2019 NBA Playoffs: Round by Round Predictions

04/13/2019

The NBA playoffs are finally here after seven long months and with them come the promise of a new finals matchup for the first time in 4 years. The West is as strong as ever and even though Golden State is favored, they look more vulnerable than they have in their last 4 finals runs. In the East, four teams have a realistic shot at going to the finals.

As we've seen in the past, we have different ways of interpreting the NBA and with that comes a different view of what can, should and will happen. We took a shot at predicting the NBA Finals. As tradition, Ryan's predictions are in red while Victor's are in blue.


Eastern Conference: First Round

(1) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (8) Detroit Pistons

If Blake Griffin were fully healthy, this series would be a little more competitive, possibly resulting in Detroit stealing a game from the regular season's best team. Since his health is in question, however, there is simply no way for the Pistons to provide a serious challenge to the Bucks. Milwaukee will roll through this series and rest up before a huge second round series.

Bucks in 4

(2) Toronto Raptors vs. (7) Orlando Magic

The Magic are one of the hottest teams in the league, enjoying a 22-9 record to end the regular season. The Raptors are just on a level above the Magic, with a deep roster that fits together perfectly (although OG Anonoby's emergency appendectomy hurts the team in this regard). Between Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry, and Pascal Siakam, Toronto has enough star-power to overwhelm Orlando right out of the gates. Their top-tier bench can maintain or grow the lead with relative ease. Props should still be given to Nikola Vucevic and the Magic on an incredible second half of the season though.

Raptors in 5

(3) Philadelphia 76ers vs. (6) Brooklyn Nets

The Nets realistically have the potential to win a game at home, provided D'Angelo Russell has a monster game. However, they simply don't have the talent to keep up with the 76ers in a seven game series. Joel Embiid is sure to have a dominant impact on this series, as Jarrett Allen will not be enough when it comes to containing him.

76ers in 4

(4) Boston Celtics vs. (5) Indiana Pacers

The Pacers are one of the most cohesive teams in the league. Without Victor Oladipo in the lineup, however, they just don't have enough firepower to score consistently in the playoffs, even with Bojan Bogdanovic's emergence this season. Going into the playoffs sporting a 10-14 record over their last 24 games, Indiana is on the downturn at the worst possible time. Even with the Celtics' lack of a clear identity, their immense talent should be enough to put down the Pacers without too much trouble.

Celtics in 6


Western Conference: First Round

(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (8) Los Angeles Clippers

I actually believe the Clippers will shock the Warriors with a win in one of the first two games of the series in Oracle Arena. Lou Williams is a legitimate All-Star caliber player, and can light up the scoreboard for 40 points on any given night. That loss will galvanize the Warriors, leading to a convincing triumph over Los Angeles in this first round series.

Warriors in 5

(2) Denver Nuggets vs. (7) San Antonio Spurs

Playoff experience plays a significant role in this prediction. The Spurs' immense experience will lead them to a longer playoff series than most would expect. LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan are two veteran stars than can give the Nuggets real trouble. Despite their lack of playoff accolades, the Nuggets have too much talent to fall to the Spurs, with 7-8 players on the Denver squad being capable of carrying the offensive load on any given night. Had Dejounte Murray been available this season, the scales would've tipped in favor of the Spurs.

Nuggets in 7

(3) Portland Trail Blazers vs. (6) Oklahoma City Thunder

If Jusuf Nurkic wasn't out after suffering a gruesome season-ending leg injury, the Blazers would be my pick here. Unfortunately, that is not the case, and Nurkic's absence will give the Oklahoma City's Steven Adams free-reign over the glass this series. The duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum is high-powered enough to make the series interesting, but a lack of a third option on offense will ultimately be the team's downfall.

Thunder in 7

(4) Houston Rockets vs. (5) Utah Jazz

The poor Utah Jazz are up against their worst matchup in the first round. Despite being perhaps the best defensive team in the league, they have no answer for a talent like James Harden. Harden will simply overwhelm Donovan Mitchell this series, sending Utah home earlier than they probably deserve. This matchup against Harden will end up being a turning point in Mitchell's career.

Rockets in 6


Eastern Conference: Second Round

(1) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (4) Boston Celtics

The Celtics are perhaps the most volatile team still in the playoffs at this point. That being said, when the team is firing on all cylinders, their level of talent can only be matched by the Warriors. Nobody in the league matches up well against Giannis Antetokounmpo, but between Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Marcus Morris, the Celtics have the bodies to throw at the Greek Freak defensively. The biggest concern surrounding the Bucks is their big men. While Brook Lopez, Nikola Mirotic, and Pau Gasol are solid outside shooters, their poor defense will make it difficult to match up against the Celtics' big men. The strong play of Gordon Hayward lately makes him the X-Factor in this series, and if he can get close to matching notorious Celtics-killer Khris Middleton's production, Boston should be able to eke out a tight series win.

