We are excited about the NBA starting back up again, especially for the 2020 NBA playoffs. For the past four months, we have been anxiously awaiting the return of sports. Now that basketball and hockey are returning, life is good once again.
We will break down each first-round matchup and then talk about who we see proceeding to the conference semi-finals, conference finals, and NBA finals. These matchups are based on the current standings, before the play-in tournament to determine the 8th seeds.
Milwaukee vs. Orlando:Embed from Getty Images
Without Bradley Beal, Washington is not going to make the 2020 NBA playoffs. Therefore, Orlando will be the 8th seed. Speaking of which, is there anything we have to say about this matchup? Orlando is not going to win this unless they hit every 3-pointer they take, but that is unlikely. The Bucks have been the best team in the regular season. They have the best offense and defense across the league. However, Orlando has been excellent this season on the defensive end, with help from Jonathan Isaac, Aaron Gordon, and Nikola Vucevic.
The Bucks win in 4.
Toronto vs. Brooklyn:
Again, another playoff matchup that does any explanation. This would be a completely different situation if Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the lineup. However, with both superstars, DeAndre Jordan, and possibly Spencer Dinwiddie sidelined, there’s no hope in hell for the Nets. I feel like Caris LeVert could drop 25+ PPG during this series. It sucks Michael Beasley won’t play for the Nets either, but we can see Jamal Crawford ball out which is something I look forward to watch in the NBA Playoffs.
The Raptors win in 4.
Boston vs. Philadelphia:Embed from Getty Images
This is a playoff matchup I cannot wait to watch in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. It, without a doubt, is the best matchup in the Eastern Conference. With this excitement, I am conflicted about who will win the matchup. With Ben Simmons moved to the power forward position, it opens up spacing for the 76ers, and better so if Ben is willing to shoot the ball. Joel as well needs to drop 22+ points and 10+ rebounds to push the 76ers past the Celtics. Joel can easily do this as well, since he does not have to play against Al Horford again, but instead Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter. We cannot forget to mention Richardson, Harris, Korkmaz, and Milton, who can easily be a threat offensively. If Harris can give you 20, Richardson 15, Milton with 12 and Korkmaz with 10, those 57 points will not easily be replaced by the Celtics.
For the Celtics, they need their big four to step up, especially Tatum. He may even have to guard Ben, which is a task I believe he can accomplish. Hayward should be able to be a spark off the C’s bench and help their matchup against Horford and Alec Burks. With Brown and Smart being able to defend multiple positions, this will only benefit the Celtics. Who wins this matchup? It can go either way. I wouldn’t be surprised if the 76ers beat the Celtics. However, with Tatum playing on the verge of a superstar, an offensively skilled Kemba, a versatile defender in Brown, and a Pitbull in Smart, I will give them a slight edge. As I said, this series goes either way, and any mistake will prove to be fatal for either team.
Celtics in 7.
Miami vs. Indiana:
Speaking of an exciting series, this will be an outstanding matchup. Indiana, without Oladipo, has done exceptionally well with Sabonis, Brogdon, and Turner leading the march. Indiana has shot a lot of points from inside the arc, instead of outside. 58.9% of their points result from 2-pointers. When dealing with Miami, who have several shooters that can quickly light it up, you cannot outscore them with 2 points. Indiana had a top-10 defense in the league this season. Indiana will be covering Jimmy, Herro, Adebayo, Nunn, and the others. Since Oladipo is returning to play, this will only benefit Indiana. However, it depends whether having sat out for a while effects his play. I believe he will do well this series and push Miami to load up on defense.
We all know what Miami brings on both sides of the floor. Jimmy, who brought a lot of trouble to Toronto last year in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, can do it all, except for shoot 3’s to a certain extent. I enjoyed the evolution of Bam Adebayo this year on both sides of the floor, but being matched up with Turner might be difficult for Bam. Even if Bam struggles against Turner, expect Herro, Leonard, and Robinson to step up, as they are deadly shooters. The significant risk for Indiana is, can you contain any of these players from staying hot? If not, expect to be torched. The leadership Jimmy brings to his team as well, is an excellent factor in Miami’s success, not to mention the leadership Haslem, Dragic, and Iguodala bring.
