With the NBA regular season in the books, the seeding for the NBA Playoffs is set. It’s time to turn up the intensity and find out who will be take home the title in 2017.
Beating the books in the regular season is one thing. It’s a whole different animal handicapping the NBA in the postseason. Let our experts do the dirty work for you with their premium picks.
First round action is set to start this weekend. Four series will open up on Saturday and the other four start on Sunday. All games will be televised on TNT, ESPN, NBATV, ABC or ESPN2.
I’ve provided a detailed look at each first round matchup with my prediction on moves to the next round. I also give out my projections on how far the winning teams advances.
Eastern Conference NBA Playoffs Matchups & Predictions
#1 Boston Celtics (53-29) vs. #8 Chicago Bulls (41-41)
Season Series – Tied 2-2
- Celtics 99 @ Bulls 105
- Bulls 100 @ Celtics 107
- Celtics 103 @ Bulls 104
- Bulls 80 @ Celtics 100
Props to the Celtics for taking home the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. The knock on Boston in previous season is their lack of a superstar to carry them in the playoffs. They believe they have that guy in Isaiah Thomas, who finished 3rd in the league in scoring at 28.9 ppg. Not to mention Thomas has a way of coming up big late in games.
It was a roller coaster season for the Bulls, who had high expectations after signing Dwayne Wade in free agency. Wade certainly gives Chicago an edge in experience. In fact, Wade has played more minutes in the postseason than the entire Celtics roster combined.
Typically you don’t have to think twice about advancing the No. 1 seed, but I don’t know that’s the case. I’m picking the Celtics to win, but wouldn’t be shocked if the Bulls pulled off the upset.
Prediction: Boston Wins 4-2
Celtics Prediction: Eliminated in Quarterfinals
#2 Cleveland Cavaliers (51-31) vs. #7 Indiana Pacers (42-40)
Season Series – Cleveland 3-1
- Cavaliers 93 @ Pacers 103
- Cavaliers 132 @ Pacers 117
- Pacers 104 @ Cavaliers 113
- Pacers 130 @ Cavaliers 135
I’m not one that’s hitting the panic button with Cleveland. Who cares if they are the No. 1 or No. 2 seed? The Cavaliers know the regular season means nothing. It’s what you do in the postseason. I wouldn’t trust a lot of teams to just turn on the switch, but this is definitely one of them. LeBron James is the best player of our generation and has been to a ridiculous six straight NBA Finals. Get ready to see a completely different team come game 1 of this series.
I loved the addition of Lance Stephenson by the Pacers. It gave this team an edge they were missing. Unfortunately for them they simply outmatched here by the Cavs. I’ll give Indiana the benefit of the doubt and call for them to win one at home, but a sweep wouldn’t come as a surprise.
Prediction: Cleveland Wins 4-1
Cavaliers Prediction: Eliminated in NBA Finals
#3 Toronto Raptors (51-31) vs. #6 Milwaukee Bucks (42-40)
Season Series – Toronto 3-1
- Raptors 105, Bucks 99 (11/25)
- Bucks 100 @ Raptors 122 (12/12)
- Bucks 86 @ Raptors 102 (1/27)
- Raptors 94, Bucks 101 (3/4)
This figures to be an entertaining matchup. Both of these teams enter the postseason playing some of their best basketball. The Raptors just recently got back point guard Kyle Lowry and are healthy going into the playoffs. This team got all the way to the NBA Conference Finals last year, before losing in six games to the Cavaliers.
Toronto will be the favorite to advance and for good reason, but that’s not to say the Bucks aren’t capable of the upset. Milwaukee has been one of the bigger surprises this season. Most thought they were destined to miss the playoffs again after Jabari Parker tore his ACL. That wasn’t the case. They got back last year’s leading scorer, Khris Middelton, right around the time of Parker’s injury. At the same time, rookie point guard Malcolm Brogdon took over the starting job. They also got this freak athlete in Giannis Antetokounmpo, who has taken his game to another level.
I think the Bucks take a couple games to make this a series, but home court and experience has the Raptors advancing.
Prediction: Toronto Wins 4-2
Raptors Prediction: Eliminated in Quarterfinals
#4 Washington Wizards (49-33) vs. #5 Atlanta Hawks (43-39)
Season Series – Atlanta 3-1
- Wizards 99 @ Hawks 114 (10/27)
- Hawks 92 @ Wizards 95 (11/4)
- Wizards 112 @ Hawks 86 (1/27)
- Hawks 100 @ Wizards 104 (3/22)
Two Southeast Division rivals will face off here. Washington is headed to the playoffs for a third straight season. Each of the previous two years they moved on to the next round. One big difference this time is the Wizards have the home court advantage. Last two years they sent home the No. 4 seed as the No.5 seed.
Atlanta has also had success early in the playoffs, winning their first round matchup the past two seasons and getting as far as the Conference Finals two years ago. Hawks have played better here in the final week of the regular season, but don’t feel like much of a threat.
So while Atlanta took 3 of 4 against Washington, I’m going to take the Wizards to win this series. Washington was just 18-18 back in early January. This team has figured it out and added some nice pieces to the rotation to improve their bench production.
