The 2021 NBA playoffs are finally here after a unique regular season affected by COVID-19, lack of fans, and ten fewer games than usual.
Here’s how the 2021 NBA playoffs first round looks:
Philadelphia 76ers (1) vs Washington Wizards (8)
Brooklyn Nets (2) vs Boston Celtics (7)
Milwaukee Bucks (3) vs Miami Heat (6)
New York Knicks (4) vs Atlanta Hawks (5)
Utah Jazz (1) vs Memphis Grizzlies (8)
Phoenix Suns (2) vs Los Angeles Lakers (7)
Denver Nuggets (3) vs Portland Trail Blazers (6)
Los Angeles Clippers (4) vs Dallas Mavericks (5)
Now that you have seen the eight matchups for the first round of the NBA playoffs, lets jump straight in to my predictions.
Philadelphia 76ers vs Washington Wizards
This is a very interesting matchup, as the Philadelphia 76ers have dominated the Eastern Conference this season, with Joel Embiid putting up an MVP caliber season.
However, the Wizards have a lot of momentum and have changed their season around drastically. After having a 0.6% chance to make the playoffs at 17-32 at the beginning of April, the Wizards stepped on the gas and haven’t looked back since.
My prediction: 76ers in 5.
Brooklyn Nets vs Boston Celtics
The Brooklyn Nets have been dominant in the Eastern Conference this season. After trading for James Harden to form the newest ‘big three’ back in January, and despite injuries, they finished the season strongly at the 2nd seed and are favorites to win the NBA playoffs this season.
The Boston Celtics, however, have had a truly awful season, to say the least. They were arguably the team most by COVID-19, star players being out with injury, and many below-par performances.
The Celtics are without all-star Jaylen Brown after he suffered a torn scapholunate ligament in his left wrist, keeping him out of action until next season.
The Nets have all of their big three back in action in time for the playoffs and look poised to win the NBA championship this season.
My prediction: Nets in 4.
Milwaukee Bucks vs Miami Heat
The Milwaukee Bucks have had a good season, as they have had in previous seasons, with the trio of Giannis Antetokounpo, Jrue Holiday, and Khris Middleton. They enter the NBA playoffs in search of vengeance for last season’s defeat in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Heat.
The Heat are getting hot at the perfect time after a slow start to the season. This is probably due to their shortened offseason and dampened spirits after losing to the Lakers in the NBA finals.
As the Bucks seek retribution, and the Heat look to challenge for the NBA finals after getting so close last time out, this is set to be a very entertaining series and, in my opinion, has the possibility to go to game 7.
My prediction: Bucks in 7.
New York Knicks vs Atlanta Hawks
The New York Knicks have shocked the world this season, making the NBA playoffs for the first time since 2013. Julius Randle has had a breakout season, they added Derrick Rose back to the roster, and head coach Tom Thibodeau has solidified his place in the Coach of the Year award race.
The Hawks, on the other hand, have had an equally impressive season. Capitalizing on poor seasons from the Celtics and Heat, they finished as the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference.
This series is going to be extremely eye-opening for the neutral fans as both sides were not expected to make the play-in tournament, let alone the actual NBA playoffs.
In my opinion, this is a series that can go either way and is more than likely going to a game 7.
My prediction: Knicks in 7.
Utah Jazz vs Memphis Grizzlies
The Jazz have been the story of the Western Conference this year. They had a brilliant season and finished the season 52-20, earning them the top seed out West, with fantastic performances from Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell.
After finishing the regular season as the 9th seed and beating the Spurs and the Warriors to clinch their first playoff berth in four years, the Grizzlies have also had an impressive season. With the help of Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr, and more, they look to have continued success in round one of the NBA Playoffs.
In my opinion, this series is going to be more exciting than people expect, with the Grizzlies firing on all cylinders and carrying great momentum from the play-in tournament.
My prediction: Jazz in 6.
Phoenix Suns vs Los Angeles Lakers
The Suns have had a very good season, to say the least. Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton had solid seasons, and the addition of Chris Paul to give the young team some experience and to orchestrate the offense proved to be the perfect recipe for success.
The Suns finished 51-21, just a game behind the Jazz in the 1st seed.
The reigning NBA champions have had a very unlucky season, being struck with injuries to both Anthony Davis and Lebron James. Despite these injuries and their regular season, we know what the Lakers are capable of, as we mustn’t forget, they are the reigning champs for a reason.
I believe that with a mixture of a lack of playoff experience and the Lakers finally being injury-free, that the Lakers will send the Phoenix Suns packing and move on to the next round of the NBA playoffs.
My prediction: Lakers in 6.
Denver Nuggets vs Portland Trail Blazers
The Nuggets had a good season, with MVP favorite Nikola Jokic guiding them to another playoff berth. Despite the terrible injury for Jamal Murray, Denver still finished the season strongly in a very competitive Western Conference.
The Portland Trail Blazers have also had an impressive season, with the loyal Damian Lillard taking the Blazers to an eighth straight playoff appearance.
I think an upset is in the cards, and Damian Lillard will shine under pressure. The Blazers will send the Nuggets home.
My prediction: Trail Blazers in 6.
Los Angeles Clippers vs Dallas Mavericks
The Clippers are back in the playoffs and ready for revenge after last year’s bottle job against the Nuggets. The Clippers have had to fight through some injuries as well after Paul George was out for a portion of the season due to a foot injury.
The Mavericks have had a fantastic season, finishing in the 5th seed, and face a rematch of their 2020 first-round series as Luka Doncic and company look for revenge.
I think that this series also has the capability to go the distance, and I believe that Luka Doncic can give the Clippers some tough problems.
My prediction: Clippers in 7.
NBA playoffs: Concluding Thoughts
No matter the outcome of the NBA playoffs, I am certain that there will be some thrilling games and hopefully some shocking upsets.
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