the Rockets here as long as James Harden plays the way he’s been playing.

Prediction: Rockets in 6

Rest of Playoff Predictions:

Eastern Conference:

Conference Semi-Finals:
Bucks over Celtics in 7
Raptors over 76ers in 6

Conference Finals:
Raptors over Bucks in 7

Western Conference:

Conference Semi-Finals:
Warriors over Rockets in 6
Thunder over Nuggets in 7

Conference Finals:
Warriors over Thunder in 6

NBA Finals:
Warriors over Raptors in 6
MVP: Stephen Curry

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