The Suns are up three games to zero against the Nuggets. The Jazz are up 2 games to zero against the Clippers. Trae Young has been stripped of his demigod status and has returned to mortality as his Hawks are down 2-1 against the 76ers. Somehow, the Bucks managed to win two games against the god team that is the Nets, despite posting probably the lowest team score (in game 3) I’ve seen in a decade (possibly joking). God, I love the NBA playoffs.
I intended to write this post before the NBA playoffs, but certain….events removed this opportunity. My summer plans were scrapped and I have recently had my heart broken. Certainly, a fun week or so.
Regardless, a certain bright spot has been the playoffs. I mean, where else can we see Devin Booker put on an absolute clinic against the man he was once so excited to apprentice under? Is there another league where you can see a man drop 32 points, grab 20 rebounds, dish out 10 assists, and still lost by 14 points? Unlikely.
With the excitement brewing and our eagerness curbed, let us now jump in to our mid-tournament playoff predictions. Before I begin, however, please note that these two points highlight who I believe will compete in the finals. I do not have one point per playoff matchup. To see my full remaining bracket of the NBA playoffs, scroll to the bottom of this article.
1: The Suns will sweep the Nuggets, then defeat Utah in 7 games to move on to the Finals.
The Suns have looked absolutely unstoppable. Devin Booker looks every inch of the NBA all-star he *cough* should have been. DeAndre Ayton finally looks like the player he was before draft night, and Jevon Carter is actually playing. Good times.
Apparently, the winner of the MVP trophy is instantly denied any postseason success, as both Giannis (last year) and Jokic have shown. It just goes to show: even the league MVP can’t carry a team on his back (hi, Lebron). In other words: the Nuggets are completely toast. No questions, nobody comes back from a 3-0 lead.
On the statistical end, the most obvious hole is the lack of shooting on the Nuggets’ end. The team shot below 35% from three for the third straight game. Even Jokic, the reigning MVP himself, shot a measly 1 for 6 from beyond the arc (Blackburn). There were other statistical deficits for the Nuggets to address, but most just come down to the lack of a true number 2 man to support Jokic. Jamal Murray, of course, filled this role, but with him out for the rest of the series (and thus the playoffs), the hole remains. Aaron Gordon and Michael Porter Jr. are great third and fourth options, but neither have been able to successfully step alongside Jokic and offer the help he needs.
The Suns, on the other hand, have played excellent basketball. They are incredibly disciplined and well coached. Their team chemistry shows through a truly fierce commitment to fight for each other. Also, Devin Booker. I need not say more.
Again, this series is finished. That’s more than obvious. Yet the next prediction may garner me some flak (as if I care). The Jazz are the NBA’s golden team, the lauded first seed with the ability to beat any team placed before them. Quite honestly, I’m a little nervous with this prediction. Donovan Mitchell looks like a young Dwanye Wade, and the Jazz bench is absolutely incredible. I’m instead going to go with my gut here; I believe the Suns’ superstar talent in their starting roster will prevail and they will win a closely-contested, 7-game series.
2: The Nets will defeat the Bucks in game 7, then crush the 76ers in 5 games to enter the Finals.
Who would have known that P.J Tucker was the answer to the Bucks’ lack of postseason success? It may be too early to say that, yet I would argue that his substantial impact on games 3 and 4 provides an answer already. If nothing else, this Milwaukee team has learned that they need more than 35+ points from Giannis to win postseason games.
At the time of this writing, the Bucks crushed the Nets in their second homegame, spurred on by Kyrie’s midgame injury. If Kyrie is out for the remainder of the season….well, this prediction changes dramatically. I’d still predict a game 7, but the Bucks victory odds are much, much higher when they aren’t playing Kyrie.
The obvious aside, there have been some interesting features to this matchup. P.J Tucker is apparently the kryptonite to Kevin Durant’s Superman abilities, and Giannis’ jumpshot has completely disintegrated. Harden seems mildly interested in the series, and Middleton completely vanished for the first two games. As one of BZ’s resident Bucks fans, nothing has given me more satisfaction than to see P.J Tucker screw with Kevin Durant’s head (and jumpshot).
After this series, we have the game against the 76ers, who will have recently completed a 4-2 route of the Atlanta Hawks. Ben Simmons and Justin Holiday/Kyrie is a matchup I simply cannot wait for. Add in the narrative of the big men (a possible Giannis vs. Embiid playoff matchup), and we have one of the best series’ in the NBA playoffs.
For this one, I’m probably going with the Bucks firepower to win in 7, possibly with a Middleton buzzer beater. That prediction is probably the hardest to make, but again, I’m going with my gut here. Giannis, Middleton and Jrue present a formidable presence against Simmons, Embiid and Harris. All in all, this prediction is basically a toss-up, but it also remains the fan favorite. Anticipate high TV ratings for this one, folks.
Jazz over the Clippers in 6 games.
Suns over the Nuggets in 4 games.
Suns over the Jazz in 7.
76ers over the Hawks in 6 games.
Nets over the Bucks in 7 games.
Nets over the 76ers in 5 games.
Nets over the Suns in 6, Kevin Durant to win FMVP.