Ranking NBA First Round Playoff Matchups

The playoffs are here! In a season unlike any other, the postseason will begin in the middle of August, but I’m sure every NBA fan will tell you this is perfectly fine given the circumstances.

With that, Fredy and I thought it would be fun to rank the first round matchups. In addition to the games we’ll be keeping the closest eye on, we’ll give you our series predictions.

Fredy’s Rankings

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Will the Lakers make easy work of Portland, or will Damian Lillard & co. give them a series? (Credit: CBS Sports)

1. (1) Los Angeles Lakers v. (8) Portland Trail Blazers

Who doesn’t want to see LeBron in his first playoff series as a Laker? Especially against a Portland team who fought their way to the very end for a playoff spot with Dame Lillard destroying his opponents in every way possible. The Lakers might have a bit of trouble with these underdogs, but ultimately star power will prevail.

Prediction: Lakers in 6

2. (4) Houston Rockets v. (5) Oklahoma City Thunder

This series has Russell Westbrook out and Chris Paul going up against the team that traded him away, and James Harden trying to lead his small ball team to another Western Conference Finals appearance. The Thunder aren’t to be taken lightly either as Chris Paul looks to make an upset happen against his former team. But I got James Harden coming through and causing havoc.

Prediction: Rockets in 7

3. (3) Boston Celtics v. (6) Philadelphia 76ers

Honestly, it’s the hometown team and I feel obligated to leave them at 3. I want to see how Brown and Tatum look in the playoffs after last years slap to the face with Kyrie. How does Theis handle Embiid? How bad will coaching look for Philly again?

Prediction: Boston in 5

4. (2) Los Angeles Clippers v. (7) Dallas Mavericks

Paul George and Kawhi will need to get into playoff shape and work on some defending. I’m curious to see how much shit Paul George and Patrick Beverley talk to Luka Doncic, if any. Also, Kristaps! Latvian!

Prediction: Clippers in 5

5. (3) Denver Nuggets v. (6) Utah Jazz

Honestly, I just want to boo Gobert. He seems like an annoying teammate who wants the ball more than he should… AS A DEFENSIVE CENTER. I could care less about Denver also. Great young talent but man this is a boring series, just not as boring as the rest.

Prediction: Denver in 5

6. (2) Toronto Raptors v. (7) Brooklyn Nets

I don’t really want to invest in this, I’m just interested in the flopping Lowry is going to do. Oh, and see how dominant Toronto can be against a beatable Brooklyn team.

Prediction: Toronto in 4

7. (1) Milwaukee Bucks v. (8) Orlando Magic

You should put this on in the background of any other interesting activity you can find. Snooze fest of a sweep.

Prediction: Bucks in 4

8. (4) Miami Heat v. (5) Indiana Pacers

Whoever wins loses to Giannis next.

Prediction: Heat in 5.


Nick’s Rankings

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Four of the past five seasons for Harden have ended by losing to Golden State. Without the Warriors in the picture, can he lead this team over the hump? (Credit: KHOU)

1. (4) Houston Rockets v. (5) Oklahoma City Thunder

Chris Paul facing off against James Harden and the team that traded him away… I cannot wait for this series. OKC has been one of the best teams in the league following their 6-11 start, while Houston has rolled out a small ball lineup as ambitious as any in NBA history, featuring another record-setting scoring season from James Harden. It sucks Westbrook may not appear in this series, but it’s gonna be must-watch TV regardless.

Prediction: Thunder in 7

2. (3) Boston Celtics v. (6) Philadelphia 76ers

I’m biased here, but I’m also a sucker for rivalries. The last time these two faced off in the postseason was 2018, in a series that went 5 games closer than appears at first glance. Ben Simmons being out hurts Philly’s chances significantly, as Boston won their final 4 games in Orlando when their starters played. I’m picking Boston, but these teams will clash, maybe get into a fight, and it will be fun!

Prediction: Celtics in 5

3. (2) Los Angeles Clippers v. (7) Dallas Mavericks

This series features Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis’s first postseason appearance, as well as the Clippers playoff debuts of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. The Mavs aren’t title contenders yet, but I am looking forward to seeing what Luka does on this stage.

Prediction: Clippers in 5

4. (4) Miami Heat v. (5) Indiana Pacers

Miami is an intriguing team with a deep roster, led by the talented Jimmy Butler. The Pacers aren’t AS deep, but always play well. We get to see Bubble superstar T.J. Warren, who only scored 12 points against the Heat in their game last Monday. This might not be a thriller, but there’s a lot of good basketball players on the court.

Prediction: Heat in 6

5. (1) Los Angeles Lakers v. (8) Portland Trail Blazers

There’s going to be a lot of hype around this series, and it will include big names like LeBron, AD, Lillard, McCollum, Melo, Howard, JR, etc, but just how competitive will it really be? I know the Lakers were less than stellar in The Bubble, but we’ve seen LeBron coast at the end of seasons before. He knows what his mission is now. I think Dame steals a game for Portland, but that’s it. Doesn’t mean it can’t still be a fun series.

Prediction: Lakers in 5

6. (3) Denver Nuggets v. (6) Utah Jazz

WARNING: BORING TERRITORY. I think Jokic is awesome, and I’m curious to see what Michael Porter Jr can do on this stage, but the Jazz REALLY bore me. I’m a fan of Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles, but I despise Rudy Gobert, and no one else intrigues me on that team. It should be competitive, but I’m not gonna say this series is interesting.

