NBA Playoff Predictions-Hartman Edition

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NBA Playoff Predictions-Hartman Edition




Jack Hartman, Editor

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The NBA Playoff field is officially set after Wednesday’s games, and the matchups are locked in.  Here are my predictions for how the NBA playoffs will unfold.

Round 1

The East:

#1 Toronto Raptors vs. #8 Washington Wizards

Toronto has a history of choking in the playoffs despite having a strong regular season, but theres evidence that this season will be different.  Toronto can lean on their deep bench to give Kyle Lowry and Demar Derozan breathers throughout the playoffs.  That being said, the Wizards are unusually strong for an #8 seed, with superstar point guard John Wall returning just in time for the playoffs.  It’ll be competitive, but the Raptors have played too well not to come out of this series.

Prediction: Raptors in 6

#2 Boston Celtics vs. #7 Milwaukee Bucks

The Celtics are severely undermanned, as Kyrie Irving is out for the year along with Gordon Hayward.  There have also been injuries to numerous key role players, such as Marcus Smart.  That being said, they are extremely well-coached, as well as deep, and that should be enough to take down a Bucks team that, outside of Giannis Antetokounmpo, is subpar from all facets.

Prediction: Celtics in 6

#3 Philadelphia 76ers vs. #6 Miami Heat

The Sixers have been a huge surprise this season, as trusting the process has paid off.  Ben Simmons and Joel Embild have been outstanding, and even Fultz has come back from his shoulder injury in strong fashion, becoming the youngest player in NBA History to get a triple-double the other day.  The Heat are well coached, but not talented enough to keep up with Philly in round one.  Trusting the process advances to the second round.

Prediction: 76ers in 5

#4 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. #5 Indiana Pacers

The Cavs have had a regular season full of inconsistencies, controversy, and plenty of disappointment.  News flash: they do that every year.  I’m banking on Lebron taking over, as he does every postseason, and smacking opponents down.  The Pacers have been a fun surprise this season with the emergence of Victor Oladipo, but thats not enough to stop Lebron and company.

Prediction: Cavaliers in 5

The West:

#1 Houston Rockets vs. #8 Minnesota Timberwolves

The Rockets have been the best team in the league all season, with Chris Paul and James Harden teaming up to form one of the most efficient offenses in recent history.   The Wolves were on track for the 3 seed before Jimmy Butler’s injury, but thankfully Jimmy Buckets has returned and has rounded into form.  The Wolves are better than their 8 seed suggests, but theres a reason they were the last team to clinch the playoffs.  The Rockets should take care of business quickly.

Prediction: Rockets in 4

#2 Golden State Warriors vs. #7 San Antonio Spurs

The outcome of this series all depends on Kawhi Leonard’s availability.  We know Steph Curry is unlikely to return in round one, and the Spurs will have a fighter’s chance either way because of Popovich’s elite coaching and Lamarcus Aldridge’s ability to get buckets, but they need Kawhi if they want to make the second round.  This prediction operates under the unfortunate assumption that Kawhi will not return for the playoffs.

Prediction: Warriors in 5

#3 Portland Trail Blazers vs #6 New Orleans Pelicans

This one is a toss-up.  The Blazers have been a surprise all season, with Coach of the Year Candidate Terry Stotts and the backcourt of Damian Lillard and Cj McCollum all taking a step forward this season.  For the Pelicans, forward Anthony Davis has been a monster since fellow star Demarcus Cousins went down with an Achillis injury.  Point guard Jrue Holiday has also picked it up since Cousins went down.  I expect Portland to take it in a close one, as Davis doesn’t have enough help this year to advance.

Predictions: Trail Blazers in 7

#4 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. #5 Utah Jazz

Both teams have been surprises in different ways this season, with OKC failing to reach lofty expectations after adding Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, while Utah has been stellar despite losing their starting point guard George Hill and superstar forward Gordon Hayward from last season.  While the regular season suggests that Utah will prevail, I don’t trust rookie Donovan Mitchell to lead a team to the next round, regardless of how dominant Rudy Gobert is in the paint.  Russ and company will pull this one out.

