We guarantee that this year we’ll all be watching a Game 7 in what will be one of the most talked about championship series in NBA history. Neither side of the NBA playoff bracket has a for sure team that is going to make the Finals. Sure, everyone is expecting a Golden State vs. Cleveland rematch of last year’s championship series. But there’s no guarantee. First off, the Western Conference has three championship-caliber teams that are currently leading the way. Of course, Golden State is the favorite heading into the postseason but it’s tough to count out either San Antonio or Houston as both of those teams look like they would top the Eastern Conference if they had the opportunity.
Looking at the Eastern Conference gets even hazier. It’s easy to think that the No. 1 seed is set for success, but that seems more wrong than ever. The one vs. eight seed is normally a lock. Well, Chicago has won six of eight regular season games against the top two teams in the conference. It’d be tough to find a better suited eight seed in the history of the NBA and this might be a year of upsets unlike we’ve ever seen before … at least in the Eastern Conference. But there’s no doubt about it, one of the top-3 teams in the West will be playing for a championship trophy come the end of this postseason run.
As always, there will be ups and downs for the teams on top. Some of the guys at the bottom will have glimmers of hope, while others will just lose right away. Here, we’ll predict every series and let you know the outcome of each one. Some of the series will be four-game blowouts, while others will be seven-game thrillers. We’ll predict them all with this list and let you know who will make it to the finals. Will it be a Cavs/Warriors rematch? Read on to find out.
15. EAST ROUND 1: (1)BOSTON CELTICS DEFEAT (8)CHICAGO BULLS, 4-2
Like we said before, the Bulls are a very scary team for how low they’re ranked heading into the 2017 NBA postseason. But out of the six games they won against the Eastern Conference’s top two teams (out of a total of eight games against the Cavs and Celtics), only two of those wins came against Boston.
It’s like the Cavs purposefully lost the No. 1 spot because they’re not worried about playing at home (look at what happened in last year’s Finals), and they have played terrible against Chicago this season. Unfortunately for the Bulls, the Celtics do not have the same struggles. These two teams will likely split the first games, then Chicago will steal a game late in the series. But it won’t be enough for the Bulls to continue their postseason run, though, it will show some of the Celtics weaknesses as Boston won’t always be at the top of its game.
14. WEST ROUND 1: (1)GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS DEFEAT (8)PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS, 4-0
C’mon, what did you think was going to happen here. No matter who filled in the eighth seed for the Western Conference, there was no shot at dethroning the Warriors. Moreover, there was no shot that any team in this position was going to even win a game. That’s how the Warriors are going to roll through the first two rounds of the postseason – without a loss.
When you’ve got a team built like the Warriors it’s going to take a very special type of opposition to take them down, and the West has just one squad with the ability to do that (but will get to that a bit later). As for this matchup, it will go mostly like the regular season for the Trail Blazers. Portland lost all four matchups against Golden State, a couple were blowouts and a couple were just single-digit defeats. To be honest, the Trail Blazers should consider it a win if they can manage a single-digit loss in this series.
13. EAST ROUND 1: (2)CLEVELAND CAVALIERS DEFEAT (7)INDIANA PACERS, 4-1
LeBron gets it. No matter how well he plays, anything less than a championship ring is considered a failure for the league’s most scrutinized and the world’s best basketball player. Heck, it’s what he’s been expecting for years. Early in his career there was just far too much weight placed on a barely-20 year old, but that has groomed him to take this sort of pressure. Regardless if injuries take down his surrounding cast, King James has shown that time and time again he can lead teams to the Finals. He did it throughout his first stint with the Cavs nearly every season.
This season will be no different. No matter what the guys around him do, LeBron will fuel Cleveland through the first round without an issue (spoiler alert – he’ll make it relatively easy to get through the second round, too.) This series will be like everyone should expect. Sure, the Pacers will make it look different as they will win the first game. But the Cavs will crush down any of Indiana’s hopes as they will win four-straight games.
12. WEST ROUND 1: (2)SAN ANTONIO SPURS DEFEAT (7)MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES, 4-1
There was a split 2-2 regular season series for these two teams. That type of competition means that the Grizzlies will probably steal some meaningless game, but the Spurs will win this series without issue. This series won’t be much entertainment for those who like watching nail-biting thrillers and overtime bouts. This will be a string of quietly dominant victories, like the Spurs continuously have done in their past playoff runs.
But that’s almost what you have to expect with the first round of the playoffs. The No. 1 and No. 2 team’s rarely lose. Sure, a second ranked team will go down once and a while, but that’s not going to happen in this year’s postseason. If you were looking to read about some upsets, this round surely isn’t the place. But there will be some shakeups coming up a bit later.
