Photo by Arthur Puu // Spark Sports

The NBA Playoffs are finally here and so is the time for us to make predictions!

At first, when looking at the first round, there wasn’t much suspense compared to previous seasons. However, with a few storylines heating up the conclusion of the regular season, such as the Westbrook-Harden MVP matchup, Kevin Durant’s recovery, the Celtics rise to power and the Cavaliers nose-dive down the stretch of the regular season, all of a sudden things are much more interesting.

Here is our panel of NBA experts and their predictions for all the first-round series:

Charles Post: Spark Sports NBA Analyst – @sparkcharles23

Jensen Toussaint: Spark Sports Editor – @JensenThaMan

DeAsia Paige: Spark Sports Editor – @deasia_paige

Jack Guindi: Spark Sports NBA Analyst – @Spark_Sports_

Dylan Nuzzo: Spark Sports NBA Analyst – @HeavyD2011

Arthur Puu: Spark Sports Editor – @arthurpuu

Shawn Valdrighi: Spark Sports Editor – @ShawnValdrighi

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE

No. 1 Golden State Warriors vs. No. 8 Portland Trail Blazers

Charles Post: Over the last month of the year, Golden State simply looked unbeatable and they’ll showcase that in the First Round. WARRIORS in FIVE

Jensen Toussaint: The Warriors ended the season looking every bit like the team that ended last year 73-9. The Trail Blazers enter the playoffs as one of the better teams, post All-Star break. Damian Lillard has been spectacular, and so has CJ McCollum. However, the Warriors are far too talented, far too explosive, far too great to not win this series. WARRIORS in FOUR

DeAsia Paige:  There is no doubt that the Warriors will win. They have Kevin Durant back now and will breeze past this series. Although Damian Lillard says that his team will win in six games, it’s hard to see the Trail Blazers to halt the Warriors’ success, especially right now. WARRIORS in FOUR

Jack Guindi: Golden State have way too much talent to even lose a game to the Blazers. WARRIORS in FOUR

Dylan Nuzzo: The Warriors are THE best offensive team entering this year’s playoffs. Sorry Blazers fans, better luck next year. WARRIORS in SIX

Arthur Puu: The return of Kevin Durant will be an interesting storyline to watch. Sure, the Lillard-McCollum led Blazers must have confidence after pushing the Warriors to five games in the second round last season, but the Warriors simply outmatch the duo’s star power with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson in the backcourt. Remember, the Warriors didn’t have Stephen Curry for the first three matches in last season’s second round matchup due to a knee injury and Golden State still won in five games. WARRIORS in FIVE

Shawn Valdrighi: The Warriors should take care of business in their opening series against the Trail-Blazers, though expect a hiccup game as Golden State is adjusting to having Kevin Durant back in the rotation. Ultimately, I don’t think that this series will impact Chance The Rapper’s concert at Oracle. You’re welcome Chance. WARRIORS in FIVE

 

No. 2 San Antonio Spurs vs. No. 7 Memphis Grizzlies

Charles Post: Memphis was downright bad over the last three weeks, and without Tony Allen, they have no chance. SPURS in FOUR

Jensen Toussaint: When healthy, the Grizzlies are a team known to give the Spurs some troubles over the years. With the likelihood of Tony Allen being unable to play this series, that takes away a huge element of their team. That just heightens the Spurs chances, which was already great. They should be able to win this series and not take very long to do it. SPURS in FIVE

DeAsia Paige: The Spurs will win. It’s that simple. SPURS in FOUR 

Jack Guindi: The Spurs are a really scary team to face in the playoffs. Nobody can upset the two-way excellence the Spurs have shown all year. SPURS in FIVE

Dylan Nuzzo: The Spurs have best coach in league. Done, and done. SPURS in FOUR.

Arthur Puu: The Grizzlies, led by first-year Head Coach Dave Fizdale, struggled late in the season, dropping nine of the last 12 games to fall to the seventh seed. Their late season slide does lead them to a first round matchup against the Spurs, who they have matched up well after splitting the regular season series, 2-2. However, the Grizzlies will have to grind if they hope to win this series, as they are banged up and are on the wrong side of youth. Behind Gregg Popovich and Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs should ride on. SPURS in FIVE

Shawn Valdrighi: San Antonio, like Golden State against Portland, should sweep the Grizzlies, but I err on the side of caution and give the Memphis defense a win. In the end, Kawhi Leonard and this Spurs squad will be too much for the Grizzlies. SPURS in FIVE

 