Prediction: Nuggets in 6

7. (2) Toronto Raptors v. (7) Brooklyn Nets

Brooklyn has surprised a lot of people in The Bubble considering they barely were able to assemble a team before action picked back up, but Toronto has been one of the best teams in Orlando. I expect the Raptors to overpower this Nets team in short order. Maybe we see the classic Game 1 loss by Toronto, but otherwise, this series will be over quickly.

Prediction: Raptors in 5

8. (1) Milwaukee Bucks v. (8) Orlando Magic

For most of the restart Milwaukee held Giannis back – well, I shouldn’t say that considering he headbutt someone and got suspended, but you know what I mean: he’s rested. Orlando has been one of the worst teams in the bubble, and face off against a team that was in historically good territory most of this season. Sweep.

Prediction: Bucks in 4


Series Schedules

2-2-1-1-1 series format

(1) Milwaukee v. (8) Orlando

Game 1: Tuesday, August18 at 1:30 PM (TNT)
Game 2: Thursday, August 20 at 6 PM (ESPN)
Game 3: Saturday, August 22 at 1 PM (TNT)
Game 4: Monday, August24 at 1:30 PM (NBATV)
Game 5*: Wednesday, August 26 at TBD (TBD)
Game 6*: Friday, August 28 at TBD (TBD)
Game 7*: Sunday, August 30 at TBD (TBD)

(1) Lakers vs. (8) Portland

Game 1: Tuesday, August18 at 9 PM (TNT)
Game 2: Thursday, August 20 at 9 PM, (ESPN)
Game 3: Saturday, August 22 at 8:30 PM (ABC)
Game 4: Monday, August24 at 9 PM (TNT)
Game 5*: Wednesday, August 26 at TBD (TBD)
Game 6*: Friday, August 28 at TBD (TBD)
Game 7*: Sunday, August 30 at TBD (TBD)

(2) Toronto v. (7) Brooklyn 

Game 1: Monday, August 17 at 4 PM (ESPN)
Game 2: Wednesday, August 19 at 1:30 PM (NBATV)
Game 3: Friday, August 21 at 1:30 PM (NBATV)
Game 4: Sunday, August 23 at 6:30 PM (TNT)
Game 5*: Tuesday, August 25 at TBD (TBD
Game 6*: Thursday August 27 at TBD (ESPN)
Game 7*: Saturday, August 29 at TBD (TNT)

(2) Clippers vs. (7) Dallas 

Game 1: Monday, August 17 9 PM (ESPN)
Game 2: Wednesday, August 19 at 9 PM (TNT)
Game 3: Friday, August 21 at 9 PM (TNT)
Game 4: Sunday, August 23 at 3:30 PM (ABC)
Game 5*: Tuesday, August 25 at TBD (TBD)
Game 6*: Thursday, August 27 at TBD (ESPN)
Game 7*: Saturday, August 29 at TBD (TNT)

(3) Boston v. (6) Philadelphia

Game 1: Monday, August 17 at 6:30 PM (ESPN)
Game 2: Wednesday, August 19 6:30 PM (TNT)
Game 3: Friday, August 21  6:30 PM (TNT)
Game 4: Sunday, August 23 at 1 PM (ABC)
Game 5*: Tuesday, August 25 at TBD (TBD)
Game 6*: Thursday, August 27 at TBD (ESPN)
Game 7*: Sunday, August 29 at TBD (TNT)

(3) Nuggets vs. (6) Utah

Game 1: Monday, August 17 at 1:30 PM (ESPN)
Game 2: Wednesday, August 19 at 4 PM (TNT)
Game 3: Friday, August 21 at 4 PM (TNT)
Game 4: Sunday, August 23 at 9 PM (TNT)
Game 5*: Tuesday, August 25 at TBD (TBD)
Game 6*: Thursday, August 27 at TBD (ESPN)
Game 7*: Saturday, August 29 at TBD (TNT)

(4/5) Miami v. (4/5) Indiana

Game 1: Tuesday, August 18 at 4 PM (TNT)
Game 2: Thursday, August 20 at 1 PM (ESPN)
Game 3: Saturday, Aug 22 at 3:30 PM (TNT)
Game 4: Monday, Aug 24 at 6:30 PM (TNT)
Game 5*: Wednesday, Aug 26 at TBD (TBD)
Game 6*: Friday, Aug 28 at TBD (TBD)
Game 7*: Sunday, August 30  at TBD (TBD)

(4/5) Oklahoma City vs. (4/5) Houston 

Game 1: Tuesday, August 18 at 6:30 PM (TNT)
Game 2: Thursday, August 20 at 3:30 PM (ESPN)
Game 3: Saturday, August 22 at 6 PM (ESPN)
Game 4: Monday, August 24 at 4 PM (TNT)
Game 5*: Wednesday, August 26 at TBD (TBD)
Game 6*: Friday, August 28 at TBD (TBD)
Game 7*: Sunday, August 30 at TBD (TBD)

*if necessary


Top image via Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle 

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Author: Nick Collins

Boston sports fan sharing his love for sports and perspectives as a fan

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