11. EAST ROUND 1: (3)TORONTO RAPTORS DEFEAT (6)MILWAUKEE BUCKS, 4-2
For the third time in the Eastern Conference first round, the top seed will win, but it’ll take six games to knock out the lower seeded team in this matchup. Milwaukee does have underrated talent, but the also underrated team up north also goes largely unnoticed. They get overshadowed by the teams at the top, the team that won last year’s Finals or the losing teams in big markets. Yeah, Toronto was at the top at the East (but that’s only because the NBA puts too many teams in the postseason), it’s hard to focus on the guys who won more than 60 games in the East.
As for the regular season, the Raptors won three of the four matchups. Milwaukee did end up winning the final matchup on March 4, 101-94, but that shouldn’t be any reason to think that they will continue that streak into the postseason. They’ll probably get a couple on their home court in this series. But don’t expect anything more.
10. WEST ROUND 1: (6)OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER DEFEAT (3)HOUSTON ROCKETS, 4-3
Russell Westbrook is playing way too good to go down in the first round. Some will argue that James Harden is doing the same. It’s really a toss up, but for the first time everything is focused on Westbrook and that’s done great things for his game. It’s the first year without Kevin Durant and he’s going to do everything to get to a Western Finals matchup with Golden State.
You can say a lot of similar things about Harden. But it just feels like Westbrook has more to prove this season. But this series is as close to a toss up as it gets. It’s similar to the MVP race. These guys have just played so well that it’s tough to pick a winner. No doubt, the series will be a back-and-forth struggle for both teams, but those are the type of series that are fun to watch. This is, without a doubt, the highlight series of the first round.
9. EAST ROUND 1: (4)WASHINGTON WIZARDS DEFEAT (5)ATLANTA HAWKS, 4-2
Although this series is relatively evenly matched, Washington is going to win a couple games early then trade off wins an losses for the remainder of the series. The comparisons can go on for a while with these two teams. You’ve got big man with comparable playing styles and there’s no clear advantage going into the postseason, which goes the same for the ball handlers up front.
This series win is one of the first round series that we placed more weight on the team’s regular season matchup. Washington won three of the four games and has a three-game win streak going against the Hawks, so momentum is slightly edged to the Wizards. Although the Hawks guys like Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard are playing good right now, they have just six weeks left in their season.
8. WEST ROUND 1: (4)LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS DEFEAT (5)UTAH JAZZ, 4-1
In what became the final spot decided in this year’s playoffs (well just the seeding as we already knew this matchup was coming well before we knew who would be ranked higher), we have two teams who have identical records – 51-31. But the Clippers hold the regular season edge, 3-1. Judging off of those regular season results, we should expect at least a couple low scoring games to leak into this series, and Utah will most likely be able to capture a win in one of those contests.
But as good as the Jazz have played this year it’s just too hard to think they’ll be able to match up with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Sure, Gordon Hayward holds the edge over Luc Mbah a Moute, but that isn’t enough of a margin to negate the Clippers powerful lineup. The only way Utah is winning this series is if Griffin can’t play meaningful minutes throughout most of the series.
7. EAST ROUND 2: (4)WASHINGTON WIZARDS DEFEAT (1)BOSTON CELTICS, 4-3
This series will turn out to be the biggest upset of the postseason. Sure, we’re all going to be enthralled with the West this year, but the Eastern conference will gain our attention back as the Wizards will push the Celtics to game seven. Washington has quietly moved up to the top of the league and momentum built from the first round will vault them over the Celtics, who are just going to get worn out be the end of this series.
This isn’t far-fetched to believe that Washington can keep up with Boston. In the last three matchups between these two teams, Boston holds a 2-1 edge, but the two Wizards losses were by just single digits. They already know they can keep up with the best ranked team in the East, now they will prove the ability to take them down when it matters most. Expect John Wall and Marcin Gortat to be all over the highlight real after this one.
6. WEST ROUND 2: (1)GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS DEFEAT (4)LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS, 4-0
Golden State shouldn’t have anything to prove, but adding Kevin Durant to the equation makes this team an early lock for a championship ring if you would ask most fans. And that’s going to force them to play without hesitation and just pummel the Clippers in four-straight games. Sure, the Warriors talent will get them through the first two rounds without much of an issue, but Golden State is nowhere near a team that is locked into the Finals. As we mentioned before, that’s largely due to the extreme divide in the Western Conference. The teams at the bottom were pretty bad, but the teams at the top are really, really, scarily good. Golden State may ease past the Clippers without flinching, but there will be some struggles ahead. Now we’ve got one side of the Warriors/Thunder conference finals, let’s see if Oklahoma City can take down San Antonio.