Heat win in 6.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Memphis:
LeBron and his team win this series in 4 games, let’s not joke around. I firmly am torn on whether the Trail Blazers will catch up to the Grizzlies or whether they stay put. Considering that Memphis has one of the hardest schedules for the in-play tournament, it will be a rough road ahead. If I had to pick, I believe the Trail Blazers will be in the 8th spot and play the Lakers. If this is the case, the Lakers would win in 6, because Damian Lillard and company are brutal to play against. However, we are basing this off on the current 8th seeds and matchups, so the Grizzlies don’t have any hope to get past LeBron and AD. Props to the Grizzlies though on having a better than expected season. They are a force to come in the future and even though they are going home shorthanded, they will gain experience, which will be all they need.
Lakers in 4.
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Dallas:Embed from Getty Images
Shoutout to Mark Cuban. This series is an excuse for me to include a photo of him. But his Dallas Mavericks could be a potential sleeper in these NBA playoffs. I loved what Luka Doncic has done with the Mavericks this season. If the whole team is healthy, including Dwight Powell, they bring a lot of energy to each game, which could offset the Clippers. Will this happen, though? Well, probably not. We understand how stacked the Clippers are currently, and many see them as the team to win it all. What’s most important is that all of their pieces fit well together. Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris Sr. need to play off the ball well, bring playmaking, and be great defensively. Paul George, Kawhi, and Lou Williams are going to do their thing. Beverley will be a menace as always, and Harrell needs to step up more defensively. If this all happens, not only should the Mavericks watch out, but the rest of the playoff teams should also. Strictly for this matchup, I solely do believe the Clippers won’t have a problem beating Dallas, but Dallas will take a couple of games. Kawhi will not need to lift the Clippers every game during this series.
Clippers in 6.
Denver vs. Houston:
The bigs vs. the non-bigs. I want to see P.J. Tucker guard Nikola Jokic just because. In all seriousness, Houston was led on the backs of James Harden and Russell Westbrook, who fully started to come into his own in the last part of the season. I wouldn’t say I like how inconsistent James Harden can be as a scorer, but I have to acknowledge he is a fantastic scorer. I do not trust Westbrook to shoot the ball, which I believe that the Nuggets will allow him to do. It’s good that the Rockets surrounded the duo with some scorers and good defenders, it will provide for spacing all across the floor, which could expose the Nuggets defense.
On the other hand, the Nuggets will do well and score a lot of points in the paint. I like Millsap, Grant, and Jokic to score against the Rockets’ defense. Jamal Murray might not do horrible during the NBA playoffs, but could be somewhat inconsistent in certain games, which could hurt the Nuggets. Gary Harris will need to step up his game, as he has had a disappointing season. I think he can certainly do it, and he needs to provide 15 points a night with great defense. If the Nuggets can contain Westbrook, that definitely could be the deciding factor for the Nuggets winning the series. I do believe the Nuggets win this series because of their offensive power and their excellent defense. If the Nuggets can contain everyone not named Harden or Westbrook, the duo will miss enough shots that the Nuggets can take advantage of.
Nuggets in 6.
Utah vs. Thunder:Embed from Getty Images
Will Mitchell and Gobert’s relationship affect their title run? This remains to be seen. However, they are going to miss Bojan Bogdanovic as he currently sits out with his injury. The Jazz will need another scorer to step up in order to have a title run for the NBA playoffs. They need Conley to step up and not be disappointing as he was in the regular season. Conley has the potential to step up, and I believe he can score 18 or more a game. That could be asking a lot, though. Clarkson will have great games, and Ingles will be great defensively and impact the offense without the large stats. We know they are going to be just fine defensively without Bojan.
For the Thunder, I believe Chris Paul has some tricks still left up his sleeve. I am curious to see who Shai will play against during this matchup. Will he be able to score 20 or more against Conley or Mitchell? I think he will average either 17 or 18 a game, which will still help the Thunder win games. Steven Adams will clean the boards against Gobert. Gallinari and Schroder will score their points, while Andre Roberson will likely guard Mitchell. However, in this case, I feel that the Jazz’s defense will overpower the Thunder’s offense. This series will be low scoring, but with the clutch players the Thunder have, I am going to have them winning against the Jazz. It will not be easy though.
Thunder win in a tough 7 game series.
