And just like that, it’s time for the 2019 NBA Playoffs! It came down to the last game for some teams to sneak into the postseason, but now that we’ve got the playoff picture set, we’re ready to start playing for all the marbles. This weekend, the first games will start across the nation. On Saturday April 13th, we’ve got two action-packed NBA games followed by four on Sunday and two more on Monday. You trying to get in on this action? Get tickets!
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The NBA Playoffs, if you don’t already know, are a best-of-seven elimination tournament, so we’ve got a lot of games to look forward to. But here’s what we can expect in the first round. These are our predictions for the first eight matchups.
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Brooklyn Nets
The Nets looked good late in the season, but the Sixers showed they were serious about going deep in the playoffs when they made crucial moves just before the trade deadline. They’re in it to win it. Philly has a stars like Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons plus vets like Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler, so we’re calling this series for them. They shouldn’t sleep on the Nets though because they’re still dangerous.
Toronto Raptors vs. Orlando Magic
The Eastern Conference is just really, really good this year. The Raptors have made it clear that they want a title of their own. Who doesn’t? Kawhi Leonard is the obvious difference-maker here and Toronto really wants him to stick around past this season. Making it to the Finals just might help with that. The Magic made moves late in the season to slip into the playoffs, but the most we can hope is that they can keep this series interesting. The Raptors are dominant here.
Golden State Warriors vs. Los Angeles Clippers
It’s fun that we’ve got a little West Coast rivalry game in this matchup. We’re not saying it’s impossible that the Clippers will surprise Golden State, but well, the Warriors are a dynasty for a reason. After trading away Tobias Harris, it’s kinda surprising that the Clippers managed to make the playoffs at all, particularly with only 48 wins this season. They’ve got another thing going against them too: Word on the street is that the Warriors are hoping to go out in style by hanging a third banner before players like KD and Klay Thompson hit free agency this summer. Just for reference, in the first round of the playoffs, the Warriors have won 16 of 18 games and they took out the Clippers 3-1 this season.
Boston Celtics vs. Indiana Pacers
The Celtics have fallen short of many fans’ high expectations for this season, but they’re still expected to advance past the first round. The Pacers have had a solid regular season but now that Victor Oladipo is out with an injury, Indiana just can’t compete with All Star power of Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, and Al Horford. They have a strong defense, but they likely won’t be able to contain Boston.
Portland Trail Blazers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
The three-seed (again) Trail Blazers and Damian Lillard have something to prove. The six-seed Thunder’s Russell Westbrook is in the same boat, well, always. This should be an exciting matchup with big personalities at play. Both teams are looking to get past the first round of the playoffs, something they failed to do last year. The Blazers are missing center Jusuf Nurkic who’s out with a broken leg, and that might be the biggest deal breaker for them. We’ll call for an upset in this one and give it to the Thunder who have the power of MVP-caliber Westbrook and Paul George on their side.
Denver Nuggets vs. San Antonio Spurs
With one of the best performances in franchise history this season, the two-seed Nuggets will finally get to prove their true worth in the postseason. They’re young and resilient, and with standout star Nikola Jokic averaging over 20 points per game, they should be able to take care of the Spurs. Add in the fact that the Nuggets are strong at home and the Nets are pretty awful on the road and we should see Denver in the next round… though who knows how much further than that.
Houston Rockets vs. Utah Jazz
The Jazz have the second-best defense in the league, but it’s probably not enough to overpower the Rockets and James Harden who are looking forward to a rematch with Golden State (which could come in the next round if they’re successful here). But anything could happen if they don’t focus! Don’t forget that the Jazz won two games against Houston this season, splitting the series 2-2. It’s all offense versus defense here, and the Rockets will need to stay in the present to beat the Jazz.
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Detroit Pistons
The Pistons are lucky to be here considering they lost seven of their last 11 games. They crept into the playoffs at the very last minute, but then again, are they all that lucky to be facing the incredible Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo? Detroit has big guys like Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond, and Reggie Jackson and it should be a fun matchup, but we’re expecting the Bucks to go on to bigger and better things. We think they need to be in the Finals if we want to see a title change this year.