The NBA Playoffs start on May 22nd, which is right around the corner. As the final pieces of the playoff picture begin to fall into place, I wanted to take a moment and see what some of the potential playoff matchups could be. The Eastern Conference is far more solidified than the West, so I will start with them.
Eastern Conference Play-In Tournament
The addition of the NBA Play-In Tournament allows more teams to compete in the postseason and prove their worth. In the East, the play in tournament teams are set. While some seeding may change in the final few games, below would be the matchups if the season ended today and how I see the playoffs playing out:
(7) Boston Celtics vs. (8) Charlotte Hornets – The first matchup of the Play-In is between seeds 7 and 8. The winner of this matchup automatically gets the 7th seed and the losing team will need to face the winner of the 9 and 10 seed matchup to claim the 8th spot. In this series, I see Boston taking the win and claiming the 7th spot and Charlotte needing to play the winner of the 9/10 game.
(9) Indiana Pacers vs (10) Washington Wizards – In this matchup, I can realistically see a surging Wizards team overcoming the season-long adversity and beating the Pacers.
The Wizards would then need to beat the Hornets if they wanted to secure the 8th spot. Beating Lamelo could be tough, but I think the Wizards will pull it out and grab the final playoff spot in the East.
Eastern Conference Playoffs
With only a few games remaining until the playoffs begin, the seeding is relatively set in the East. Some teams have the possibility to move up or down, but I will be previewing the matchups based on current standings and my predicted Play-In results.
(1) Philadelphia 76ers vs. (8) Washington Wizards – Philadelphia has clinched the first seed which means they will play the team that makes it out of the bottom part of the Play-In Tournament bracket. In this case, I predicted Washington to advance, but I think Philadelphia will end their Cinderella-type run in the first round. I will take the 76ers in 5 games here.
(2) Brooklyn Nets vs. (7) Boston Celtics – Brooklyn was widely regarded as favorites to win it all, but injuries have caused them to slip into second place in the East. With their team finally getting healthy and facing the winner of the 7/8 matchup (in this case I predicted Boston), I think Brooklyn could sweep the first round in 4.
(3) Milwaukee Bucks vs (6) New York Knicks – This matchup has the potential to be the most exciting of the entire Eastern Conference Playoffs, and for this reason, I think it will go to 7 games. Julius Randle has been playing lights-out and Giannis Antetokounmpo is delivering MVP-level performances night in and night out. I think Milwaukee will win this series, but New York will bring it to 7 games.
(4) Atlanta Hawks vs. (5) Miami Heat – This series is probably the strangest matchup of the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Miami made it to the finals last season and Atlanta was not even a playoff team. I think Miami will pull this series out in 6, but it will be a series that I am sure many fans will keep an eye on.
If the matchups were to go as I predicted, then this is how I would have the rest of the Eastern Conference Playoffs playing out:
(1) Philadelphia 76ers vs (5) Miami Heat – I would take Philadelphia in 5 in this series
(2) Brooklyn Nets vs (3) Milwaukee Bucks – I will take Nets in 7 in this series.
My Eastern Conference finals would be 76ers vs Nets and I would take the Nets in 7 in that series.
Western Conference Play-In Tournament
Currently, seeds 8-10 are locked in as Play-In teams, but the Lakers and Trail Blazers are fighting to get the 6th seed and avoid the tournament. As of today, the Lakers sit in 7th, so I will make my tournament predictions with the current standings.
(7) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (8) Golden State Warriors – Two of the greatest current NBA players in Lebron James and Stephen Curry would be facing off for the 7th seed in this intense matchup. I think playoff Steph is highly underrated, and that is why I think the Warriors will take this series and the 7th spot.
(9) Memphis Grizzlies vs (10) San Antonio Spurs – While it is never wise to count out Greg Popovich in the playoffs, I think Ja Morant has what it takes to lead his team to a win and the rights to play the loser of the 7/8 matchup.
Taking down Lebron in the playoffs is nearly impossible, so I think Los Angeles will defeat Memphis and grab the 8th spot.
Western Conference Playoffs
Each year, the Western Conference has more upsets than the top-heavy East. With Golden State and the Lakers at the bottom of the conference this season, anything can happen and an upset could take place at any time. Here is how I think the Western Conference Playoffs will take shape:
(1) Utah Jazz vs (8) Los Angeles Lakers – Again I cannot overstate how tough it is to play Lebron in the playoffs. Add Anthony Davis to the mix and it can quickly become a nightmare. However, Utah has been experiencing unheard-of success this season. I see the Jazz taking this series in 6 and knocking Lebron out of the playoffs early.
(2) Phoenix Suns vs (7) Golden State Warriors – Chris Paul vs Steph Curry has to be one of the most exciting point guard matchups any fan could witness. Add a playoff atmosphere to that and the level of play is bound to be turned up exponentially. I think as of this season, Phoenix has proven to be the more complete team and that is why I think they will defeat Golden State in 5.
(3) Denver Nuggets vs (6) Portland Trail Blazers – I think the West sees their first upset in this series. While Portland has performed historically poorly in the playoffs, Denver has not proven to be much better. With Jamal Murray out, I think Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers will take this series in 6.
(4) Los Angeles Clippers vs (5) Dallas Mavericks – In one of the most exciting matchups of the entire playoffs, fans could see Kawhi Leonard and Paul George square up against Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. Dallas blew LA out of the water at the beginning of this season, but I do not think the Clippers will let that happen again. This series is one where I can confidently say I want to see 7 games. After the dust settles, I will take the Clippers in 7.
Based on my predictions, these would be the remainder of the matchups in the West:
(1) Utah Jazz vs (6) Portland Trail Blazers – I would take Utah in 5 in this series.
(2) Phoenix Suns vs (4) Los Angeles Clippers – I think the Clippers could upset the Suns in 6
My Western Conference final would be Utah and LA Clippers, and I would take the Clippers in 7.
My prediction for the NBA finals is the Clippers from the West and the Nets from the East. If this was the matchup, I think the Nets would win the title in 6 games, but it would be extremely fun to watch.
Ultimately, the NBA playoff games are the most fun and exciting part of the season, and fans from around the country will be glued to their TVs to see who emerges as the 2021 NBA Champion.