Celtics in 7

(2) Toronto Raptors vs. (3) Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers may have more All-Star caliber players than the Raptors, but they just don't match up well against Toronto's roster. Leonard is one of the most dangerous playoff performers in the league, and he should have no trouble outperforming Jimmy Butler. If the 76ers are to have any chance in this series, Ben Simmons will have to show he's not a liability in the playoffs like he was in the second round against Boston last year. Until I see that, I can't give Philadelphia the benefit of the doubt.

Raptors in 5


Western Conference: Second Round

(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (4) Houston Rockets

This rematch of last year's Western Conference Finals is already being dubbed the series that will feature the league's two premier teams. The Warriors will not be caught off-guard by the Rockets like they were last season, but a strong fight should still be expected from Harden, Chris Paul, and the rest of the hungry Rockets. Paul's level of play will likely be a key determinant of the outcome of the series. If he's at the top of his game, Houston has a serious shot at knocking off the two-time reigning champions.

Warriors in 7

(2) Denver Nuggets vs. (6) Oklahoma City Thunder

This series result largely comes from the lack of offensive creativity the Thunder have outside of Russell Westbrook and Paul George. Adams and Jerami Grant are great role players, but they just don't have enough offensive versatility to give Oklahoma City the edge. The Nuggets offense, led by Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, will be too much for the Thunder to contain.

Nuggets in 6


Eastern Conference Finals

(2) Toronto Raptors vs. (4) Boston Celtics

In terms of sheer talent, the Celtics have the Raptors beat. Unfortunately for Boston, the game isn't played on paper. Toronto just has a stronger identity, and Leonard's playoff heroics will once again take center stage. Kyrie Irving will make sure the Celtics don't go down without a strong fight, but Canada's team will ultimately prevail.

Raptors in 7


Western Conference Finals

Golden State Warriors vs. Denver Nuggets

While the Nuggets are undoubtedly a supremely talented team, their spot in the Western Conference Finals is largely a product of the lucky path they have to get to this point. The Spurs and Thunder are solid teams, but both have glaring holes that can be exploited. The same cannot be said for the Warriors, a team with four All-Stars that know exactly what it takes to win, as well as DeMarcus Cousins, who is dedicated toward proving his doubters wrong. Expect an uninspiring series, relative to its Eastern Conference counterpart.

Warriors in 5


2019 NBA FINALS

Golden State Warriors vs. Toronto Raptors

Kawhi Leonard has given the Warriors plenty of problems in the past. His experience on basketball's biggest stage is enormous for Toronto, a team that has become infamous for not being able to break through the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Raptors have the combination of talent to make the Finals interesting, but there will be no doubt as to what team will end up hoisting the Larry O'Brien trophy. The Warriors win without sweating too much, and Stephen Curry takes home his first Finals MVP award.

Warriors in 6


Eastern Conference: First Round

(1) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (8) Detroit Pistons

On paper, the Pistons should be one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference with two great big men and a scrappy point guard. Were this the 1990s, this roster would excel but unfortunately their style of offense is a few decades too late and in 2019, ranking 23rd in the league in three-point shooting won't cut it. This Pistons team enters the playoffs as the worst three-point shooting team of any team that qualified, that provides a matchup problem against a Milwaukee team that ranks first in three point attempts allowed. Basically, the Bucks will force the Pistons to take three pointers and unfortunately the Pistons don't make em very often.

Bucks in 4

(2) Toronto Raptors vs. (7) Orlando Magic

The Raptors and the Magic matched up four times this season and split the series 2 to 2. There's no easy answer as to why the two teams split the series, Kawhi was there for most of the games and Marc Gasol was a part of a Raptors team that both won and lost to the Magic. Basically, either Vucevic, Ross or Fournier are liable to have a big game at any point so the Magic might be able to win a game at home.

Raptors in 5

(3) Philadelphia 76ers vs. (6) Brooklyn Nets

Don't be fooled into thinking the Nets could possibly extend this series to seven games. The Nets go down as one of the streakiest teams in NBA history but that's only because they got really good at beating team below .500. The Nets are only 15 and 26 against teams with a winning record. While the 76ers are awful away from home, the Nets are not the team to take advantage of that after finishing only 5 games above .500 at home.

