I’ll be honest, I thought there might have been some more drama in the first round, but other than Nuggets/Spurs and Warriors/Clippers, every series went between 4 and 5 games. This is only the second time since the first round went to a best-of-7 format in 2003 that less than 3 series’ went at least 6 games (2004 being the other).
Anyway, this is where the fun begins. Outside of any potential Finals matchup, this is where the most intriguing matchups of the playoffs will take place. In the East, the best team from start the to end, the Milwaukee Bucks, will face the preseason favorites to win the conference, the Boston Celtics. These two teams faced off in a great first round series a year ago, and this year should be more of the same. Out West, we SHOULD have a rematch of the 2018 Western Conference Finals, as the Golden States
will SHOULD face the Houston Rockets in the playoffs for the fourth time in the last five seasons. Golden State has won the previous three times, but the Rockets may have been a completely healthy Chris Paul away from earning a trip to the Finals a year ago; more fun SHOULD be in store.
Some fans (and I am one of them) would tell you these two matches should be the conference finals for each conference, and I think it will feel that way once the games begin. Now Boston and Houston had a chance to finish higher in their respective conferences and make that a reality, but that’s all over now. We’ll get a great series in each conference that we all wanted, just a few weeks early.
To round out the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Toronto Raptors will face the Philadelphia 76ers. The last time these two teams faced off in the playoffs was in 2001, when the Allen Iverson led Sixers beat the Raptors in 7 games.
We still have to figure out the other Western Conference Semifinals matchup, but we know that Portland will play the winner of Nuggets/Spurs. The last time the Blazers played the Nuggets in the playoffs was 1986, where they lost 3-1. The last time they played the Spurs in the playoffs was way back in 2014, where they lost 4-1.
Before we get to the games, lets not forget our first round predictions. As a friendly way to keep track of who did well, we’re going to implement a leaderboard. Here’s how the points will be tallied:
2 points for picking the winner of the series
3 points for picking the winner of the series AND the number of games that team won the series in
2- and 3-point values… it’s basketball, it had to be done.
Anyway, here is your leaderboard through the first round thus far:
- Fredy: 18 points
- Kennedy: 16 points
- Mike: 16 points
- Nick: 14 points
- Kerm: 14 points
- Trevor: 13 points
- Gaashaan: 12 points
Maybe we’ll make things interesting and have the predictions each round moving forward be worth more… let us know what you think about that.
Onto the predictions.
(1) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (4) Boston Celtics
Milwaukee won the season series 2 games to 1
Nick: Celtics in 6
Milwaukee was amazing this season, and they took care of the Pistons with ease. Giannis played like an MVP, and new coach Mike Budenholzer elevated this team into the top tier in the league, and they have looked amazing all season. Boston, on the other hand, looked shaky at times throughout the year, but in the first round they won each game they played, and you can joke all you want about it being the Pacers, but sweeping a team in the playoffs is not easy. Boston has a roster with tons of playoff experience, and two players have won a championship (Irving and Baynes), and everyone might be finding their groove at the perfect time. Milwaukee won their first playoff series since 2001, and they have two players with Finals experience (George Hill and Pau Gasol), but other than that, this is a team with limited experience beyond the first round. Two great coaches, the best player on each team could take a huge step forward in being the face of the conference for the next 5 years. This will be a great series (a rematch from a year ago), but I think the adversity the Celtics faced all season will turn into a strength, and they will pull off the upset and move on to the Eastern Conference Finals
Fredy – Celtics in 6
Mike – Celtics in 7
Kerm – Bucks in 7
Trevor – Celtics in 7
Kennedy – Bucks in 6
Gaashaan – Bucks in 5
(2) Toronto Raptors vs. (3) Philadelphia 76ers
Toronto won the season series 3 games to 1
Nick: Raptors in 7
Everyone (me included) had a lot of fun when these teams lost their first games of the playoffs against Orlando and Brooklyn respectively, but this is the series we expected all along. After their first loss, Toronto easily took care of business against the Orlando Magic. Brooklyn challenged Philadelphia at times, but the 76ers prevailed. In this series, I see two very talented teams in a situation where if they lose, that team will need to blow it up. There might be more urgency in Philadelphia, but I see Toronto as the more talented team. I said it last time, and I still believe it: players like Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, and Marc Gasol have loads of playoff experience from their days in the Western Conference, and I think it will change the fabric of this Raptors team when the going gets tough. I trust Toronto to neutralize Ben Simmons (which I believe is possible), and maybe Marc Gasol can help slow down Joel Embiid. I’m giving the edge to Toronto, but this is a coin flip in my eyes. I just see Kawhi and Pascal Siakam elevating this group past a disjointed (but talented) Sixers squad.
Fredy – Raptors in 5
Mike – Raptors in 5
Kerm – Raptors in 6
Trevor – Raptors in 5
Kennedy – Raptors in 6
Gaashaan – Raptors in 6
(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (4) Houston Rockets
Fredy: Rockets in 7
A rematch of last year’s Western Conference Finals in the 2nd round? Count me in! James Harden and the Rockets are out for revenge in this one. They gave the Warriors a scare last year as their series went to 7 games, only for the team to forget how to shoot from 3 during Game 7 (and Chris Paul got hurt during the end of the series too). But is this year different? The Warriors seemed to struggle a bit against the scrappy Clippers, who forced them to 6 games, while the Jazz got dominated by the Rockets.
Ever since last year, it’s been known the Rockets are obsessed with stopping Golden State. I say as a nation, we should root for that. Maybe this is the recipe for peace on Earth?
Nick – Warriors in 7
Mike – Warriors n 6
Kerm – Rockets in 7
Trevor – Rockets in 7
Kennedy – Warriors in 6
Gaashaan – Warriors in 5
(2) Denver Nuggets vs. (3) Portland Trail Blazers
Denver won the season series 3 games to 1
Fredy: Trail Blazers in 7
Fuck me. I didn’t think the Blazers would make it this far, but here we are.
Dame literally gutted the Thunder. Did you see that cold-blooded game winner to end the series? Remember way back when when he did the same against the Rockets?
Lillard isn’t afraid of the spotlight it seems. And now, he gets to face a Nuggets team that has no real superstar. This will be the most interesting/boring series in league history next to Heat vs. Hawks like 10 years ago or so. Shit, Bucks vs Pistons! Anyways, Jokic is going to eat in this series with the Blazers missing their star-ish center Jusuf Nurkic. And with Murray probably guarding Lillard the whole series, it’ll be great to see what Lillard does. Maybe facing Westbrook lit a fire under his ass, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Nuggets won in 6 (bite me, this is the Skip Bayless approach. That way, you’re never wrong).
Nick – Trail Blazers in 7
Mike – Nuggets in 6
Kerm – Trail Blazers in 7
Trevor – Nuggets in 6
Kennedy – Trail Blazers in 7
Gaashaan – Trail Blazers in 6
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