Dr. A's NBA Playoff Predictions: Who Wins the Title?

Dr. A's NBA Playoff Predictions: Who Wins the Title?

The NBA's regular season is over, and the Playoffs will start on Tuesday with the Play-In Tournament. Here are the matchups and my predictions as we spend the next several weeks managing DFS and fantasy playoff leagues. Let's see if the Celtics are as good as we think they are, and if the Nuggets can pull off a repeat performance. 

My plan is to edit this piece after the Play-In Tournament, so the matchups will actually be known/correct. I'm just posting this for fun and to document my predictions. 

Eastern Conference

Play-In Tournament

No. 8 Miami Heat at No. 7 Philadelphia 76ers (Wednesday)

No. 10 Atlanta Hawks at No. 9 Chicago Bulls (Wednesday)

Winner of 9/10 at loser of 7/8 (Friday)

Prediction: Both the Sixers and Heat will emerge to participate in the regular playoffs. 

Round 1

No. 1 Boston vs. No. 8 seed (76ers/Heat/Bulls/Hawks)

The Celtics easily had the best record in the league at 64-18. They should be incredibly well rested and ready for their first-round opponent, whether it be Joel Embiid's Sixers or Jimmy Butler's Heat (or the Bulls or Hawks), and I'll give their currently imaginary opponent one game in the series. Celtics in five games to advance.

No. 2 New York Knicks vs. No. 7 Philadelphia 76ers

The Knicks have Jalen Brunson and home court advantage but I'm (maybe stupidly) putting my money on Embiid's health and going with the Sixers in six games to advance.

No. 3 Milwaukee Bucks vs. No. 6 Indiana Pacers

The NBA's regular season is over, and the Playoffs will start on Tuesday with the Play-In Tournament. Here are the matchups and my predictions as we spend the next several weeks managing DFS and fantasy playoff leagues. Let's see if the Celtics are as good as we think they are, and if the Nuggets can pull off a repeat performance. 

My plan is to edit this piece after the Play-In Tournament, so the matchups will actually be known/correct. I'm just posting this for fun and to document my predictions. 

Eastern Conference

Play-In Tournament

No. 8 Miami Heat at No. 7 Philadelphia 76ers (Wednesday)

No. 10 Atlanta Hawks at No. 9 Chicago Bulls (Wednesday)

Winner of 9/10 at loser of 7/8 (Friday)

Prediction: Both the Sixers and Heat will emerge to participate in the regular playoffs. 

Round 1

No. 1 Boston vs. No. 8 seed (76ers/Heat/Bulls/Hawks)

The Celtics easily had the best record in the league at 64-18. They should be incredibly well rested and ready for their first-round opponent, whether it be Joel Embiid's Sixers or Jimmy Butler's Heat (or the Bulls or Hawks), and I'll give their currently imaginary opponent one game in the series. Celtics in five games to advance.

No. 2 New York Knicks vs. No. 7 Philadelphia 76ers

The Knicks have Jalen Brunson and home court advantage but I'm (maybe stupidly) putting my money on Embiid's health and going with the Sixers in six games to advance.

No. 3 Milwaukee Bucks vs. No. 6 Indiana Pacers

This series could be all about the health of Giannis Antetokounmpo vs. the depth of the Pacers. I'm very concerned about the non-contact calf injury Giannis suffered in the final week of the regular season. He could be nearly fully recovered and ready to go for this series after the Play-In Tournament, but I find it hard to believe he'll be moving at full strength. The Pacers won the season series 4-1 when Giannis was healthy, with their high-scoring offense and depth giving the Bucks fits all year. With Antetokounmpo potentially only moving at half speed or strength, you have to think the Pacers are licking their chops and oozing with confidence. I've got the Pacers in six games to advance. 

No. 4 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. No. 5 Orlando Magic

Both of these teams were sneaky good all season long, and the Magic actually made a strong bid late to become the No. 2 seed in the East. They didn't get there and will have their hands full with the Cavaliers and their potent back- and front-court combos. Despite all of Orlando's success this season, the youth and inexperience of Paolo Banchero, a dearth of point guards and Franz Wagner won't be able to hold off the likes of Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen. They tied the season series 2-2, and while this will be a war, I like Cleveland's home-court advantage and have the Cavaliers in six games to advance. 

