71°
UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

NBA Playoff Predictions

It’s the playoffs, baby! The NBA regular season is finally behind us, and now comes the most exciting two-month stretch of professional basketball of the year. Beginning this week, 16 teams who have battled to earn spots in this year’s postseason will begin the grueling process of trying to reach the NBA Finals, one which in all likelihood the reigning champions the Golden State Warriors will repeat. While the reality of this hurts, it will not stop me from predicting a short future, at least through the first round, of exciting, fun, and potentially even surprising outcomes. Strap in.

Beginning on the East Coast, the first round of matchups all seems straightforward. The Milwaukee Bucks, who sit atop the conference as the one seed and finished the season with a league best record of 60–22, will make quick work of the Detroit Pistons, who barely squeaked into the eighth and final seed of playoff contention. Of their four regular season matchups, the Bucks won every game, so to see them beat the Pistons another four times will not come down to a matter of if, but a matter of how many games it will take. I predict a sweep, as the Bucks’ blossoming Greek superstar in Giannis Antetokounmpo seems to be out to prove himself capable of leading his team on a deep playoff run. It’s unfortunate that the Pistons, who has not seen the playoffs since being swept in the first round in 2015, are to be the first of his prey. 

Of the remaining Eastern Conference matchups, I predict the Boston Celtics will handily take down the Indiana Pacers, winning five of seven games. Having lost one of the four regular season matchups against Indiana this year proves them capable of being able to steal one, and especially with the late-season injury to Boston’s heart and soul Marcus Smart, who will likely be out until the conference finals, it is not unrealistic to see Indiana pull a game out of this series. Statistically, I still feel it is safe to say the Celtics will win the series, and as my personal allegiance so happens to lie with Boston, I do not see why they cannot win the entire thing—though that may just be my bias talking. 

The Toronto Raptors, who at the helm are led by a rejuvenated Kawhi Leonard, will easily beat the Orlando Magic, who have not been in the playoffs since 2011. Kawhi and his new teammates up north are out for blood, and as such this series could get very ugly, very quickly. As for the final matchup of the East, although I predict the Philadelphia 76ers will win the series thanks to their experience, I think that they will be pushed to the limit against the rising core out of the Brooklyn Nets, led by a now apparent force in D’Angelo Russell. The teams are 2–2 in their regular season matchups, so to see this series go seven games is not all that unlikely. And if comes down to one match, who’s to say the Nets cannot take it? This will be the most interesting matchup in the East.

As for the West, this will be short and sweet: Warriors, no doubt. 

Seriously, though. The Warriors will, as they have since the 2014–2015 season, dominate the playoffs. The Los Angeles Clippers, with all due respect, stand no chance, and I would be surprised to see them win a game. Beyond that, as has been the case in the West for years now, it will quite simply be a race for second. Although the Utah Jazz beat the James Harden–led Houston Rockets in their first two meetings, the Rockets have won the past two and seem to be coming together just in time for a deep push. The Jazz may win two if they are lucky, but the MVP candidate in Harden will likely cut them down at that, yearning for his shot to take down the Warriors in the second round. 

Of the remaining series out West, although the Portland Trail Blazers hold the higher seed over the Oklahoma City Thunder, with the season-ending injury of their star big man Jusuf Nurkic looming, it will be difficult for them to outlast the tenacity of the Thunder’s two stars in Russell Westbrook and Paul George for seven games. As for the young, second-seeded Denver Nuggets facing the old, battle-tested San Antonio Spurs, this one is a toss-up. The season series is split down the middle, and both teams seem well equipped to stand their respective ground. I want to give the advantage to the Spurs for their highly coveted coach in Gregg Popovich, but this will truly be a battle of the old guard vs. the new. 

Regardless, the Warriors are coming out of the West, and the Celtics out of the East (or so I hope).