clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Predicting Round 1 of the 2020 NBA playoffs

Pete and Natty predict how the NBA playoffs will play out in the bubble.

Getty Images/Pete Rogers Illustrations

The NBA playoffs are upon us! Below are the Long Two’s picks for the first round of the playoffs.

Western Conference

#1 Los Angeles Lakers vs #8 Portland Trail Blazers

Things to know:

  • Both the Lakers & the Blazers had top 10 offenses in the regular season, but the Lakers had a top 5 defense, while the Blazers were bottom 5.
  • In the bubble, the Blazers were playing desperation games the entire time, and they ended up with the #1 offensive rating. Unfortunately, they also had one of the worst defensive ratings in the bubble. Meanwhile, the Lakers didn’t care too much, so it’s tough to take their bubble numbers too seriously.
  • The Lakers could be a lethally good defensive team, especially their front court, but their backcourt is suspect. The Blazers finally have healthy bigs, but can they really compete with Anthony Davis? Which Portland wings will guard LeBron? Can Danny Green start sinking outside shots like he did in Toronto last year, while still playing elite perimeter defense?

Natty’s take: I think the Lakers will win. Portland’s guards are elite, and we love Carmelo Anthony, but CJ McCollum is playing with an injured back, and the Blazers front court doesn’t seem to be better than the Lakers combination of LBJ, AD, Kuzma, Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee.

Pete’s take: I don’t see the Lakers dropping this series but DAMN it’s going to be exciting. You can’t tell me four plus games of Lillard vs LeBron isn’t going to be must watch television.

#2 Los Angeles Clippers vs #7 Dallas Mavericks

Things to know:

  • The Mavericks had the best offensive rating in the regular season (best ever, actually), but they are not a good defensive team. Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis are elite offensive forces, and I’m a believer in Tim Hardaway, Jr., but the team gets low on talent after that.
  • Meanwhile, the Clippers also have strong offensive players (Sweet Lou Willams, Montrezl Harrell), and two of the best 15 players in the league in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, along with solid bench players like RJax, Landry Shamet, JaMychal Green, Marcus Morris. Oh yeah, and Patrick Beverley, defensive terror and all around badass, also plays for the Clips.
  • Luka will be guarded by Kawhi or PG13, but I’m not sure who will guard the Unicorn, Kristaps Porzingis.

Natty’s take: I love the Dallas offense, but the Mavs are not a finished team. The Clippers have elite offensive AND defensive players. The Clippers win the series, but Luka & the Unicorn have some pretty big games.

Pete’s take: Dido what Natty thinks. Clippers take the series but we’re going to be treated to some Luka and Kristaps greatness, especially after that BS ejection in Game 1.

#3 Denver Nuggets vs #6 Utah Jazz

Things to know:

  • The Jazz will play without Bojan Bogdanovic, their best scoring threat during the regular season, and Mike Conley, who was the big offseason acquisition for Utah. Losing two of your five starters is suboptimal, to say the least. Can Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, and Rudy Gobert lead their team to an upset? Can they score enough to keep pace with Denver? (The teams had near identical offensive/defensive ratings during the regular season.)
  • The Nuggets are also down some players, including Gary Harris and Will Barton, but they still get to play Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Paul Millsap, Michael Porter, Jr., Jerami Grant, Monte Morris, and Torrey Craig.
  • Rudy Gobert is the best defensive big in the NBA (except when Joel Embiid actually decides to play hard), and Jokic is the best passing big in the NBA (maybe ever). The Stifle Tower vs. the Joker is the headline, but perimeter scoring is probably what will decide the contest.

Natty’s take: I don’t think Utah has the firepower to score with Denver’s starters and bench. For the Jazz to succeed, they’d need DonMitch and Joe Ingles to go crazy (which they’ve both done for stretches in the past), and for Gobert to be the best defender on the court. Denver’s big perimeter players are athletic and can shoot. Denver wins pretty easily, I think.

Pete’s take: It took a career game from Mitchell to take Game 1 into OT and the Jazz still weren’t able to pull of the win. Nuggets in four.

#4 Houston Rockets vs #5 Oklahoma City Thunder

Things to know:

  • Sergeant Russell Westbrook will be out for at least the first game of the series, perhaps more.
  • Houston’s starting five without Westbrook will be James Harden, Robert Covington, PJ Tucker, Eric Gordon, and Danuel House, I think?
  • Houston surrendered rebounds after trading Clint Capela during the regular season. Will they be able to grab enough boards against Danilo Gallinari and Steven Adams? Will Houston’s small ball lineups force OKC to go even smaller than their three-guard set, moving Gallinari to the 5? Will Andre Roberson’s elite defense finally help the Thunder advance? Is Lu Dort the most pivotal player in the playoffs you’ve never heard of? Will OKC’s midrange attack work against Houston’s defense?

