NBA Playoff Review

By James Mueller ’19 and Trey Duncan ’21

(March 12, 2019) Here are our NBA playoff predictions:

Eastern Conference

1st Round

1 Bucks vs 8 Pistons- Bucks in 4

The Bucks lead the NBA in wins this year, being the only 60-win team this season, and are loaded with talent led by MVP front runner Giannis Antetokounmpo. They should easily get past the Pistons who lack depth outside their frontcourt stars Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond.

4 Celtics vs 5 Pacers- Celtics in 6

The Celtics have had a rough season after being hyped up as the potential finals upset of the Warriors, however they have recently picked it up and are playing better as a team. The Pacers lost their 2018 breakout superstar in Victor Oladipo to an ACL tear earlier this season and that will hurt them in this matchup and Celtics should advance.

3 76ers vs 6 Nets- 76ers in 6

The Nets have been the most surprising team in the NBA thanks to their breakout star D’Angelo Russell, but their storybook season will come to an end against the 76ers who are loaded with talented players like Ben Simmons, Jimmy Butler, and Joel Embiid.

2 Raptors vs 7 Magic- Raptors in 4

The Raptors have not had a good history in the playoffs but this year their team is different thanks to the acquisition of NBA superstar Kawhi Leonard and the emergence of Pascal Siakam. They should easily get past the Magic who don’t have many playmakers outside of Nikola Vucevic.

Eastern Conference Semifinals

1 Bucks vs 4 Celtics- Celtics 7

Although the Bucks have been the best team in the league throughout the regular season, the recent injury to one of their key players, Malcolm Brogdon, will prove too big of an obstacle to overcome. The Celtics, led by Kyrie Irving, will upset the Bucks in 7 games.

2 Raptors vs 3 76ers- Raptors in 7

Although the 76ers greatly improved this season and on paper look like a Warriors type team, thanks to the acquisitions of Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, chemistry and coaching issues have plagued them all season and this will be evident against the Raptors. The Raptors will prove to be too much for the 76ers and take the series in 7.

Eastern Conference Finals

4 Celtics vs 2 Raptors- Raptors in 6

With Coach Brad Stevens leading the charge into unexpected NBA Playoff runs year after year, it would be no surprise if the Celtics faced the Raptors in the Conference Finals. However Stevens has yet to break into the finals in his NBA career, and this year will be no different. The Celtics have had the chemistry issues noticed this year among all teams with ball dominant starters. Without the team basketball of the Celtics last year, they should fall to the superior team in the Raptors.

Western Conference

1st Round

1 Warriors vs 8 Clippers- Warriors in 5

It’s the Warriors, I mean come on it’s pretty obvious given the fact that in the Steve Kerr era of the Warriors they always find a way to win in the playoffs. The thing to watch here is the Steph Curry vs Patrick Beverly matchup. Beverly is known to play physical defense and shut down the league’s top scorers while Curry is constantly moving without the ball which has made him one of the best scorers in the league. Ultimately, the Warriors have too much star power and will get past the Clippers in 5.

2 Nuggets vs 7 Spurs- Nuggets in 6

While the Nuggets are an unproven young team, Mike Malone has a truly deep and talented roster around Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic. On the other hand, Gregg Popovich always has his team ready to play and it will be no different this year. The Spurs, led by DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge, will be a big test for this young Nuggets team, but in the end the Nuggets will win the series.

3 Trail Blazers vs 6 Thunder- Thunder in 6

The Trailblazers were the three seed last year and surprised everyone by getting swept by the Boogie Cousins-less Pelicans. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are offensive superstars, however don’t play great defense and they lost a key piece in Jusuf Nurkic due to a gruesome leg energy. With Westbrook’s ability to get the rim, Paul George’s ability to score from anywhere on the court, and the athletic defense of the Thunder it should be another first round exit for Rip City.

4 Rockets vs 5 Jazz- Rockets in 5

This is a rematch of the 2018 Western Conference Semifinals, where the Rockets beat the Jazz in five games. This year, the Rockets started off slow but then Harden took over and played at a historic level, carrying the Rockets into one of the top playoff contenders. This series should be a repeat of last year as the have Rockets improved greatly on defense from last year and Donovan Mitchell, the Jazz’s breakout star last season, has failed to take his game to the next level. The key for the Rockets is if Eric Gordon and Danuel House can get back their touch and start hitting threes in rhythm again so that they can be an asset in the next round.

Western Conference Semifinals

1 Warriors vs 4 Rockets- Warriors in 7

The rematch of last year’s Western Conference Finals could possibly get more views than any other playoff series. James Harden and the Rockets have been dominant since the All Star Break and came within a Paul George last second three from being the 2 seed. While the Rockets do have a very decent chance at denying a Warriors three peat, Steve Kerr’s Warriors have a starting lineup with five NBA All Stars and future Hall of Famers and a lock down defending sixth man. While this series will be close, the Warriors will once again emerge victorious after 7 games.

6 Thunder vs 2 Nuggets – Nuggets in 6

The Thunder are 0-4 against the Nuggets this season and this trend will continue in this series. Paul George has cooled off since his MVP-like run during the middle end of the season, and Westbrook has been up and down all year, shooting 42% from the field and only 29% from three. Although the Nuggets are young and don’t have much playoff experience, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray will carry them past the Thunder in 6 games.

Western Conference Finals

1 Warriors vs 2 Nuggets- Warriors in 6

The Nuggets should give the Warriors a run for their money in the Western Conference Finals, however the Warriors are tough to be in a best of 7 series and always find a way to make the finals. Steph Curry and Kevin Durant will take over this series and the Warriors will defeat the Nuggets in 6 games

NBA Finals

1 Warriors vs 2 Raptors- Warriors 3 peat in 6

The Warriors and the Raptors are both extremely talented teams at all five positions, but the Raptors don’t have the team chemistry or the experience to win over the Warriors for the title. Only one starter on the team has played in the NBA Finals on the Raptors, while the Warriors are all experienced. However, the defense of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green will be tough on Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant but in the end the Warriors will continue their dynasty and win their third straight NBA title.