With the Portland Trailblazers defeating the Memphis Grizzles Saturday afternoon, the first-ever NBA seeding games are now complete; we can finally say NBA playoff basketball is back….. in mid-August?
Here are my predictions for this years NBA Bubble Playoffs from the Western Conference. For the Eastern Conference: click here
(1) Los Angeles Lakers v. (8) Portland Trailblazers
The Lakers find themselves in the playoffs for the first time since 2013, and they have championship aspirations. They go up against the Portland Trailblazers who are 7-2 in the bubble, with the unanimous bubble MVP Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum who had a very clutch performance in their play-in game. They will be no match for the LA Lakers, who are well-rested and have two of the top players in the entire league, mixed with an above-average bench. I think missing their two forwards Trevor Ariza (opt-out) and Rodney Hood (Achilles tear) will hinder them on the defensive end. The Lakers take this one easily.
Lakers in 5
(2) Los Angeles Clippers v. (7) Dallas Mavericks
This matchup is very, very interesting. You have the Dallas Mavericks, who have one of the best, young 1-2 combos in the league with Kristaps Porzingis and Luka Doncic. They have the third-best scoring offense but also feature one of the worst defenses in the NBA. The LA Clippers are as stacked as they come. Offense, defense, the coaching, rebounding, the Clippers might have on of, if not the best rosters in all of the NBA. I think the coaching matchup is close, but the overall skill gap between the two rosters is so glaring, I see the Clippers winning, but not as easily as their LA counterpart.
Clippers in 6
(3) Denver Nuggets v. (6) Utah Jazz
The obvious matchup to look for Rudy Gobert and Nikola Jokic. The best offensive big in the game going up against the two-time defensive player of the year. Jokic has dominated in their three matchups, averaging 29.3 points, 12 rebounds, and 9 assists per game, while shooting 56% from the field against the Utah Jazz this season, with a 30-21-10 triple-double mixed in there. I think not having Bojan Bogdanovic as their secondary scoring option hinders the Jazz to the point where they can double team Donovan Mitchell and not have to worry about any other consistent threat on the offensive end. The addition of Michael Porter Jr. mixed with Jamal Murray will be too much for the Jazz to overcome.
Nuggets in 6
(4) OKC Thunder v. (5) Houston Rockets
With Russell Westbrook likely to miss “a few games” of this series with a strained right quadricep, I think that will be too much for Houston to overcome. They do have no real true bigs, so if they’re missing shots, the second chance point more than likely won’t be there. I also think that OKC isn’t here by fluke, they’re actually this good. Please do not sleep on the ability of the Thunder to win this series. The only way I can see Houston winning is if James Harden goes off for 40+ and the “others” hit their shots, especially from three. If they struggle to hit threes, they just won’t get the offensive rebounds and will also give up a lot of second-chance points.
OKC in 6