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 2019.
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 or ABC.
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 Milwaukee Bucks (60-22) vs. #8 Detroit Pistons (41-41)
Season Series – Bucks 4-0
- Pistons 92 @ Bucks 115
- Bucks 107 @ Pistons 104
- Pistons 98 @ Bucks 121
- Bucks 115 @ Pistons 105
The decision to hire Mike Budenholzer as head coach really began the transformation for the Bucks. Milwaukee has went from being a team with potential, to holding the best record in the league with a 60-22 mark. Budenholzer put a much bigger emphasis on the 3-point shot and sharing the basketball. Helping matters was this being the season that Giannis Antetokounmpo played at a MVP level.
Good for the Pistons for getting to the playoffs, but their stay won’t last long. The Bucks swept the season series with 3 of the 4 wins coming by double-digits. Expect more of the same here.
Prediction: Bucks Win 4-0
Bucks Prediction: Eliminated in Conference Finals
#2 Toronto Raptors (58-24) vs. #7 Orlando Magic (42-40)
Season Series – Tied 2-2
- Raptors 93 @ Magic 91
- Raptors 87 @ Magic 116
- Magic 113 @ Raptors 98
- Magic 109 @ Raptors 121
The painful decision to part ways with DeMar DeRozan in the trade for Kawhi Leonard has proved to be the right move. Keep in mind this is a Raptors team that was the No. 1 seed in the East a year ago. What a lot of people fail to realize is that there’s a lot more to this Toronto team than Leonard and Kyle Lowry.
The Raptors have exceptional depth and are more talented than they get credit for. While you could make a case for any of the Top 4 seeds in the east, I’m going with Toronto to be the one that advances to the NBA Finals.
Prediction: Raptors Win 4-1
Raptors Prediction: Eliminated in NBA Finals
#3 Philadelphia 76ers (51-31) vs. #6 Brooklyn Nets (42-40)
Season Series – Tied 2-2
- 76ers 97 @ Nets 122
- 76ers 127 @ Nets 125
- Nets 127 @ 76ers 124
- Nets 110 @ 76ers 123
There’s a lot of excitement around this 76ers team and what they might be able to accomplish in the postseason. The starting five of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris and J.J. Redick is arguably the best outside of Golden State. With Harris coming over at the trade deadline and Embiid in an out of the lineup down the stretch, we don’t really know what to expect.
Like the other top seeds in the east, I don’t think the 76ers are going to have any problem advancing to the second round. That sets them up for a showdown with the Raptors, where I think Philadelphia’s lack of depth will be exposed.
Prediction: 76ers win 4-1
76ers Prediction: Eliminated in Quarterfinals
#4 Boston Celtics (49-33) vs. #5 Indiana Pacers (48-34)
Season Series – Celtics 3-1
- Celtics 101 @ Pacers 102
- Pacers 108 @ Celtics 135
- Pacers 112 @ Celtics 114
- Celtics 117 @ Pacers 97
I know what you do in the regular-season means nothing, but I can’t be the only one who things Boston disappointed. When LeBron James decided to leave the Eastern Conference and take his talents to LA, the Celtics would take claim as the team to beat. Especially with a healthy Gordon Hayward in the lineup. For whatever reason, likely a lot of them, Boston never became that powerhouse we expected to see.
Luckily for them, they get a chance to erase all of that with a deep run, starting with their first round series with Indiana. Would I be shocked if the Celtics put it all together and ended up facing the Warriors in the Finals? No. I just think it’s a real long shot. In fact, while I got them making easy work of the Pacers, I have them losing to the Bucks in the quarterfinals.