No. 3 Houston Rockets vs. No. 6 Oklahoma City Thunder

Charles Post: This series is going to be fun! MVP candidate vs. MVP candidate! Russell Westbrook and James Harden will show out, but Houston will advance. ROCKETS in SIX

Jensen Toussaint: The top-two candidates for this year’s MVP award going at it in the playoffs is something we all wanted to see! This should be a great, high-scoring series with insane averages from both Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Harden has the better supporting cast and better shooting, whereas Westbrook has been nearly a one-man team all year. More times than not, full teams usually beat one-man teams. ROCKETS in SIX

DeAsia Paige: This series will settle the MVP debate. As we have seen all season, Russell Westbrook will be outstanding and get triple-doubles. But even that might not be enough to win the series because of Houston having the slightly better bench. However, this series will be a close one. ROCKETS in SEVEN

Jack Guindi: The Rockets are a way more complete team compared to the Thunder. The Thunder is kind of a one man show from Russ, while the Rockets have one of the most powerful offenses in the NBA. ROCKETS in SIX

Dylan Nuzzo: James Harden is the MVP in my opinion. However, it will be a great battle between Harden and Westbrook to determine who is the REAL MVP. ROCKETS in FIVE

Arthur Puu: Everyone’s talking about the MVP battle between Westbrook and Harden, but outside of those two stars, it doesn’t fare well for Westbrook. The Rockets simply have too much support and firepower, with two Sixth Man of the Year candidates in Eric Gordon and mid-season acquisition Lou Williams, Trevor Ariza, and Ryan Anderson. Of course, the winner of the series isn’t a sure-fire thing. If Oklahoma City can slow down Houston’s high-octane offense with brute and athleticism, it can go the other way. Keep your eye out on this one, cause this will be a great one to watch. ROCKETS in SEVEN

Shawn Valdrighi: Russ vs. Harden has been the storyline since the All-Star break, and it looks to come to a head in this series. However, Houston will take this series on superior shooting from the Rockets supporting cast, but it’ll come at the price of Westbrook averaging a triple double and likely willing the Thunder to two wins. ROCKETS in SIX

 

No. 4 Los Angeles Clippers vs. No. 5 Utah Jazz

Charles Post: I know Los Angeles tends to struggle in April and May, but their experience will push the Clips through. CLIPPERS in SEVEN

Jensen Toussaint: This should be a very close, grind-it-out series. The contrast between the Clippers’ high octane offense and the Jazz’s slower, half court offense should make this an interesting series. With three of the Clippers’ core guys entering free agency this offseason, this may be the final time this iteration of the Clippers will do battle in the playoffs. For that reason, they simply cannot let it go to waste. Their experience should help them advance. CLIPPERS in SEVEN

DeAsia Paige: The Jazz will win this one, mainly because of their defense. In addition to ranking third in the league in defense, they have a potential defensive player-of-the-year candidate in Rudy Gobert. However, the Clippers’ resume in the postseason will easily be a challenge for the Jazz. JAZZ in SEVEN

Jack Guindi: The Jazz lack experience in the playoffs, while the Clippers are very experienced. Even though the Jazz are looking really good this year, the Jazz can’t beat the Clippers 4 times out of 7. CLIPPERS in SEVEN

Dylan Nuzzo: When fully healthy, the Clippers are clearly the better team. This will definitely be a close series, but the Clippers have more talent and star power to lead them out. CLIPPERS in SEVEN

Arthur Puu: This year’s playoff run is do-or-die for the Clippers: Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and J.J. Reddick are headed toward free agency following this season and the tough decision for the franchise to either break up the core or not is looming. Both the Jazz and Clippers match up very well against each other, but Los Angeles has the upper hand after winning three of the four games in the regular season series. Utah will have to learn to play on-the-fly, as their young core of players haven’t won a playoff game, and the franchise itself hasn’t won a series since the 2009-10 season. However, the Jazz have been very overlooked throughout the season behind strong play by first-time All-Star Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert. Expect the Jazz to break expectations. JAZZ in SEVEN

Shawn Valdrighi: The Jazz are a team that can make some noise, and by make some noise, I mean take a Clippers team that is falling out of its championship window to seven games and win. Gordon Hayward had an amazing season and can capitalize on it with a strong series. Utah’s depth makes up for experience in this series. JAZZ in SEVEN

 

EASTERN CONFERENCE

No. 1 Boston Celtics vs. No. 8 Chicago Bulls

Charles Post: Isaiah Thomas has been the best closer in the league this season, and he’ll close out the Bulls with ease. CELTICS in FIVE

