The dramatic NBA regular season is finally over. For the first time since 2004-2005, Lebron James will not be in the postseason. James and the Los Angeles Lakers had a really good season early on, but it all went down hill when the calendar turned 2019.
This postseason could have a ton of suspense in it. Will the Golden State Warriors win three titles in a row and make it to the finals for the fifth straight season? Will someone finally knock them off?
Is this the year for Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks to win it all? Is this the year that the Toronto Raptors actually win a championship? Will the Philadelphia 76ers reach the NBA Finals? Will Kyrie Irving mentally check out on the Boston Celtics?
There is a lot to be determined and that is why the games are played!
East: (8) Detroit Pistons vs (1) Milwaukee Bucks: The Bucks were the only team in the NBA this season to win at least 60 games. Milwaukee might be the team to beat in the NBA right now. Giannis Antetokounmpo is most likely going to win MVP and he is ready to lead his team to an NBA title. They have a ton of depth and they are well coached by Mike Budenholzer. Dwane Casey led the Pistons to the postseason in his first year as head coach for them. Detroit plays hard, but Milwaukee has too much talent. The pick: Milwaukee in 5.
(5) Indiana Pacers vs (4) Boston Celtics: This is a series that the Celtics should win, but their inconsistent play all season long gives me doubts heading into this series. It seems as if Kyrie Irving has mentally checked out and that isn’t a very good thing. Boston will need to rely on Jayson Tatum, Terry Rozier, and Jaylen Brown a lot in this series. Indiana doesn’t rely on one player and they play excellent team basketball. The Pacers haven’t really fallen off a cliff ever since Victor Oladipo had a season ending injury. For this series, hard work beats very good talent. The pick: Indiana in 6.
(7) Orlando Magic vs (2) Toronto Raptors: The Magic have had some reliable players this season like Terrance Ross, Nicola Vucevic, and Aaron Gordon. Orlando reaches the postseason for the first time since the 2011-2012 season and they were the number sixth seed that year. The Orlando Magic lost to the Indiana Pacers in five games that season and they also won Game 1 of that series. That being said, I would find it very hard to see Orlando win one game in this series even though they beat them twice this season. The postseason is a different animal. Toronto is ready to make a deep playoff run and even win a title with Kawhi Leonard around. Pascal Siakam’s game rose to another level this season and the Raptors have a deep bench. They are also well coached by Nick Nurse. The Pick: Toronto in 4.
(6) Brooklyn Nets vs (3) Philadelphia 76ers: This series could be the most entertaining in the east. Brooklyn only believed in themselves this season and not other people. The Nets have a solid chance to win two games in this series because they are very good offensively and Brooklyn plays way too hard to get swept. The 76ers have more stars on this team, but the Brooklyn Nets have a better bench. Brooklyn is playing with house money in this series and Philadelphia is not. At the end of the day, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, and Jimmy Butler will make more plays down the stretch for the Philadelphia 76ers. The pick: Philadelphia in 6.
West: (8) Los Angeles Clippers vs (1) Golden State Warriors: The Clippers are a very scrappy team led by Doc Rivers and they somehow won 48 games this season in a tough Western Conference. If Los Angeles was playing anyone else in the first-round, I would give them a slim chance to pull off an upset in the first-round. The problem is they drew Golden State in the first-round of the postseason. Steph Curry is dealing with an injury, but the Warriors should have no problem in the first-round. The pick: Golden State in 4.
(5) Utah Jazz vs (4) Houston Rockets: This could very well be the only series in the first-round of the NBA playoffs that goes to seven games. Utah plays very good defense and they play hard every night. Donovan Mitchell is their only threat on offense, but they team basketball in Dan Snyder’s system. Houston is looking to make another deep playoff run and possibly even reach the NBA Finals. Chris Paul, James Harden, Clint Capela, and crew have unfinished business to take care of. The pick: Houston in 7.
(7) San Antonio Spurs vs (2) Denver Nuggets: The good news for the Spurs and its fan base is that they do have a chance against the Nuggets because they are inexperienced in the postseason. However, Denver is a team that can run up and down the floor and that is one of the weaknesses of this Spurs team. The Nuggets have solid shooters and they also have a solid bench. Jamal Murray and Gary Harris Jr. is a very underrated back court. Nikola Jokic might also be the most underappreciated player in the NBA because all he does is perform night in and night out. DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge have enough experience to win a couple of games by themselves, but they don’t have the speed to win this series. The pick: Denver in 6.
(6) Oklahoma City Thunder vs (3) Portland Trail Blazers: This is a very favorable match up in the first-round for Oklahoma City. The Thunder swept them in the regular season and Portland hasn’t had much success in the postseason as of late. They haven’t won a playoff game in a couple of years. Russell Westbrook and Damian Lillard will be a tremendous point guard match up. That being said, Oklahoma City has a better roster than Portland does. Home court advantage won’t matter in this series. The pick: Oklahoma City in 5.