All of the seeds are set for the NBA playoffs, here are my predictions for results of the first round.
With so much talent in the west, the competition for the conference championship title will be a heated contest, trying to unseat the Warriors off of the throne in which they’ve sat for four years.
The postseason qualifications changed in 2015 when the league decided to move away from determining playoff berth by division.
Since then, the top eight teams from each conference advance to the postseason. The seedings are determined by each team’s win-loss record in the regular season.
All rounds are best-of-seven series. Series are played in a 2–2–1–1–1 format, meaning the team with home-court advantage hosts games 1, 2, 5, and 7, while their opponent hosts games 3, 4, and 6, with games 5-7 being played only if needed.
Now to the match-ups.
Golden State Warriors (57-25) vs Las Angeles Clippers (47-34)
The Warriors lead the regular season series 3-1, and I predict this trend to continue in the postseason.
The Clippers roster is unrecognisable from a year ago, made up of players they acquired in the Blake Griffin trade as well as a couple of off-season acquisitions.
The success the team’s seen this season is undeniably impressive considering their lack of experience playing with each other but it won’t be enough to tackle the infamous Warriors superstar starters.
The match-ups in the guards are the most apparent pieces of evidence to support this claim.
The Clippers lack the defensive ability necessary to lock down the multitude of scoring options at Golden State’s disposal.
Clippers’ rookie, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has taken the starting point guard role over Patrick Beverley. Avery Bradley is technically listed as a starter, but his performance this year has been extremely suspect.
Neither of these players have the defensive strength to shut down Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson.
With the new additions of size to the dubs’ lineup, Demarcus Cousins and Andrew Bogut, they have the depth to lock up Zubac down-low all game.
I have a feeling this will be an easy one for the Warriors. They’ll do it in four.
Denver Nuggets (53-28) vs San Antonio Spurs (48-34)
I see this series turning out as a nail biter. The Spurs’ veteran roster, at its best form, has the calibre to upset the young number-two seed.
San Antonio was hit with the injury bug early this season but has since recovered and developed depth in the process. Demar DeRozan has the ability to heat up leading the team to victory.
That being said, Denver has had an incredibly successful season almost beating out the Warriors for the top spot on the table.
Nikola Jokic will make his debut in his first playoff appearance. If he stays poised, he could absolutely dominate the paint. I see him out-rebounding Jakob Poeltl and pushing him around the court like a fifth-year senior playing Junior-Varsity ball.
If Denver gets ahead early in the series then I believe that they’ll take it. On the other hand, if the series gets deep into a sixth or seventh game, the veteran Spurs team will definitely have the advantage.
I am going to give this one to Denver in 5.
Portland Trail Blazers (52-29) vs Oklahoma City Thunder (49-33)
The Thunder will be entering the series with some solid momentum after beating the Rockets in their final regular season game with a buzzer-beater from Paul George on Wednesday.
Then today Russell Westbrook got his 137th career triple-double in a win against the mighty Bucks
George has had a breakout season to put himself in contention for MVP. Coupled with a playoff-form Russell Westbrook taking shape, and the big Kiwi, Steven Adams, down-low I believe they have what it takes to boot the Trail Blazers.
The Damian Lillard, Russell Westbrook matchup will definitely be an exciting one to watch.
The greatest weakness to be exposed will be in the paint. Adams is known as the toughest player in the NBA, and I expect him to dominate on the block. Adams will help his team claim possession of the ball and give second chances to George and Westbrook.
I’m going to predict Oklahoma City in six.
Houston Rockets (53-29) vs Utah Jazz (50-31)
This one will go James Harden and the Rockets in five games or fewer.
Harden has put up record numbers this year, becoming the first player in NBA history with 2,800 points and 500 assists in a single season. Having a healthy Chris Paul at his side will probably make for the most competitive series in the first round.
The reality of it is that the seven-time allstar is unstoppable. You can only hope to contain him. I will proclaim with great confidence that Donovan Mitchell doesn’t provide the defensive presence needed to contain the beast.
Paul does have a tendency to get injured in the playoffs so this series, and the rest of the NBA postseason, will be highly contingent upon him staying healthy and available.
Utah has a bit of an advantage in the five spot. Rudy Gobert averages close to 13 boards a game and has three inches on the Rockets’ Clint Capela.
It’ll be an exciting contest, but the Rockets will take it in the end.