Jason Ross Reveals His NBA Playoff First Round Predictions
Congratulations to the NBA for pulling off the seeding games and the dramatic play-in game.
It was so great to have basketball back and played at a fairly high level. Now we have made it to hoop junkies favorite time of year, the NBA playoffs. The stress ratchets up, the intensity is at its peak, and every possession becomes important. With that said, what will happen as round 1 gets underway?
Here are a few of my thoughts on how the eight series will play out. Time for a few predictions.
Eastern Conference First Round
#1 Milwaukee Bucks vs. #8 Orlando Magic
Milwaukee is so complete yet seemed a bit disengaged during their eight seeded games.
They played like they just wanted to get through it. Now they are here and have to back up what they did during the regular season. They won’t have the luxury of home court advantage as a 1 seed but they are loaded with talent. Giannis will be a handful, the defense will clamp down, and last year’s Eastern Conference 2-0 lead that they squandered will be the motivation needed to stay locked in.
Tough spot for Orlando here but they just don’t have enough. Bucks in 4.
#2 Toronto Raptors vs. #7 Brooklyn Nets
The defending champs have been really impressive this season.
They lost their best player in Kawhi Leonard and really haven’t missed a beat. They have a style, an intensity about them and are very difficult to beat. Speaking of impressive, tip of the cap to the Brooklyn Nets.
This team appeared to be leaking oil heading to the bubble. Already without KD and Kyrie, they learned that Covid 19 would keep DeAndre Jordan, Spencer Dinwiddie, Wilson Chandler, and a few others away from Florida. Shortly before the stoppage, the Nets also fired their head coach. Interim Jacque Vaughn has brought out the best of the rest of the Nets and they have been a pleasant surprise.
The champs will get through this thanks to experience and defense but it will be a tough first round series. Extra stress for Toronto but Raptors in 6.
#3 Boston Celtics vs. #6 Philadelphia 76ers
Injuries are usually a big factor in the playoffs and with matchups. One of my favorite sayings this time of year is to pick “the best healthiest team” to win it all.
Look at last year, the best team was the Golden State Warriors. Then the injuries caught up to them in the Finals and the Raptors won. No apologies needed for Toronto as they deserved it. In this case, the injury to Ben Simmons is a big deal for Philadelphia.
Simmons spent a lot of time guarding Jayson Tatum. The Sixers are going to need a BIG series from Embiid. He is more than capable of that but I think it will be asking too much. Brad Stevens will find a way over the series to make Embiid work too hard for his and Boston will survive.
I see all the games being close and a grind for two long time rivals. The outcome of the series will look shorter than how intense it really was. Celtics in 5.
#4 Indiana Pacers vs. #5 Miami Heat
4/5 matchups can end up being real battles.
Jimmy Butler and TJ Warren don’t like each other. That is good for us as fans. Both teams are classic work hard teams. It is not easy to beat the Pacers or the Heat. You always know that you have played them after the 4 quarter effort. Indiana does have some significant injuries that I think will be too much to overcome. Sabonis gives them another player with a physical presence.
Miami’s shooting, defense, intensity, coaching and Jimmy Butler will be the difference here as I will take the Heat in 5.
Western Conference First Round
#1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. #8 Portland Trail Blazers
Much like the Milwaukee Bucks, the Lakers just got through the eight-seeded games.
Portland on the other hand was must watch TV during their journey in the bubble. What Dame Lillard did on a nightly basis was AMAZING.
So both teams were playing at a different levels during the last 2 weeks. I believe that is why a lot of people think that Portland can do some damage here if not beat the Lakers. I am not one of them. Taking a closer look at Portland’s games they were either tied or behind in the 4th quarter of every game. In a lot of those games they needed massive numbers from Lillard to complete those comebacks. To their credit they went (7-2) and deserve to be here, but Los Angeles is a top 5 offense with a top 5 defense. The Blazers defense has been brutal in 2020.
AD and LeBron will be too much, Lillard and CJ may shoot them into a win but I think that in the end, it will be the Lakers in 5.
#2 Los Angeles Clippers vs. #7 Dallas Mavericks
This series falls into the “bad matchup” category.
I think Dallas should be thrilled to be back in the post-season. Luka needs to go through this and he will have to go through things in this series. He will see a steady diet of Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and probably Patrick Beverly.
Dallas is a very good offense. The Clippers have defenders to bother Luka, too many of them. Dallas will need Luka and Porzingis to be great all the time and they are capable but LA won’t allow that to happen. LA is also statistically so much better when Kawhi is on the floor. This is playoff time. He won’t be resting, or watching his minutes.
Heavy does of Kawhi spells trouble for the Mavs. Clippers in 4.
#3 Denver Nuggets vs. #6 Utah Jazz
The battle of the big guys will be fun to watch.
The skill of Jokic vs. the defense of Gobert. Both teams have injuries as neither team is at full strength. I really feel when fully healthy that Denver has so much talent.
Harris and Barton have been out, Jamal Murray is just coming back and that has kept them from being the best version of themselves. Bogdanovic had season ending surgery hurting Utah’s shooting a spacing a bit. I love the way Utah approaches every game and they are so well coached.
This will be a fight, ugly at times, but in the end, I will pick talent. Nuggets in 7.
#4 Houston Rockets vs. #5 Oklahoma City Thunder
Houston is the most unique team in the bubble.
They have fully committed to small ball and will continue to do so. An injury to Russell Westbrook makes it appear that they are not at their best but they can win without him. In this series though, I think they need Russ. OKC wasn’t supposed to be here. After they made the point guard swap in the off-season many thought they would just move Chris Paul too and start the rebuild. Instead, they have become a tough defensive minded team led by one of the great winners in the league Chris Paul. I get the feeling he would be tough to play with but his teams win. They have defended Houston the best and I see more of that in this series. There will be games where Houston is just too much with Harden and the 3 point shooters around him but not enough of that. Thunder in 6.
In the end, these are just predictions.
I so look forward to seeing how they play out and more importantly how these games go.
Enjoy the playoffs!