Jensen Toussaint: Despite the fact that the Celtics are a much better functioned team and are better coached than the Bulls, this series will likely produce some very close games. A major key to this series will be the rebounding. The Celtics finished the regular season in the bottom five in that category, while the Bulls finished in the top three. If that rebounding gap presents itself in this series, the Bulls may be able to pull off the upset. However, even with the playoff-battle tested NBA champions Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo accompanying Jimmy Butler in Chicago, Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics should be to win this series. CELTICS in FIVE

DeAsia Paige: The Boston Celtics will win this series. That is more based on the inconsistency of the Bulls than the success of the Celtics. The Bulls are at a disadvantage on both ends of the floor. Additionally, if the Bulls decide to start Jerian Grant, they’ll be working with  player who has no playoff experience. Head Coach Fred Hoiberg has started. Coming into the season, the Bulls had eight players with three or less years of playoff experience. Thus, the winner of this series is clearly the Celtics. CELTICS in FOUR

Jack Guindi: The Bulls have really talented individual players, but they just aren’t as talented as a team. The players of Chicago can’t play together as well as they can individually. On the other hand, the Celtics are a really cohesive and well-coached team that play excellent basketball. Expect Isaiah and the Celtics to take the Bulls out. CELTICS in SIX

Dylan Nuzzo: The Celtics are the first seed for a reason: they play great team defense and can score the ball well. Easy pick. CELTICS in FIVE

Arthur Puu: The Celtics and Bulls series might be better than most expect: the Celtics aren’t the most dominant No. 1 seed in quite a while and the Bulls do have a good amount of playoff experience as a No. 8 seed. Both teams tied the regular season series 2-2, but the Celtics didn’t rally back with a 27-11 record to finish off the year to overtake the Cavaliers for the No. 1 seed. And after two straight years of first-round exits, Boston is hungry. CELTICS in FIVE

Shawn Valdrighi: Boston, for all intents and purposes, shouldn’t be the one seed *cough cough Cleveland collapse cough* but here we are. That said, the Celtics are gonna take care of business with big showings from Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford as the Bulls can’t compete on the boards with the C’s. Boston closes out at TD Garden. Simple enough. CELTICS in FIVE

 

No. 2 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. No. 7 Indiana Pacers

Charles Post: A team with Kyrie Irving, Lebron James, and Kevin Love losing to the Pacers? Not going to happen. CAVALIERS in FOUR

Jensen Toussaint: The Cavaliers have played roughly .500 basketball since the start of 2017. Perhaps they were coasting, anxious for the start of the playoffs to begin… or maybe their defensive struggles and lackluster play are real causes for concern. Despite Paul George’s stellar play over the past couple months and the reacquisition of Lance Stephenson seemingly rejuvenating the Pacers, I have to go with the former. The Cavs know what’s at stake, and the start of the playoffs should be exactly what they need to regroup, lock in, and begin their quest for a repeat. CAVALIERS in FIVE

DeAsia Paige: The Pacers have had a better month than the Cavaliers. They’ve posted an offensive rating of 115.9 points per 100 possessions, which is the third highest in the league this month. Their five-game winning streak pushed them into the playoffs. The Cavs, on the other hand, ended their season on a four-game losing streak while their defense continued to dive. However, the Cavs’ resume makes a bigger case for them winning the series. CAVALIERS in SIX

Jack Guindi: The Cavs are looking really sloppy lately, but that is because it isn’t the playoffs. They will look like a whole new team in the playoffs. They will be dominant, and it will be almost impossible for any team in the east to beat them. CAVALIERS in FIVE

Dylan Nuzzo: Cleveland has a different game in the playoffs. Sure, they had a terrible second half after the All-Star break, but expect the defending champs to turn the dial on when it matters most. CAVALIERS in FOUR

Arthur Puu: Now this will be fun. Lance Stephenson is back in Indiana and will be facing LeBron James.

Just kidding. Paul George is still one of the best two-way players in the NBA and his matchup against James still proves to be the biggest matchup in the series, but the biggest concern for the Cavaliers is if they can flip the script now that the playoffs are here. The Pacers roster looks good on paper, but the Cavs are the defending champions for a reason. CAVALIERS in FIVE

Shawn Valdrighi: The Cavs have a lot to answer for, mainly the entire month of March. Cleveland takes on the Pacers and notorious ear-blower Lance Stephenson. Paul George will have solid numbers, but this is LeBron and Kyrie and the Cavs were talking about. The mythical playoff switch may be flipped after the Cavs take this one. CAVALIERS in FIVE

 

