If the playoffs started today, these would be our first rounds matchups…
Western Conference Matchups:
#1 Lakers vs #8 Grizzlies:
This series will be good for a handful of Ja Morant attempted posterizations. Laker bigs should watch themselves during this series but ultimately it’ll be over in, at most, 5 games. The Grizzlies have a bright future ahead of them if they can keep adding to their young and talented core, but the Lakers are on a speed run to the Western Conference Finals. Lakers in 4.
#4 Jazz vs #5 Thunder
I love this Thunder team. They weren’t expected to do anything this year, but Chris Paul refuses to let them be bottom-dwellers. I kind of can’t believe they’re the 5-seed at the moment. The Jazz are an excellent regular season team, but they just can’t seem to figure it out when a team schemes to take Rudy Gobert out of a series. This would be an interesting series. I’d say Thunder in 6.
#3 Nuggets vs #6 Rockets
These two have split the season series but I just can’t see the Rockets beating the Nuggets in a 7-game series this year. Planning for Harden doesn’t seem as difficult this year, despite his MVP candidacy through the first half of the season. Westbrook would be the real problem in this series because he LOVES an open lane and take advantage of it whenever possible. The Rockets new small ball roster leaves Nikola Jokic unmatched unless the Rockets plan on playing Tyson Chandler. Jokic is such a big body that I doubt P.J. Tucker’s ability to defend him effectively. Nuggets in 6.
#2 Clippers vs #7 Mavericks
This one could be fun. If Luka had more help, I’d be more inclined to pick them to win more games but he doesn’t so… Clippers in 5. I can’t wait to see the Clippers defense strangle teams throughout this run. The lineup of Pat Beverley, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris, and Montrezl Harrell should be giving opposing coaches nightmares.
Eastern Conference Matchups:
#1 Bucks vs #8 Magic
The Bucks have been weirdly consistent against the Magic this year. (123-91, 110-101, 111-100, 111-95). The Magic are a team full of playoff level bench players. I’d love to see Aaron Gordon start somewhere else so we can see what he could do with a contender. The Bucks could sweep the Magic without playing Giannis over 30 minutes per game.
#4 Heat vs #5 Pacers
The Heat and Pacers play each other two more times before the season comes to an end. Miami has won the first two, but the first meeting was decided by one point. I think Miami can go to a level that the Pacers just don’t have yet, but I’m not going to be the guy who rules them out. They might be the most overlooked team in the league. There’s hardly any coverage from the national media despite Sabonis having a career year and Oladipo working himself back into his former self. Heat in 6.
#3 Celtics vs #6 Sixers
If you had told me at the beginning of the year that Philly was the 6-seed at this point in the season, I wouldn’t have believed it. Injuries have plagued this team of late, but coaching and decision making have been huge issues all season. You don’t know what you’re going to get out of the team night to night. Jayson Tatum has really come into his own and Kemba Walker is the leader the Celtics needed. This is another damning look for Kyrie Irving. Teams are just better without him. With the Sixers being so inconsistent, it could really be Sixers in 5 or Celtics in 5… and nothing in between.
#2 Raptors vs #7 Nets
The Raptors are out here proving they didn’t need Kawhi to stay to remain relevant. They move the ball well and play defense as a team. The Nets are now a team in flux because of the “mutual parting” between Kenny Atkinson and the organization. I really liked what the Nets had going prior to signing Kyrie, Durant, and Jordan but I guess they had other plans. I can’t imagine this would go more than 5 games. Raps take it.