The NBA Playoffs are Shaping Up
Welcome to The Bloch,
I’ve been anticipating the NBA playoffs with high expectations for a few months now, and they have not disappointed thus far.
This year the playoffs started off with a mini play-in tournament, and commissioner Adam Silver is interested in keeping it going in the future. The play-in gives the teams that finish the regular season in the 9th and 10th spots in each conference the opportunity to usurp the teams in the 7th and 8th seeds. It also disincentivizes tanking your team’s record to avoid playing certain teams sitting in the one and two seeds.
Here are the standings that informed the playoff bracket:
The Warriors were supposed to make the playoffs in the West, but they got knocked out early after losing to Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies in the play-in tournament and losing to the Lakers in the play-in tournament. Tough luck for the Warriors, but an interesting turn of events for the fans.
Here’s the bracket (plus Utah evening the series at 1–1):
Let’s take it series by series, starting with the Western Conference.
As I’m writing this Utah and Memphis game 2 is happening. Memphis stole the first game of this series against the ‘best’ team in the west from the regular season. I think the Jazz will win this series, but if Ja Morant keeps playing the way he has been, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Grizzlies pull off the upset. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert end up getting the job done in 5 games. I wouldn’t put my money on this series either way.
Dallas took the first two games against the Clippers, and both games were in Los Angeles. The Mavericks were shooting out of their minds in game two, it will be interesting to see if they keep that up. I wouldn’t count the Clippers out just yet, but it definitely is not looking good for them so far.
Denver is playing without Jamal Murray which will make doing any real damage in the playoffs a tall order for them. Even though they have soon-to-be MVP Nikola Jokic, they might end up getting knocked out in the first round at the hands of Damian Lillard and Portland.
Finally in the West, the Suns are playing with a beat-up Chris Paul and the Lakers seemed to come alive in game two. Anthony Davis dropped 34 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists, and Lebron had 23 and 9 on top of a double-double from Andre Drummond. Here’s the game recap video on youtube. In my earlier letter For the Love of Basketball, I predicted the Lakers as my favorite to win the championship if they came back healthy. I haven’t seen them 100% firing on all cylinders yet, but I believe they still have it in them.
In the Eastern Conference, the Wizards are losing to the 76ers 2–0 in the series. Russell Westbrook can’t do it alone. I expect the 76ers to coast through this one as Joel Embid has been absolutely dominant this year, and Ben Simmons has been stepping up as well.
The Kicks took game two to tie the series with the Hawks 1–1. Even though Trae Young is silencing a lot of haters with his play, I don’t feel confident in the Hawks getting past the Knicks. The Knicks have been on the best run their team has seen in quite some time, and I think they’re a sleeper to make some noise past the first round.
The Bucks seem to be cruising past the Heat. The Heat did make it to the finals last season, but I think the bubble was just different. I would be very surprised if the Heat pulled the upset in this series.
Finally in the East, the Nets are looking dominant against the Celtics which is definitely expected. The Nets are my favorite to make it out of the East, especially when you have KD averaging a 29 point double-double in the first two games of the post-season. I do expect them to have a tough matchup against the Bucks and another tough one against the 76ers or the Knicks if they manage to make the upset, but I’d be surprised if the Nets don’t make it out of the East.
So it is still early and I definitely don’t have a crystal ball, but it seems like the Lakers vs. Nets finals matchup is still very much in the cards. The showdown of the Lebron and Durant superteams. That’s what we all really want to see, isn’t it?
I’m going out on a limb here assuming the Lakers stay healthy and look solid. With that caveat, here’s my bracket with the Lakers getting the repeat over the Nets in 7 games:
Shoot me a message and let me know what you think of my predictions. Unlike in some previous seasons, this season, I can’t wait to see more basketball.
Until next time.