Prediction: Thunder in 6


Round 2

The East

#1 Toronto Raptors vs. #4 Cleveland Cavaliers

Toronto has been stellar all year, and people are talking that this is the year someone finally dethrones the Cavs and represents the East in the finals.  They also have said that the past 3 years.  I don’t buy it-Toronto has improved alot, but they have no solution to LeBron or even Kevin Love.  Derozan and Lowry will get opportunities against their backcourt, but George Hill, Jordan Clarkson, and Rodney Hood are good enough to hold their own.  I expect a battle, but the King will continue to advance

Predicitions: Cavaliers in 6

#2 Boston Celtics vs. #3 Philadelphia 76ers

This would have been a great series if Kyrie Irving was healthy, but this should be quick work for the Sixers with Boston’s superstar point guard out.  The Sixers are too hot to get tripped up by a team without its two best players, regardless of what Brad Stevens does.

Jason Tatum going to the basket as Markelle Fultz looks on

Prediction: 76ers in 5

The West

#1 Houston Rockets vs. #4 Oklahoma City Thunder

While the Rockets have been tearing opponents apart all season, the Thunder have been a form of kryptonite against them.  OKC clearly has the talent to run with Houston, and they stepped their game up whenever they faced in the regular season.  That being said, Houston is destined to face off against the reigning champs next round, and the Thunder will be an extremely tough out, but nothing more.

Prediction: Rockets in 7

#2 Golden State Warriors vs. #3 Portland Trail Blazers

How close this series is depends on the health of Steph Curry’s knee.  He is expected to come back during this round, but its up for debate how effective he will be initially.  Regardless, having Curry in any capacity, along with Durant, Thompson, and Green, is enough to dispatch Portland.  The Blazers have an electric backcourt and a great big in Jusuf Nurkic, but that isn’t enough to stop Golden State when all of their stars are playing.

Prediction: Warriors in 5

Round 3

The East

#3 Philadelphia 76ers vs #4 Cleveland Cavaliers

Its a battle between the established power and the up and comers, as Ben Simmons and Joel Embild will look to upstage King James and the rest of the Cavs roster.  The sixers have the best chance out of any team in the East to upset Cleveland this year, but, like with the rest, I don’t buy it.  Fultz, Embild, and Simmons have combined for 0 playoff appearances, while Lebron has a roster full of veterans that know how to play when the game gets tight.  Philly uses its youth and talent to get close, but the Cavs get the job done one last time.

Prediction: Cavaliers in 7

The West

The Warriors and Rockets have been the best teams in the league all year

#1 Houston Rockets vs #2 Golden State Warriors

This matchup has been destined to happen all season, the two superpowers in the West clashing.  Houston, led by James Harden and Chris Paul, have developed an offense historically dominant enough to compete with Golden State, even surpassing it in some areas.  Many expect the Rockets to end the Warriors reign this year, but it won’t happen for one reason: defense.  No matter how well Houston can match Golden State offensively, when fully healthy Golden State has an elite defense.  They are more equipped to stop Houston than Houston is to stop them, and in the end that will prove to be Houston’s downfall.  I also trust the Golden State players in a 7-game series over Houston, where their two best players have a reputation for choking in the playoffs.

Prediction: Warriors in 7

NBA Finals

This year would be the 4th straight time these teams have faced eachother in the finals

#4 Cleveland Cavaliers vs #2 Golden State Warriors

Its the 4th-straight clash between these two titans, as Lebron gets another chance to take down the most talented team in NBA History.  This year, like last, is another anticlimatic battle.  The Cavaliers are good enough to make it out the East again when Lebron carries them, but this year will have the shortest margin yet.  By the time they reach the finals, they will have gone against two other contenders and be extremely tired, where as Golden State has relatively easy matchups until facing Houston.  If both teams are fully healthy, which is a big if given Steph’s knee injury, this one goes to 4.

Prediction: Warriors in 4