Natty’s take: The Long Two was a fan of the OKC roster before the regular season, and we sure as hell still are! Houston without the Sarge is too thin for me. I think Chris Paul and the three guard lineup of him, Dennis Schroder, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, along with Danilo’s scoring will actually be a better example of the type of team that Daryl Morey wants to build. I think the OKC Thunder outlast the Rockets, and I think Harden will be amazing but won’t have enough help. If the Sarge can come back by game 3, maybe that changes, but as of now, I’m picking the OKC MFing Thunder.

Pete’s take: Man I wish I was as daring as Natty to pick the Thunder. I think this is going to go seven games and be an amazing series, but with the extra rest that the break gave to James Harden, I think he gets the playoff monkey off his back and Rockets move on.

Miami Heat v Milwaukee Bucks Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Eastern Conference

#1 Milwaukee Bucks vs #8 Orlando Magic

Things to know:

  • Jonathan Isaac, the Magic’s dynamic young player, is out with an injury. Markelle Fultz, Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic, and Evan Fournier seem like they could be a team that competes hard, but the Magic were totally meh in bubble play. This team isn’t discombobulated, it’s just not as talented as some of the salaries and pedigree suggest.
  • The Milwaukee Bucks have Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Orlando Magic do not. Now you know.

Natty’s take: Magic in 5. Just kidding. Get real, the Bucks already won this series, they’re just waiting for reality to catch up with them. For the Magic to win, the Bucks must lose Giannis. And, even then, I kinda think the Bucks squad, led by Khris MIddleton, could still take a Magic team without Jonathan Isaac.

Pete’s take: Bucks in four. THE SUNS SHOULD BE IN THE PLAYOFFS!!

#2 Toronto Raptors vs #7 Brooklyn Nets

Things to know:

  • Brooklyn’s roster has Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant on it. Neither of them are playing in the bubble. The Nets also lost Spencer Dinwiddie, the Mayor, and one of our faves here at Faketeams.
  • Toronto basically has everyone from last year except Kawhi. Pascal Siakam is a worthy heir, Kyle Lowry remains an absolute goddamner of a player, OG Anunoby is a great perimeter defender who’s scoring is improving, and Big Spain Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka are a formidable tandem in the front court, when healthy and rested. Oh yeah, and some dude named Fred VanFuckingVleet plays for the Raptors, too.
  • The Raptors have the best coach in the NBA. The Nets have an interim coach after Kenny Atkinson, their former head coach, consciously decoupled from the Nets during the regular season.

Natty’s take: I love Caris LeVert, I love Jarrett Allen, I love Brooklyn Joe Harris, and I even like Rodions Kurucs a ton, but there’s no way these decimated Nets are defeating the NBA Champions. I still have the Raptors in the Finals in my bracket. Pete?

Pete’s take: Raptors in four. THE SUNS SHOULD BE IN THE PLAYOFFS!!!

#3 Boston Celtics vs #6 Philadelphia 76ers

Things to know:

  • Philly lost their second-best place in Ben Simmons.
  • Boston has lost possibly Gordon Hayward after Game 1.
  • The Sixers lack shooters. The Celtics lack a big that can compete with Joel Embiid, but then again, doesn’t everyone?

Natty’s take: For Philly to beat Boston, Embiid would have to play like one of the five best players in the NBA, and Josh Richardson and Tobias Harris would have to be on fire from the perimeter. EVERYTHING needs to go right for Philly. When the hell does that happen to these Sixers? Boston will win, but Embiid will have two huge games.

Pete’s take: Celtics win the series but I agree with Natty that Embiid is going to have a few truly awe-inspiring games.

#4 Miami Heat vs #5 Indiana Pacers

Things to know:

  • The Pacers lost Domantas Sabonis, but they’re still a feisty, difficult team with Victor Oladipo, Malcolm Brogdon, en fuego TJ Warren, and a not-bad-in-the-bubble Myles Turner.
  • The Heat haven’t lost anyone, in fact they added Andre Iguodala, and Bam Adebayou is looking God Bam Talented. (No regrets!)
  • The Heat have, perhaps, the best perimeter shooting in the NBA.

Natty’s take: The Pacers are always a headache, but no one causes more headaches than Jimmy Butler. Butler and Bam combine to form a ferocious tandem, while Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson can rain fire from deep as well, or better, than anyone else in the NBA. Kendrick Nunn, Goran Dragic, Kelly Olynyk, Jae Crowder, Meyers Leonard, and Iggy give the Heat depth, smarts, and experience. The Heat are a dangerous team. If things break their way a little bit, I could see them in the Finals.

Pete’s take: This will be the best series in the East simply because Jimmy Butler and T.J. Warren are not fans of each other. Here. For. It. Heat in six.