Eight teams remain in the quest for an NBA Championship. The Warriors are still alive for their third straight title after getting by the scrappy Clippers. Damian Lillard will look to continue his hot postseason play against Denver. The Celtics and Bucks clash in a rematch of last year’s seven game first round series, and Joel Embiid and the Sixers take on Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors
#4 Boston Celtics @ #1 Milwaukee Bucks (-300)
The Celtics will take on the Bucks for the second straight year in the playoffs, although things are quite different from last year’s matchup. The Celtics were the 2 seed facing off against the 7 seed Bucks in the first round without Kyrie or Gordon Hayward. This time, the Bucks have the NBA’s best record and home court advantage in the series, which was critical for the Celtics to have last year when they won Game 7 at home. The best player in the series is obviously Giannis, and the Celtics will have their hands full trying to defend him. However, the Celtics defense played very well against Indiana in the first round, even without Marcus Smart. Khris Middleton will be the x factor for Milwaukee. Middleton destroyed the Celtics in last year’s playoffs, and will be relied upon as a second option with all the focus on Giannis. Brook Lopez could also be a key factor in this series as a big man that can shoot threes. The Celtics front court will certainly have their hands full. The coaching matchup will be a good one: Brad Stevens vs Mike Budenholzer in a seven game series should be entertaining. I think the Celtics put up a great fight but Milwaukee wins the series in 7 games.
#3 Philadelphia 76ers @ #2 Toronto Raptors (-245)
The Raptors took three out of four against the Sixers during the regular season, and are certainly happy they don’t have to face Lebron James in the playoffs this year. In his first season with Toronto, former Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard will look to bring the Raptors to the promised land. Standing in the way are Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, and the Philadelphia 76ers. Both teams lost Game 1 at home in the first round but responded by winning four straight to advance. The Sixers are looking to reach their first conference finals since “The Process” began. Pascal Siakim has been an emerging star for Toronto this year, but the Raptors will need Kyle Lowry to contribute as well in order to have success as a team. I think Toronto has better chemistry and depth than Philadelphia, which will be the key to the series. Raptors win in 6 games.
#4 Houston Rockets @ #1 Golden State Warriors (-255)
The Rockets and Warriors will meet in the playoffs for the fourth time in five years and first time since the Warriors won Game 7 in Houston last year to win the Western Conference for the fourth straight time. Both Kevin Durant and James Harden have been on fire offensively and are arguably the two best players in this series. The Warriors looked lackluster after needing 6 games to beat the 8 seed Clippers, while the Rockets easily disposed of a pretty good Utah team in the first round. Houston will certainly be looking for revenge, and Chris Paul may be a key factor. CP3 missed the end of last year’s playoff series with an injury. In terms of injuries, the Warriors lost big man Demarcus Cousins in the first round and will have to deal with a lack of depth going forward. Andrew Bogut and Kevon Looney will have to pick up the slack in the frontcourt. Unlike last year, the Warriors have home court. Durant is playing at an MVP level, and the Warriors still have Steph and Klay. I think it will be a hard fought series but Golden State wins in 6 games.
#3 Portland Trail Blazers @ #2 Denver Nuggets (-150)
Denver was the only team that needed 7 games to advance to the second round, while Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers disposed of Russell Westbrook and the Thunder in five games to advance. Lillard dominated the first round, but a key x factor was Blazers big man Enes Kanter who filled in nicely for the loss of Jusuf Nurkic. Kanter will have a much tougher test when he goes against Denver All Star big man Nikola Jokic. I think the biggest mismatch in this series is at the point guard position. Damian Lillard will destroy Jamal Murray and that will ultimately be the difference in the series. Portland wins in 6 games.
Let me know your predictions in the comments down below.