No. 3 Toronto Raptors vs. No. 6 Milwaukee Bucks

Charles Post: Now that DeMar DeRozan has his partner-in-crime, Kyle Lowry, back and healthy, Toronto will move on. RAPTORS in SIX

Jensen Toussaint: The Raptors should have be the clear favorites in this series, as they are clearly the better and deeper team. However, the Bucks have a player on their roster that can will make this series very interesting — Giannis Antetokounmpo. After leading his team in every major stat category and becoming the first player to ever finish a season in the top 20 of every major stat category, “The Greek Freak” will enter the playoffs with a chip on his shoulder. His spectacular play may be able to push the Raptors, but he alone won’t be enough. RAPTORS in SIX

DeAsia Paige: The Raptors will win this season. Although Giannis Antetokounmpo has been outstanding this season, that won’t be enough to tackle the Raptors because they are among the top 10 in the league for offensive and defensive efficiency. RAPTORS in FOUR

Jack Guindi: Toronto has a variety of talented players, while the Bucks don’t. The Bucks are going to rely on the Greak Freek to take the Raptors, but they will fall just short. RAPTORS in SEVEN

Dylan Nuzzo: It’s time for the Raptors to make a playoff run… for once. They added a lot of help on defense and got Kyle Lowry back in the rotation down the stretch. Those factors will lead them to a series win over the young Bucks. RAPTORS in FIVE

Arthur Puu: Milwaukee (16-8) and Toronto (15-7) have been two of the league’s hottest teams since the start of March. And with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton leading the way for the young Bucks, Milwaukee has a good chance to put up a challenge to win one or two games. However, the Raptors made a few upgrades on the defensive end, adding seasoned playoff veteran Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker, which will help their depth going forward. With Jabari Parker sidelined for the rest of the season, the Bucks will have to find a way to win without their low-post athletic star. RAPTORS in SIX

Shawn Valdrighi: The Bucks and Giannis are so much fun to watch, but the Raptors have experience in droves in the back and front court. Either Lowry or DeRozan could step up and take over this series. The Bucks can win at least two, but this series goes to Toronto in six, just the way Drake likes it. RAPTORS in SIX

 

No. 4 Washington Wizards vs. No. 5 Atlanta Hawks

Charles Post: John Wall and Bradley Beal are finally coming into their own and Atlanta won’t be able to contain them. WIZARDS in SIX

Jensen Toussaint: The Hawks had a brutal five-game schedule to end the regular season. However, after closing the season 4-1, including two impressive wins against the Cavs and one against the #1 seeded Celtics, the Hawks should enter the playoffs with some momentum. The Wizards, on the other hand, have the best player in the series in John Wall. After missing the playoffs last year, the Wizards will enter this postseason wanting to make up for that. The contrast between the two teams’ offenses and defenses will cause this series to need every game before a team advances. WIZARDS in SEVEN

DeAsia Paige: This will be the most interesting series to watch in the conference. Washington ranks eighth in offensive efficiency while the Hawks ranks fourth in defense. It will great to see how each team adjusts on opposite ends of the floor to combat their opponents strengths. However, the Wizards have a phenomenal home record of 30-11 and the backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal have played well this entire season. Thus, the Wizards will win this one. But it will be tough. WIZARDS in SEVEN

Jack Guindi: Even though the Wizards are very powerful on offense, the Hawks are very powerful on defense. The Hawks will take Washington out of their comfort zone, not allowing them to operate. HAWKS in SEVEN

Dylan Nuzzo: The Wizards are fast and athletic. Behind John Wall and Bradley Beal, the team can flat out score the ball. However, the Hawks are a strong defensive team, so expect this matchup to be a good one to watch. WIZARDS in FOUR

Arthur Puu: In one of the biggest turnarounds this season, who would’ve thought the Washington Wizards would rally from the bottom of the cellar to a playoff contender? Over the last few months, the team went 36-17 after Christmas, trailing only the Spurs, Celtics and Warriors for the highest winning percentage in that span. On the other side, the Hawks struggled down the season, going 11-16, but had big wins over Boston and a 26-point comeback against Cleveland. WIZARDS in SIX

Shawn Valdrighi: The Wizards came back from last season in a big way by locking up the Southeast Divison over their series opponent Atlanta Hawks. The guard duo of John Wall and Bradley Beal will dominate a shotty Dennis Schoeder to take this series in six, though the matchup to watch will be Marcin Gortat and Dwight Howard down low. WIZARDS in SIX

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1 COMMENT

  1. Bucks are going or going to beat the R Raptors and the Jazz will beat the Clippers it will most likely be Bucks in six and Jazz in 5

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