Eastern Conference Semi-Finals:
Milwaukee vs. Miami:
Can Miami beat the Bucks? Miami beat the Bucks in their lone matchup within the regular season. I don’t think we should rule Miami out in this case because they could surprise us all. They limited Giannis to only 13 points, which signifies the excellent defense Miami would display in this potential matchup. At the same time, Khris Middleton struggled that game as well, so if both of your all-stars are going to struggle, there’s no chance for Milwaukee. At the same time, this was only one game, and they will play another during the tournament before the NBA playoffs start.
For Milwaukee, it’s all about playing that elite defense they did this season. They need to limit Miami’s shooters and force them into the paint where Lopez and Giannis will be. Bledsoe could play big during this season, as he has been streaky within the playoffs, especially last year. That way, he can help offset if either Middleton or Giannis struggles, which could likely happen. Expect Miami’s bench to outperform the Bucks’.
I believe Miami can win this series, as long as they contain Giannis and force the Bucks to shoot. If that happens, I have Miami taking this series in 6 games of the. If Giannis comes out with force, he could change the entire NBA playoffs.
Miami in 6.
Toronto vs. Boston:Embed from Getty Images
If Tatum plays on that superstar level he was verging on before the season ends, how does Toronto defend him? The great thing about Toronto in this series is the defenders they have. The list is long, and the players can switch and defend multiple positions, which will only benefit the Raptors. The same can be said about Boston, however. So for Toronto, Kyle Lowry will need to have a great playoff series against the Celtics. He has played well against Boston already this season, so he should be able to put up 18 or so a game. Siakam might be the one who struggles as the Celtics’ defenders will force him to shoot and be a playmaker. He might struggle offensively, but defensively he will be useful as ever and will most likely need to switch on Tatum at times.
For Boston, Kemba needs to play some decent defense, or else Lowry will take advantage. Tatum and Brown will be playing against multiple defenders but will likely still put up their numbers. In this series, only 3 of the big four will need to score 20 or more to put significant pressure on the Raptors. Especially with Hayward coming off the bench, he can be an X-factor for the Celtics on the floor, playing against the Raptors’ bench. All the Celtics need to do is outscore the Raptors and defend Siakam heavily on the inside.
Boston can easily take this series and go to the finals, however, with the Raptors, they have multiple scorers that can put up 15 a night, especially Terence Davis and Norman Powell. With the Celtics focusing on defending Lowry, Siakam, FVV, and others, it opens more room for their depth to score. As well, having defenders basically on every roster spot plays to their advantage and will for the entirety of the NBA playoffs.
Toronto in 6 games.
Western Conference Semi-Finals:
Lakers vs. Thunder:
A matchup between Chris Paul and LeBron James, who would have predicted this early in the season? Well, let’s keep this short. The Thunder does not have any defenders containing either LeBron or AD, meaning the Lakers should be able to beat the Thunder in 5 or 6 games. With that said, the Thunder’s defense just needs to defend the other players on the Lakers roster. Although the Lakers have good defensive players, I like Shai going into this matchup. I think this is where he will shine for the Thunder as Shai will drop a high number of points. Gallinari will score 20 or more during this series while Adams tries to defend AD on the inside. All of these factors will not be enough to get past the Lakers.
Lakers take this series in 5 games.
Clippers vs. Nuggets:Embed from Getty Images
In a fun matchup that will play out, I don’t believe the Nuggets have enough defenders to handle the Clippers’ offensively skilled roster. Kawhi and PG will post a threat to Gary Harris, Torey Craig, and Jeremy Grant. Harrell will be matched up against Jokic, which is a matchup he will lose. Murray will have a challenge being guarded by Beverley. Unless Jokic plays on a God tier and makes everyone 100% better than what they currently are, the Clippers take this series within 5 or 6 games.
Clippers win against the Nuggets in 5 games.
Miami vs. Toronto:Embed from Getty Images
Jimmy finally gets a chance at revenge to dismantle the Raptors after Kawhi ended the 76ers playoff run last year. Will he get his revenge? Miami’s toughness may outmatch the Raptors. Be ready to see Jimmy handling the ball more against the Raptors and attacking the inside. If he doesn’t score, expect him to pass to those lethal shooters on the floor. For the Raptors, it could be ideal for forcing Jimmy to shoot. However, he can make those shots more than it seems.
