The Houston Rockets look to end the Golden State Warriors’ Dynasty by winning the championship for once.
The Rockets, who set a franchise record with 65 wins this season, are the 1 seed for the first time ever, and are projected to beat the measly 47-35 Minnesota Timberwolves. The Rockets then have to face the winner of the Oklahoma City Thunder/Utah Jazz series. Prediction: 4-0 Rockets
This series should be the one to watch as the big three of the Thunder snuck their way into fourth place, with Russell Westbrook leading the way. After an amazing statistical season, averaging another triple double, Westbrook should shine. However, if any upset is to happen, this series would be the one, as the Jazz are on fire since early March, going an astonishing 17-4.
Prediction: 4-3 Jazz
On the other side of the bracket, we have an interesting Golden State Warriors vs. San Antonio Spurs, which at the beginning of the year, was a projected Conference Finals matchup. Unfortunately, injuries have plagued both teams, as Kawhi Leonard missed the entire season and postseason, and the Warriors haven’t had all of their star players play in over a month. With the return of Stephen Curry, however, the Warriors should dominate. Prediction: 4-1 Warriors
The Pelicans’ story could have rivaled the Sixers as comeback story of the year, as they were looking to be a top-ranked seed in the West; sadly, star center Demarcus Cousins injured himself right before the All-Star Break, and the Pelicans will be without him throughout the playoffs. Despite the injuries, the Trail Blazers have been on the decline lately, with only Damain Lilliard showing dominance. Prediction: 4-2 Pelicans
With the return of Steph Curry to the already powerful Warrior group, the Peicans-Warriors series might not be as interesting, as it is expected to be a quick ending to the Pelicans season.
Prediction: 4-1 Warriors
In similar fashion, except with more interesting play, the Rockets should beat the Jazz swiftly, with the season series going in the Rockets 4-0. While the playoffs should be slightly more interesting, with a potential Rookie of the Year facing the likely MVP, the Rockets will probably be looking ahead towards the matchup of the year.
Prediction: 4-1 Rockets
Our matchup of this year, most likely more hyped up than even the NBA finals, is the Rockets-Warriors series that many have looked forward to. The Warriors offense may finally have an answer, but not in the Rockets’ defense, but rather in their fast-paced offense. Home court advantage should be the key between this matchup, and for once, the Rockets hold the advantage. Prediction: Rockets 4-3
In a conference that has been known to belong to Cavaliers’ star LeBron James for the past decade, 2018 looks like the year he is usurped.
The first round matchup between the top-seeded Toronto Raptors and the bottom Washington Wizards should end in a dominant victory in four or five games for Drake’s hometown of Toronto. The backcourt duo of Kyle Lowry and Demar Derozan is one of the best in basketball, and their roster depth is impressive.
Prediction: 4-0 Raptors
Sitting in the second seed, the Boston Celtics face Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks in the opening round. The lack of superstar point guard Kyrie Irving will most definitely hinder the Celtics, but they remain one of the best teams in the East. The young talent in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown will step up to the challenge under their veteran leadership in Al Horford in an exciting series.
Prediction: 4-2 Celtics
Directly below, the red-hot, third-seed Philadelphia 76ers who entered the playoffs on a 16-game win streak, face the Miami Heat. While the Heat have certainly outplayed their expectations for the regular season this year, the Sixers, led by potential Rookie of the Year, Ben Simmons, advance to the next round comfortably. Prediction: 4-2 76ers
For the final first-round matchup, LeBron James and the defending Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers take on the Indiana Pacers led by breakout star Victor Oladipo. Like the Heat, the Pacers exceeded almost everyone’s preseason predictions, but emerging victorious against LeBron James in the playoffs is no simple task. The Pacers will be a good challenge, but the Cleveland Cavaliers should advance.
Prediction: 4-2 Cavaliers
In the first matchup in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Philadelphia 76ers will head to Boston seeking to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. While both teams have faced injuries to their stars, the return of Joel Embiid to the Sixers should shift the series in their direction. Prediction: 4-2 76ers
On the other side, the Cavaliers head to Toronto for their next challenge to retain their Eastern Conference throne. This series could possibly be the most interesting of the entire conference, as it should constantly go back and forth; however, due to the Raptors’ regular season record and home court advantage, the perennial kings will fall.
Prediction: 4-3 Raptors.
In the series to play for NBA Finals, the 76ers square off against the Raptors. With both teams playing at their best under some of the brightest lights, the Sixers’ inexperience and the Raptors’ previous postseason background will be the deciding factor in this series. Prediction: 4-3 Raptors