The NBA playoffs is now underway and the games have been great so far. The Intermission's Andrew "Drew" Yang is bringing you his original series predictions.
Note: All predictions were made before the first game of the playoffs.
Eastern Conference Round 1:
Bucks vs Magic: Bucks in 4
With the reigning MVP leading the charge for the Bucks, it’s no doubt that their depth and offensive efficiency can help them get past the Magic with ease. Jonathan Isaac was a critical piece in determining Orlando’s playoff run. But seeing as the Magic lost Isaac to a torn ACL, that damages their already slim chance of getting past the Bucks.
Raptors vs Nets: Raptors in 5
With the second best record in the NBA Bubble (7-1), the Raptors proved to the rest of the league that they are still an elite level team. Toronto’s versatile lineup will be a problem for this Nets team, especially on the defensive side. I would’ve had the Raptors making a clean sweep of the Nets, but my Spidey Sense is telling me that Caris Levert might drop a 40 piece to help the Nets secure at least one win in this series.
Celtics vs 76ers: Celtics in 5
The 76ers have disappointed fans from all around by placing 6th in the East while being regarded as a top 4 team in the East by many. Brett Brown will have to draw up a new plan to get past the Jolly Green Giants of Boston, which could come in the form of (and will probably be) more minutes for players like Tobias Harris if they want to make up for the scoring deficiency from the loss of Ben Simmons.
Heat vs Pacers: Heat in 5
Bubble T.J. Warren might have looked like the second coming of Michael Jordan on paper, but I don’t think the Pacers have what it takes to get past Jimmy Butler and the rest of the South Beach crew. With Erik Spoelstra being regarded as a top coach in the league, combined with an incredibly talented roster, Pacers fans should be scared of what the Heat have to bring. The only thing keeping me from predicting a clean sweep by the Heat is the way T.J. Warren made the NBA Bubble look like a MyCareer simulation.
Western Conference Round 1:
Lakers vs Trail Blazers: Lakers in 5
With the Lakers, you have one of the best dynamic duos in the league, plus a talented bench, who although put up a disappointing 3-5 performance in the Bubble, have shown pre-hiatus that they are in fact a winning team. And then you have the Portland Trail Blazers, who barely made it to the playoffs by making their way up the standings only to get a close win over a young Grizzlies team. Put those two teams in one series and what do you get? Another inevitable and disappointing playoff exit for the Trail Blazers.
Clippers vs Mavericks: Clippers in 5
In my opinion, this will be one of the most entertaining matchups we’ll get to watch in the Western Conference. Both incredibly talented teams filled with award-worthy players and great supporting casts is everything to get hyped about. I have the Clippers taking this one, but the Clippers and their load management trend could give the Mavericks a chance to push this series to 6 or maybe even 7 games.
Nuggets vs Jazz: Nuggets in 5
This was an easy one. The Denver Nuggets have easily one of the deepest rotations in the league, and are regarded as one of the most talented teams both offensively and defensively. I’ll give the Jazz the benefit of the doubt, Gobert’s defense can force a couple of close games and can give the Nuggets some trouble in the paint. But in my mind, there’s no way this Jazz team is making it past 5 games against this Nuggets squad.
Thunder vs Rockets: Thunder in 6
While Houston’s small ball tactics have proven to be effective despite all the skepticism, the Thunder have done the unthinkable and managed to secure the 4th seed in the Western Conference after the damage of summer of 2019. This is a pretty even matchup in my eyes, but the Rockets are going to have a tough time getting around the trio of Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Steven Adams, as well as the supporting cast that consists of players like Dennis Schröeder, Danilo Galinari, and Darius Bazely.
Eastern Conference Round 2:
Bucks vs Heat: Heat in 6
This is a matchup between two of the deepest teams in the league, which is going to provide one of the most entertaining matchups of the playoffs. Of course, the edge in depth goes to Milwaukee, but the offensive firepower and versatility goes to Miami. I can see this series going to 7, but I have faith in Coach Spoelstra and playoff Jimmy Butler.
Celtics vs Raptors: Raptors in 5
Although the Raptors are 1-3 against the Celtics in the regular season, I see them taking this series with ease. With their elite defensive strategies, and unmatched versatility, the Raptors won’t have a problem making up for that regular season record against the Celtics. The Celtics may be one of Nick Nurse’s kryptonites, but considering that the Raptors have five players averaging double figures in points, I’m not sure if the Celtics defense can handle that firepower.
Western Conference Round 2:
Lakers vs Thunder: Lakers in 5
The Thunder have proved to us that they are more than capable of making some noise to silence the haters. But the Thunder’s road to victory will have to come to a stop, courtesy of King James and the rest of the Lakers squad. Chris Paul’s veteran guidance and a blooming star in Shai GIlgeous-Alexander won’t be enough to match up against the firepower of the Lakers. This should be an easy dub for the Lakers.
Nuggets vs Clippers: Nuggets in 6
Now this is going to be quite a matchup in the Western Conference. This might be one of the most competitive matchups we’ll see in these playoffs. Again, load management could have just as much of a toll on the Clippers as they will in the first round matchup against the Mavericks. But if Doc Rivers chooses to ease up on the load management, this series could go to seven games, but I still have the Nuggets taking this one.
Eastern Conference Finals:
Raptors vs Heat: Raptors in 6
Firepower versus firepower. With Toronto having one of the best all around games in the league, and Miami having a whole lineup of shooters, this is going to be the most electric matchup we’ll see in these playoffs (and it might just be the most entertaining too). Miami’s offensive talents have proven to be deadly toward Toronto in the regular season, backing it up with a 2-1 record against the Raps. I have the Raptors winning in 6, although I do believe that the Heat have the potential to push it further.
Western Conference Finals:
Lakers vs Nuggets: Lakers in 7
To be completely honest, I can see this series going either way, but it will take 6-7 games. With that will most likely be the most competitive matchup of the 2020 playoffs, you have one of the deepest and most talented teams in Denver, and then you have the Lakers who have proven that winning is in their blood and are capable of taking down almost any team that stands in their way (key word: almost). This game will determine if LeBron James and the Lakers are capable of being crowned king in the west, as well as answering the question of “Is showtime back?”.
Raptors vs Lakers: Raptors in 6
Men lie, women lie, but numbers don’t lie. Ever since the 2014-2015 season, the Lakers have lost 11 straight games to the Raptors, and the Raptors are looking better than ever in 2020. Comparing the Bubble performances from both teams, there’s a clear winner between the two, also considering that these two gave us a Finals preview on opening night, in which the Raptors won by 15 points while holding the Lakers to a field goal percentage of just 35%. LeBron James and Anthony Davis might be the biggest duo in the league right now, but they need to learn a thing or two about taming these Raptors if King James wants to add another jewel to his crown.