March Madness concluded this past Monday, as we were treated to a classic national championship game between Texas Tech and Virginia.
However, there’s still a little more basketball to be blogged about, as I make my predictions for each First Round series of the 2019 NBA Playoffs.
The matchups and predictions are listed via the bullet points below:
- #6 Brooklyn Nets Vs. #3 Philadelphia Sixers-Led by All-Star D’Angelo Russell, the Nets are in the playoffs for the first time since the 2014-15 season. As for the Sixers, they hope to build off of last season’s playoff appearance, but will have to do so with a very hobbled Joel Embiid. Regardless, the Nets will make it a competitive series. However, they don’t have enough firepower to match what the Sixers can throw at them with Ben Simmons, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris and JJ Redick. So with that being said, I got the Sixers in six.
- #7 Orlando Magic Vs. #2 Toronto Raptors-The watered-down and somewhat unpredictable Southeast Division gained some late-season credibility, as the Magic finished with a winning record of 42-40 to return to the postseason after a six-year absence. As for the Raptors, they are in the postseason for the seventh consecutive year, and look to redeem themselves after being eliminated by the Cleveland Cavaliers last season. Both these teams split the regular season series and each have a win on the other’s homecourt, so it most likely won’t be a sweep for the Raptors. However, I still like Canada’s lone NBA team in this one. Especially with the presence that they have in Kawhi Leonard. Raptors in five.
- #8 Los Angeles Clippers Vs. #1 Golden State Warriors-Do you all remember the last Western Conference team to eliminate the Warriors from the NBA Playoffs? It was the Clippers, although they had Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan at that time. None of those players are on this current Clippers team, but Doc Rivers’ bunch is scrappy and they will make a series of it. The Warriors will still win, but they won’t cruise in the First Round like they have been in recent years. I have it going six games.
- #7 San Antonio Spurs Vs. #2 Denver Nuggets-Since the beginning of the 1997-98 season, the Spurs have the most consecutive playoff appearances and are tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for most NBA championships in that span. And given all that success, they are always a tough out this time of year. The Spurs are no ordinary seven seed and because of that, I got them pulling off the “upset” in six games.
- #5 Indiana Pacers Vs. #4 Boston Celtics-The Pacers came close to ending the Cleveland Cavaliers’ then three-year Eastern Conference reign last season, as they lost in seven games against them. The Celtics also lost to the Cavaliers in seven games last season, and that was without both Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. Both those players are back this time around for the team that has the most championships in NBA history. The Pacers will fall short again of advancing to the Second Round, as Victor Oladipo has been out for the season with a knee injury. Celtics in six.
- #6 Oklahoma City Thunder Vs. #3 Portland Trail Blazers-This year marks the third consecutive one in which Russell Westbrook averaged a triple double for the regular season. However, the Thunder got knocked out of the First Round the past two seasons. Will this season be three in a row? I’m tempted to say no, but I got a good feeling about this Trail Blazers team. I got Terry Stotts’ bunch taking this series in seven games.
- #8 Detroit Pistons Vs. #1 Milwaukee Bucks-The Pistons crushed the New York Knicks on the final day of the regular season to get the eighth and final seed in the East. As for the Bucks, they boast both the league’s best record and the likely league MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo. The fact that both these teams are division opponents won’t make this series a sweep. But it also won’t result in an eight seed upsetting a one seed in the First Round. Bucks in five.
- #5 Utah Jazz Vs. #4 Houston Rockets-Of all eight First Round matchups, this one is the most competitive, as both teams are well matched against each other. And of course, there’s history between them, as they have met eight times in the postseason, including last season’s Second Round matchup. The Jazz have advanced past the First Round during the past two seasons. However, there won’t be a third time this year, because the Rockets will be determined to redeem themselves after last season’s heartbreaking Western Conference Finals exit. Rockets in six.
Well, that’s it for today’s edition of Steve Believes. I’ll most likely blog here on April 24 with my predictions of who will get drafted in the First Round of the 2019 NFL Draft. But if any NBA Conference Semifinal matchups are set before that date, then you’ll hear from me on this page sooner. So until then, so long everybody!