Eastern Semis

No. 1 Celtics vs. No. 4 Cavaliers

Once again, the Celtics will be too tough for the Cavaliers, or any other team in the East for that matter, and should cruise to another series win. Celtics in five games to advance.

No. 6 Pacers vs. No. 2 Knicks or No. 7 Sixers

The Pacers' luck might run out here, and it would be a nice throw-back situation if they were able to get the Knicks after their historic battles in the 90s. This Pacers team feels like it's destined to do something fun in these playoffs, and I wouldn't put it past them to take out the Knicks to get to the Eastern Conference Finals. In fact, I'm going to call it. Pacers in 7 games to advance. 

Eastern Conference Finals

No. 1 Celtics vs. No. 6 Pacers

Here's where the luck runs out for the Pacers. The best team in the league takes over and heads to the NBA Finals. Celtics in 5 games to advance to Finals. 

Western Conference 

Play-In Tournament

No. 7 New Orleans Pelicans vs. No. 8 Los Angeles Lakers (Tuesday)

No. 9 Sacramento Kings vs. No. 10 Golden State Warriors (Tuesday)

Winner of 9/10 vs. loser of 7/8 (Friday)

Prediction: The Lakers and Warriors will emerge from the Play-In Tournament and join the regular playoffs for Round 1. 

Round 1

No. 1 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. No. 8 seed (Pelicans/Lakers/Kings/Warriors)

The Thunder are young, but I don't care. They also have home court throughout the Western playoffs. As long as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jalen Williams are healthy, they're going to be very tough to beat in a seven-game series. Thunder in six games to advance, regardless of their opponent (I think it will be the Warriors). 

No. 2 Denver Nuggets vs. No. 7 Lakers

Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets will defend their title with everything they have and will be nearly impossible in the West. I'm not even sure LeBron James and Anthony Davis functioning at their highest level can stop the Joker. Nuggets in five games to advance.

No. 3 Minnesota Timberwolves vs. No. 6 Phoenix Suns

Karl-Anthony Towns is back, Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards are playing on another level and this Suns team feels like a dysfunctional family to me. Wolves in six games to advance. 

No. 4 Los Angeles Clippers vs. No. 5 Dallas Mavericks

If you're thinking to yourself, "here comes the homer pick," you're correct. The Clippers haven't looked great in a couple months, Kawhi Leonard is banged up and hasn't played in eight straight games and isn't guaranteed to be ready for this series. Meanwhile, Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving have become besties and the Mavs went on a 16-2 run to close out the season before shutting the starters down in two meaningless losses at the end. Add in that these two teams really don't like each other, and it feels like it's Luka's time to shine, despite no home court. Mavericks in seven games to advance. 

Western Semis

No. 1 Thunder vs. No. 5 Mavericks

I'm sticking with the Luka train and picking the Mavs to take out the Thunder in a thrilling seven-game series. Luka vs. SGA should be a blast to watch. I just think the Mavs feel like they're the hottest team in the league, basically because they are. They're going to need big contributions from Daniel Gafford and P.J. Washington to make this happen, but this team with a healthy Doncic can go all the way if the stars align. Mavericks in seven games to advance to Western Conference Finals. 

No. 2 Nuggets vs. No. 3 Timberwolves

Joker and company will be too much for the Wolves, and they'll move on to face the Mavericks in the WCF. Nuggets in six games to advance. 

Western Conference Finals

No. 2 Nuggets vs. No. 5 Mavericks

As much as I want to keep picking the Mavericks, and I'm going to do it in a little deal with Las Vegas, I'm aware that Jokic is nearly impossible to stop in the playoffs. So I'm sticking to my original preseason prediction that the Nuggets will win the West before falling to the Celtics in the Finals. Nuggets in six games to advance to Finals. 

NBA Finals

Celtics vs. Nuggets

The Celtics will use their health, depth, coaching and backcourt defense to take out Jokic and the Nuggets to win their first championship since 2008. Celtics in 6 games to win the NBA Championship.

Thanks for reading me all year and enjoy the playoffs! 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Steve Alexander
Steve 'Doc' Alexander has been covering hoops for more than 20 years and recently joined Rotowire after spending his entire career at NBC Sports.
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