In both matchups this season, Miami won both my double digits. I fully expect this to be a defensive battle to the end. With Adebayo guarding Siakam, expect the paint to be clogged once again. What I expect to be a difference-maker, is whose bench outperforms the others. Both teams have great guards and forwards coming off the bench that either provide a defensive boost or offensive firepower. Matt Thomas can be an X-factor for the Raptors, and it seems like they have been saving him all season for those big games. If he can catch fire in any quarter, be warned Miami, he brings the heat.
Both sides need several players to score 10-15 points a night while providing exceptional defense. If one fails to do so, it won’t play out well. In another grit and grind playoff series that goes to game 7, I will take the Raptors, due to experience. Not to say Miami has none, but a majority of their players have little to no playoff experience, which certainly matters.
Raptors return to the finals after beating Miami in 7 games.
Lakers vs. Clippers:Embed from Getty Images
This is the series we’ve been waiting for roughly a year now. Many people have sided with the Lakers, others with the Clippers. But who will win? Does this series go to 7 games? I believe it goes to 6 games.
The Lakers will pound the inside during this matchup. Harrell will struggle against Davis. Speaking of which, Anthony Davis will likely average 25 points and at least double digits in rebounds this series. No one can guard him, maybe Kawhi, because of how well he defended Giannis last postseason, but I imagine he will be guarding LeBron. What the Lakers would benefit from would be Danny Green’s offensive game appearing. Ever since playing in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals against Philly last year, Danny Green struggled offensively. If he can give you a couple of 3’s a night, that would benefit the Lakers. As well, the Lakers are going to miss Avery Bradley during this series, even with the addition of J.R. Smith. If Rondo is able to comeback for this series let alone any earlier series, he will outplay Reggie Jackson in every aspect.
For the Clippers, expect Harrell to get his points and Lou Williams to score as he typically does. The biggest X-factor for the Clippers is Paul George. He hasn’t performed particularly well over the past couple of offseasons, at least not to the standard he plays in the regular season. But we cannot underestimate the Lakers’ defense, as it has been spectacular this season with help from Davis and Vogel. Kawhi will do Kawhi; we can’t deny that. As long as the entire roster meshes with each other, meaning Morris Sr., Jackson and others play well off each other, the Clippers can beat the Lakers. This team has several players that need the ball in their hands to be productive, and there is no real playmaker on this team, which could hurt them across any playoff series.
In the end, I do have the Clippers beating out the Lakers. I feel that the players will mesh well enough to beat out the Lakers. Their defense will play a key in helping hold LeBron down and limit AD to some extent. Kawhi will hit those clutch shots we’re accustomed to seeing, and Kawhi will face his old team in the finals.
Clippers in 6 games as Kawhi faces his old team.
Toronto Raptors vs. Los Angeles Clippers:Embed from Getty Images
This would be a marvelous matchup for us to witness as Kawhi would face his old teammates and team that he helped provide a championship. Imagine, that. It would be a good way to end the NBA playoffs.
During this matchup, Kawhi will have no trouble against Toronto’s defenders. Nurse will throw multiple bodies on him. However, Kawhi should be able to handle it. Harrell off the bench will need to battle against Ibaka, which will be another good matchup. I like Ibaka’s defense, and I think it may shine against Harrell within this series. Marc will also have some high scoring games as he takes advantage of Zubac’s defense. Kyle will likely struggle against Beverley because it’s a match against the dogs; however, Kyle will still have his games where he puts up 17 or more. Watch for FVV as the Clippers will be defending every other position, so this should hopefully open up some more shots for Freddy.
The Clippers still have players who can score the ball, which might offset some of Toronto’s defenders. Paul George will face a lot of players as Nurse will also likely use a lot of switches. Overall, the Clippers should be able to contain Siakam as well. Siakam will probably be guarded by Kawhi, which again, will force him to shoot or pass.
Overall, I have the Clippers winning the 2020 NBA playoffs. Kawhi outshines the Raptors to win his 2nd consecutive championship, while the Raptors and myself are left bittersweet of another championship.
Clippers in 6 games as Kawhi is named Finals MVP of this NBA playoffs in Orlando.
Some of the stats provided were used from the NBA website.
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Here’s to a great rest of 2020 for everyone.