76ers in 5

(4) Boston Celtics vs. (5) Indiana Pacers

I like this series a lot, the Pacers are exceptional at home while the Celtics are awful on the road. Not to mention the Celtic's chemistry issues and the absence of 'glue guy' Marcus Smart for the foreseeable future. This series is a great bet to go seven games.

Celtics in 7


Western Conference: First Round

(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (8) Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers are a great feel good story for the season but the Warriors are the Warriors. There is no doubt that Doc Rivers is an exceptional coach but he can only do so much without any star players even if the Warriors may be missing one of their stars. Golden State should make this a quick series. Giving the Clippers one game out of respect for Doc Rivers.

Warriors in 5

(2) Denver Nuggets vs. (7) San Antonio Spurs

A young Nuggets team going up against an experienced coach in Gregg Popovich. This is a matchup to be avoided for the Nuggets even if they blew out the Spurs by 28 points last time they met. The fact is the Nuggets only won 6 more games than the Spurs during the regular season and both teams are great at home and bad on the road. What it will come down to is coaching so I go with Popovich in this one.

Spurs in 7

(3) Portland Trail Blazers vs. (6) Oklahoma City Thunder

Poor Portland, yet another unfavorable matchup after putting together a great regular season campaign. The issue is no matter what efforts are made to improve the roster, Portland is a team built for regular season success and not much else. Damian Lillard is a star but Nurkic's absence will be too much to overcome.

Thunder in 6 

(4) Houston Rockets vs. (5) Utah Jazz

The Jazz turned their season around after starting poorly and have earned the five seed. Unfortunately, that means going up against a team they are 2 and 6 against in the last eight games. Plus, it feels like CP3 has a point to prove during this playoff run.

Rockets in 6


Eastern Conference: Second Round

(1) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (4) Boston Celtics

This should be an interesting series. The Bucks have had a great regular season but the Celtics have the better roster. Both coaches are exceptional with plenty of mismatches to go around. However, the Bucks are much better on the road than the Celtics are, which does not bode well for the playoffs.

Bucks in 6

(2) Toronto Raptors vs. (3) Philadelphia 76ers

This will go down as one of the best series of this year's playoffs. This is where home court matters when a series is so tight. While the 76ers have a starting 5 better than every other team but Golden State, the rise of Pascal Siakam will make this an interesting series. Ultimately, the 76ers get the edge in this series.

76ers in 7


Western Conference: Second Round

(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (4) Houston Rockets

The Rockets have done more than their fair share of talking about looking forward to a matchup with the Warriors despite having a truthfully underwhelming season. The Warriors on the other hand have also been underwhelming but they get a pass given all the drama they've went through off the back of four straight finals appearances. This matchup won't be as entertaining as many assume.

Warriors in 6

(6) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (7) San Antonio Spurs

This is a pretty good matchup, the Spurs have historically matched up well against the Thunder but that was under different circumstances and Russell Westbrook is the only star left from those great series. The Spurs will have already over achieved by this point but the combination of Paul George and Westbrook may be too much.

Thunder in 7


Eastern Conference Finals

(1) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (3) Philadelphia 76ers

A matchup of opposing styles, this might be one of the more brutally contested finals series. The two teams matched up well in the regular season, yet it feels like the 76ers may have the upper hand. Ben Simmons will be key in this matchup and the return of Malcolm Brogdon will be huge for the Bucks. The Bucks have the better coach and the best player but the 76ers make up for that with great depth. Home court advantage may prove to be the difference in this series.

Bucks in 7


Western Conference Finals

(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (6) Oklahoma City Thunder

A matchup years in the making. Westbrook finally gets to go up against Kevin Durant in a playoff series of great significance. If there were ever a year to upset the Warriors in the conference finals, this is it. However, Westbrook may ultimately prove to get in his own way when the series comes down to the key moments. Paul George will have a lot to say but so will Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.

Warriors in 7


2019 NBA FINALS

Milwaukee Bucks versus Golden State Warriors

Milwaukee matches up with Golden State better than most assume and the last four games have seen an even split of 2-2. Golden State boasts the greatest starting five in NBA history while the Bucks put together an historic regular season. This is a hard series to pick with both teams matching up so well.

A combination of Draymond Green and Kevin Durant will presumably guard Antetokounmpo but neither have proven to be particularly successful at doing it. Meanwhile, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson have had their struggles at different points of the season and don't enter the playoffs with the best of health. Defensively, I don't anticipate the Bucks having a problem keeping Golden State at bay, it's putting the ball in the basket that may pose the biggest problem. Home court may also play a role in this series.

You know what, I'm doing it. Bucks in 7. All it takes is one unexpected loss for the Warriors to implode from within.

Bucks in 7


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