(Graphic via Andrew Yang)
#1 Philadelphia 76ers (49-23) vs #8 Washington Wizards (34-38)
Goldie’s Take: 76ers in 5
The Wizards were a great regular season story. Just over a month ago, ESPN BPI gave the Wizards under 1% chance to make the playoffs, and against all odds, Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal willed this team into the postseason. Great story, but I’m afraid the fairytale ends here. Washington just doesn’t have the size and strength to match up with the Sixers. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are going to have a field day with this subpar Wizards defence. I think Russ and Beal steal you one, but the Sixers cruise past the WIzards in this first-round matchup.
#2 Brooklyn Nets (48-24) vs #7 Boston Celtics (36-36)
Crazy Uncle Jeff’s Lock of the First round: Brooklyn Nets over Boston Celtics
Goldie’s Take: Nets in 5
Goldie’s takes would not be complete without a lock from Crazy Uncle Jeff. Jeffy loves the Nets in this series, and if his basketball wisdom is anything like his football knowledge, you can put this one down as a LOCK. If both of these teams were at full health, I would expect a very competitive series, but unfortunately, the Celtics are a bit short-handed with all-star Jaylen Brown set to miss the rest of the season. Without Brown, I don’t see the Celtics putting up too much of a fight against a star-studded Brooklyn team. The bottom line with this series is the Nets have 3 superstars and the Celtics only have 1. However, I am interested to see how the 3 Brooklyn superstars mesh when the games really start to matter. Brooklyn wins this series with no issues, but I believe Boston will steal one in the TD Garden. Nets in 5.
#3 Milwaukee Bucks (46-26) vs #6 Miami Heat (40-32)
Goldie’s Take: Heat in 7
This series has seven games written all over it. The Heat knocked the Bucks out of the playoffs last season in just five games, but this season seems to have a bit of a different feeling to it. The Bucks made some nice additions to their roster in guys like Jrue Holiday and PJ Tucker, but on the other hand, the Heat enter this series playing some of their best basketball of the season. It seems the Heat are hitting their stride at the right time, winners in 5 of their last 6. In the end, there’s really one big thing that the Heat have the upper hand on the Bucks in, and that’s coaching. I think Erik Spoelstra is going to be the X-factor in this series, as the Heat go for the upset on the Bucks two years in a row. I GUARANTEE IT!
#4 New York Knicks (41-31) vs #5 Atlanta Hawks (41-31)
Goldie’s Take: Knicks in 7
This series is a breath of fresh air for NBA fans. If you would’ve picked Knicks vs Hawks as a first-round matchup back in December, the NBA world would’ve laughed at you, but here we are. The Tom Thibodeau experiment is definitely working in New York. Thibs has this young group playing very good team basketball, and the Knicks have been in the top 5 in team defence all season long. I think that will propel them to victory in this first-round series. That’s not a shot at the Hawks though, they did a phenomenal job of turning around their season after firing their coach back in March. Trae Young and John Collins have a very bright future in Atlanta. I definitely think this series goes the distance, and I like the Knicks to close it out on their home floor. Knicks in 7.
#1 Utah Jazz (52-20) vs #8 Memphis Grizzlies (38-34)
Goldie’s Take: Jazz in 4
Memphis did a phenomenal job of beating the Spurs and Warriors to even be in this matchup, but that being said the Jazz have been smacking subpar teams all season. Nothing against the core of the grizzlies, but the Jazz are destined for bigger and better things this postseason. Donovon Mitchell and Rudy Gobert aren’t messing around this playoffs. Jazz cruise through the first round. Jazz are the only sweep of the first round.
#2 Phoenix Suns (51-21) vs #7 Los Angeles Lakers (42-30)
Goldies Take: Lakers in 6
I love the work that the Phoenix Suns have done this season. It’s been truly remarkable, and the future is extremely bright in Phoenix, but they're not beating the King. Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton have never been to the playoffs, and the Suns have nobody who can contain LeBron or Anthony Davis. However, I do think it will be a very interesting series. It’s crazy that it’s the first time that Chris Paul and LeBron have met in a playoff series. If there’s anyone who can give LeBron a serious test in the first round, it might just be his good friend Chris Paul. I really hope CP3 can upset his banana boat companion, but I think the Lakers just have too much firepower. Lakers in 6.
#3 Denver Nuggets (47-25) @ #6 Portland Trail Blazers (42-30)
Goldie’s Take: Blazers in 7
One of the least talked about MVP candidates ever is Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets. He’s putting up video game-like numbers on a team that is in 3rd place in a loaded western conference. If he’s not the MVP, the league needs to seriously look into how they go about giving out that award, but without his sidekick point guard Jamal Murray, I can’t trust the Nuggets to win a playoff series. Also, the Blazers are a bad matchup for the Nuggets due to their excellent guard play and their size that will help contain Jokic. I’m definitely expecting a back-and-forth series, but give me Dame Dolla and the Blazers to escape the first round.
#4 Los Angeles Clippers (47-25) vs #5 Dallas Mavericks (42-30)
Goldie’s Take: Clippers in 6
This matchup is one of the most exciting of the first round. This is due to the immense pressure on the LA Clippers. They vastly underachieved last season, blowing a 3-1 lead and getting knocked out in the second round. If the Clippers don’t show up this postseason, I could see Kawhi walking, and them being forced to rebuild. HOWEVER, I do believe in this Clippers team. They made necessary additions in Serge Ibaka and Rajon Rondo that will be huge for them down the stretch in the playoffs, and I don’t trust the depth of the Mavs yet. The future is bright down in Dallas, but they aren’t there yet. Luka and Porzingis make it a very interesting series, but Clippers perform under the microscope and advance to the second round.