5. EAST ROUND 2: (2)CLEVELAND CAVALIERS DEFEAT (3)TORONTO RAPTORS, 4-2
As long as LeBron James doesn’t sprain his ankle in the first series of the playoffs, you’ll see Cleveland slide past the Raptors and get right back to the Eastern Conference Finals. Sure, the Raptors won a meaningless game against the Cavs at the end of the regular season to even out the team’s regular season records, but that doesn’t truly depict the power that each lineup brings into this matchup.
Sure, the Raptors will get through the first round because of how well DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry are playing right now. They’ll even steal away a couple of early games in this series. But we’ve all seen how the Cavs can turn things around late in the series. The trio of James, Kevin Love and Kyree Irving is just going to overwhelm Toronto too much and the Cavs aren’t going to surprise anyone by returning to the Eastern Conference Finals. Cleveland will look poised at another championship run at this point, and at this point the team will be the favorites to win it all.
4. WEST ROUND 2: (2)SAN ANTONIO SPURS DEFEAT (6)OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER, 4-3
Like we said before, Russell Westbrook is going to do everything in his power to get that Warriors/Thunder matchup. Not only will he be recording triple-doubles just about every game, he’ll be the best individual player in the postseason throughout the early rounds. Although the entire Thunders roster gets better when Westbrook posts good individual stats, the team will not be able to take down the all-around powerhouse that is San Antonio this season.
The Spurs have just too many guys that have been here before to fall to an under matched team. Of course, Manu Ginobili, Pau Gasol and Tony Parker won’t be the guys making consistent crucial plays, but when this series gets to game seven, they’ll be the guys the Spurs are happy are still in the league. But the threats coming from Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge will make them look like the favorites in the West.
3. EASTERN FINALS: (1)CLEVELAND CAVALIERS DEFEAT (4)WASHINGTON WIZARDS, 4-3
We have seen how one man cannot do it all. No matter how well LeBron performs, he cannot get to the Finals without his surrounding cast stepping up. So, Cleveland fans will hope that Kyree Irving and Kevin Lover both show up and stay fresh through the end of the postseason. If not, the Cavs won’t be celebrating a championship for the second-straight year. But c’mon Clevelanders, you just got your first championship in such a long time, that should hold you off for, say, another 50 years.
But the Cavs will get another shot at the Finals as again, we see the Cavs go from a slumping start to a powerful finish. Washington will post some meaningful wins and prove to be worthy of this playoff run, but the Wizards are no match to a Cleveland team that really looks like a championship squad if the guys on the Cavs play how we all expect. Unfortunately, Washington is just no match for a team very similar to the guys who won the last championship.
2. WESTERN FINALS: (2)SAN ANTONIO SPURS DEFEAT (1)GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, 4-2
The top two teams in the league face off here. Even though we have Cleveland returning to the championship, this series will be more hyped up then the Finals. That’s what has to happen when you’ve got two of the NBA’s biggest fan bases watching two of the NBA’s best teams. The athletic talent coming from Golden State is almost too much to comprehend, but the Spurs will keep the score low, stay strong on defense and power through on offense for this victory.
This will be a series that highlights the fact that Stephen Curry gets worse while Kevin Durant is on the court in pressure situations. And Durant isn’t able to function as well with Curry besides him. After this series, we’ll be seeing either Durant or Curry or both departing from Golden State and looking for a new team to start for next season.
1. NBA FINALS: NO. (2)SAN ANTONIO SPURS DEFEAT (1)CLEVELAND CAVALIERS, 4-3
This will bring some frightening flashbacks for LeBron James. Although Warriors seem so powerful, LeBron and his surrounding cast know how to win in Golden State and would have preferred to go against the league’s top team. But in this series, San Antonio will emerge on top as the best team in the NBA. Unfortunately for the league’s best player, he’ll be reminded of his younger days when San Antonio shut down Cleveland with ease in the Finals (but this year is a completely different look from those early days, though San Antonio does still have some familiar faces).
The reality will be that San Antonio is just better prepped to defend LeBron. Kawhi Leonard has done it before and will do it again and again and again in this years finals. Plus the other guys in San Antonio won’t be a bad subsition when Leonard needs his rest, if he needs his rest. This series will go to a game seven, but Cleveland won’t see magic strike a second time this year.
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