Prediction: Washington Wins 4-2
Wizards Prediction: Eliminated in Conference Finals
Western Conference NBA Postseason Picks to Win Each Matchup
#1 Golden State Warriors (67-15) vs. #8 Portland Trail Blazers(41-41)
Season Series – Golden State 4-0
- Warriors 127 @ Blazers 104 (11/1)
- Blazers 90 @ Warriors 135 (12/17)
- Blazers 117 @ Warriors 125 (1/4)
- Warriors 113 @ Blazers 111 (1/29)
There was a brief stretch where it looked like the Warriors could be in trouble. Steph Curry wasn’t playing like the guy who just won back-to-back MVP awards. They also lost Kevin Durant to injury and no one knew exactly how serious it was. Curry has since regained his touch and Durant has returned. As long as this team can avoid a serious injury, they are destined to get back to the Finals.
While I’m calling for the Blazers to be swept, Damian Lillard and C.J McCollum could shoot them to a win at home in Game 3 or 4. Either way, Portland has zero chance of knocking out the Warriors in a 7-game series.
Prediction: Golden State Wins 4-0
Warriors Prediction: Win NBA Finals
#2 San Antonio Spurs (61-21) vs. #7 Memphis Grizzlies (43-39)
Season Series – Tied 2-2
- Spurs 74 @ Grizzlies 89 (2/6)
- Spurs 96 @ Grizzlies 104 (3/18)
- Grizzlies 90 @ Spurs 97 (3/23)
- Grizzlies 89 @ Spurs 95 (4/4)
This might not jump out as a must-watch matchup, but I think we could have quite a series on our hands here. What the Spurs keep doing under Popovich is truly amazing. San Antonio quietly won 60+ games for the 3rd time in the last 4 years. If not for the Warriors and their super-team, they would be the favorites to make it out of the west.
I can assure you that none of these top teams in the west wanted to be matched up against the Grizzlies in the first round. Memphis’ core has plenty of playoff experience and won’t go down without a fight. If Conley and Gasol are on their game, they are certainly capable of pulling off the upset.
Note that the two teams split their 4-game series in the regular season and all 4 meetings came after February. All signs point to a grind it out defensive battle. For me it comes down to the Spurs having the home court edge and I just trust their offense more.
Prediction: San Antonio Wins 4-3
Spurs Prediction: Eliminated in Quarterfinals
#3 Houston Rockets (55-27) vs. #6 Oklahoma City Thunder (47-35)
Season Series – Houston 3-1
- Rockets 103 @ Thunder 105 (11/16)
- Rockets 102 @ Thunder 99 (12/9)
- Thunder 116 @ Rockets 118 (1/5)
- Thunder 125 @ Rockets 137 (3/26)
Houston was one of the big surprises this season. Most expected them to make the playoffs, they just didn’t think this would be 50+ win team. Keep in mind they didn’t even make the playoffs last year until the final game of the regular season. The decision to bring in Mike D’Antoni has paid off in a big way for both the franchise and James Harden, who has been sensational at point guard.
What a special season it’s been for Russell Westbrook and the Thunder. Just what they needed after the heartbreak of Durant leaving for the Warriors. The problem with Westbrook and OKC is the supporting cast just isn’t that great. Westbrook has to play at a ridiculous level (average a triple-double) just for them to be competitive. I just don’t think he can do enough in a 7-game series.
Not only do I like Houston here, but I’m going to call for the Rockets to take out the Spurs in the next round. That’s where the party stops, as the Rockets figure to be over-matched by Golden State.
Prediction: Houston Wins 4-2
Thunder Prediction: Eliminated in Conference Finals
#4 Los Angeles Clippers (51-31) vs. #5 Utah Jazz (51-31)
Season Series – Los Angeles 3-1
- Jazz 75 @ Clippers 88 (10/30)
- Clippers 88 @ Jazz 72 (2/13)
- Clippers 108 @ Jazz 114 (3/13)
- Jazz 95 @ Clippers 108 (3/25)
This is another one of those series that could go either way. The Clippers were the talk of the NBA outside of the Warriors early on. That was until the injuries started to pile up. The good news for LA is they are back to full strength and have been playing extremely well down the stretch. The Clippers won their final 7 games and were 11-2 over their last 13.
Some might be surprised to see Utah sitting at the No. 5 seed in the west. Most experts expected the Jazz to be right where they are. Utah secured their first 50-win season since the 2009-10 campaign. Defensively the Jazz are one of the best in the league. The big question is whether the offense can do enough in the playoffs when everyone plays defense. As much as I like Gordon Hayward, I don’t think he’s an elite star in this league.
I have to give the edge to the Clippers in this one. I think Utah will make it a series, but come up short in the end. Regardless of who wins, they aren’t going to be getting by Golden State in the next round.
Prediction: Los Angeles Wins 4-3
Clippers Prediction: Eliminated in Quarterfinals
Updated Betting Odds to Win the 2017 NBA Finals
|Golden State Warriors||-160|
|San Antonio Spurs||+600|
|Los Angeles Clippers||+5000|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||+6600|
|Portland Trail Blazers||+30000|