Prediction: Celtics Win 4-1
Celtics Prediction: Eliminated in Quarterfinals
Western Conference NBA Postseason Picks to Win Each Matchup
#1 Golden State Warriors (57-25) vs. #8 Los Angeles Clippers (48-34)
Season Series – Warriors 3-1
- Warriors 116 @ Clippers 121
- Clippers 127 @ Warriors 129
- Warriors 112 @ Clippers 94
- Clippers 104 @ Warriors 131
No one is going to be taking the Clippers to get past the Warriors in the first round, but let’s take a second and give some props to Doc Rivers and his staff for getting this team to the playoffs. Not even trading arguably their best player at the time in Tobias Harris could knock this team off track.
Los Angeles is going to play their hearts out and I wouldn’t be stunned if they stole a game somewhere along the way, but this is where the quest for the 3-peat officially starts for Golden State. The Warriors couldn’t have been less interested in the regular-season. The focus and energy will be at a whole different level and it wouldn’t shock me if they dominated their way to a third straight title.
Prediction: Rockets Wins 4-1
Warriors Prediction: Win NBA Championship
#2 Denver Nuggets (54-28) vs. #7 San Antonio Spurs (48-34)
Season Series – Tied 2-2
- Nuggets 103 @ Spurs 111
- Spurs 99 @ Nuggets 102
- Nuggets 103 @ Spurs 104
- Spurs 85 @ Nuggets 113
Not that long ago I would have automatically penciled in the Nuggets to the second round. I just don’t have that same confidence in this team. That could change if they go out and make easy work of a Spurs team that you just never know what you will get. Denver had a chance to secure the No. 1 seed and instead went 5-6 over their final 11 games.
I would be a lot less concerned if we were talking about a veteran team that knows how to flip the postseason switch. The Nuggets aren’t that team. They haven’t proved anything yet in the playoffs and if the Spurs jump out and steal Game 1, they might be headed home early. I’m picking them to advance, but I don’t see them making it to the Western Conference Finals.
Prediction: Nuggets Win 4-2
Nuggets Prediction: Eliminated in Quarterfinals
#3 Portland Trail Blazers (53-29) vs. #6 Oklahoma City Thunder (49-33)
Season Series – Thunder 4-0
- Thunder 111 @ Blazers 109
- Blazers 114 @ Thunder 123
- Blazers 111 @ Thunder 120
- Thunder 129 @ Blazers 121
Unfortunately for the Trail Blazers, I think they are poised for another early exit as a top seed. Last year Portland didn’t just lose in the first round, they were swept by the No. 6 seeded New Orleans Pelicans.
I don’t think they get swept again, but it’s worth noting that Oklahoma City did sweep the season series 4-0. A big reason for this is the loss of Jusuf Nurkic and the fact that C.J. McCollum has only played in a couple games since he returned from a lengthy absence.
I know OKC didn’t finish the season as strong as they started it, but there was a stretch where this team looked capable of being a serious threat to dethrone the Warriors. With Denver slumping and Houston failing to get the No. 3 seed, the path got a heck of lot easier for the Thunder to the Western Conference Finals.
Prediction: Thunder Win 4-3
Thunder Prediction: Eliminated in Conference Finals
#4 Houston Rockets (53-29) vs. #5 Utah Jazz (50-23)
Season Series – Tied 2-2
- Jazz 100 @ Rockets 89
- Rockets 91 @ Jazz 118
- Jazz 97 @ Rockets 102
- Rockets 125 @ Jazz 98
There’s a lot of people who think that the Rockets would have prevented the Warriors from winning the title last year had Chris Paul not got hurt. It’s why they have better odds to win the NBA title than both the Blazers and Nuggets. I wouldn’t put it past Houston, as they were a different team down the stretch after a poor start.
It’s going to take a near perfect run, as they are going to have their hands full with Utah in the first round. Not only would they then have to get by the Warriors in the next round, but avoid the letdown after beating Golden State in their next two series.
Prediction: Rockets Win 4-2
Rockets Prediction: Eliminated in Quarterfinals
Updated Betting Odds to Win the 2019 NBA Finals
|Golden State Warriors||-225|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||+3500|
|Portland Trail Blazers||+4000|
|San Antonio Spurs||+8000|
|Los Angeles Clippers||+15000|