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Predicting the 2022-23 NBA Playoffs

Updated: Apr 12, 2023

The NBA's grueling 82-game season is now over. The real basketball starts now. This is where champions get crowned and where we see who comes out victorious. So today I will predict who will be holding up the Larry O'Brien trophy come Mid-June.


via Kim O'Reilly/CBS Sports

EAST PLAY-IN: 7 vs 8 - Miami Heat vs Atlanta Hawks


NBAE via Getty Images

When: Tuesday, April 11th, 7:30 PM EST (TNT)

Winner plays: No. 2 seed Boston Celtics


A rematch from last year's 1 vs 8 matchup in the Eastern Conference. Jimmy Butler and Trae Young and their teams meet up once again, with some differences. Trae Young got a new running mate, Dejounte Murray, the trade was to offset his defensive woes, but it has not worked out that way for Atlanta. Murray's DRTG went up from 108 to 116, almost on par with Young's 119. On the Heat side, they have Jimmy Butler, one of the better playoff performers in the league, going back to last year when the Heat made an Eastern Conference Finals and the Finals in the bubble. Going back to the first-round matchup last year, Trae Young had 15.4 PPG/6 APG/5 RPG on 32/18/79, which is not great for a sharpshooting point guard, this is a lock for the Heat.


Prediction: Heat win and secure the 7th seed.


Update: Hawks won 116-105


WEST PLAY-IN: 7 vs 8 - Los Angeles Lakers vs Minnesota Timberwolves


via AP

When: Tuesday, April 11th, 10 PM EST (TNT)

Winner plays: No. 2 seed Memphis Grizzlies


It is the surging Lakers vs the imploding Timberwolves. The Lakers were 18-8 after the trade deadline with their new acquisitions and 9-2 in their last 11 games, hitting their stride right before the playoffs, with the full team healthy. While the Timberwolves have had their star center Rudy Gobert punch teammate Kyle Anderson, have Jaden McDaniels (pictured above) punch a wall and break his hand, and breakout center Naz Reid is out for the season. A team without 3 rotation pieces out against a team catching their stride and becoming healthy. Give me the Lakers in this one.


Prediction: Lakers win and secure the 7th seed


Update: Lakers won 108-102


EAST PLAY-IN: 9 vs 10 - Toronto Raptors vs Chicago Bulls


via Mark Blinch/Getty Images

When: Wednesday, April 12th, 7 PM (ESPN)

Winner plays: loser of No. 7 Heat vs No. 8 Hawks


A true toss-up game for me. The Raptors have a lot of great wings that can stop and neutralize players like Demar Derozan and Zach Lavine, but also how do you pick against a team that has two guys like that? Especially with the Bulls becoming better after their addition of Patrick Beverly, a Chicago native. With a game that can go either way, I'll go with the classic saying, defense wins championships. Give me the Raptors in a close one.


Prediction: Raptors move on to play No. 7 seed Heat


Update: Bulls won 109-105


WEST PLAY-IN: 9 vs 10 - Oklahoma City Thunder vs New Orleans Pelicans


via Yahoo

When: Wednesday, April 12th, 9:30 PM ET (ESPN)

Winner plays: loser of No. 7 Lakers vs No. 8 Timberwolves


The Pelicans started off the year great, being one of the best teams early on. Unfortunately, that doesn't matter anymore, and why they are the 9th seed now. The Thunder weren't even supposed to be here, but behind Shai's amazing year, they are and I think they have a real shot to win this game. Zion is still out with no return set, I don't know what C.J. McCollum they are gonna get, and can Brandon Ingram carry the load in a winner-takes-all game? I can't trust that. Give me the young Thunder.


Prediction: Thunder win a nail-biter to face the Timberwolves


EAST PLAY-IN: 8th Seed Game - No. 8 Atlanta Hawks vs No. 9 Toronto Raptors


via Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

When: Friday, April 14th, TBD (TNT)

Winner plays: No. 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks


The Hawks have two guards as their best players and two guards that have struggled or can struggle when you put pressure on them and don't give them space. Can we trust Clint Capela or John Collins or anyone in the supporting cast to step up? I doubt it against a wing trio of Scottie Barnes, OG Anunoby, and Pascal Siakam. Give me the Raptors making it out of the Play-In.


Prediction: Raptors beat the Hawks to make the playoffs


WEST PLAY-IN: 8th Seed Game - No. 8 Minnesota Timberwolves vs No. 10 Oklahoma City Thunder



When: Friday, April 14th, TBD (ESPN)

Winner plays: No. 1 Seed Denver Nuggets


The Timberwolves will get Rudy Gobert back for this game and they have Anthony Edwards who can match Shai and contain him. The Thunder are gonna need a lot more supporting cast help to beat a Timberwolves team determined to try to make it in the playoffs. I don't see that happening. Give me the Timberwolves.


Prediction: Timberwolves move on to face the Denver Nuggets


WESTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS:

No. 1 Denver Nuggets vs No. 8 Minnesota Timberwolves - 1st Round


AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Winner plays: Winner of the No. 4 Phoenix Suns vs No. 5 LA Clippers


The Nuggets have a 2-time MVP and a great supporting cast, even though they were coasting at the end of the season, they are the 1 seed for a reason. The Timberwolves won't have enough to stop Jokic and the Nuggets, as they just show they're a better team and make light work of a Timberwolves team that will still be getting through locker-room turmoil.


Prediction: Denver Nuggets win in 5 games


No. 4 Phoenix Suns vs No. 5 LA Clippers - 1st Round


via Chris Coduto/Getty Images

Winner plays: No. 1 seed Denver Nuggets (see above)


This has the potential to be the best series of the entire 1st round or be a major dud with one team getting the win, and winning pretty easily. I believe the latter will happen, with the Suns being the winner. Paul George is out and the Clippers barely beat the bench Suns, and we have seen and known that Russell Westbrook can't be your 2nd star in the playoffs. All that, and we haven't talked about the juggernaut of a Big 4 the Suns have with Kevin Durant, DeAndre Ayton, Chris Paul, and Devin Booker. The Suns win this series pretty easily.


Prediction: Phoenix Suns win in 5 games


No. 2 Memphis Grizzlies vs No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers


via Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times

Winner plays: Winner of No. 3 seed Sacramento Kings vs No. 6 seed Golden State Warriors


This will be the first time we see a team on "upset" alert in this article, with the Grizzlies getting maybe one of the scariest 7 seeds in NBA history. The Lakers get into the playoffs after starting 2-10 and I have a feeling they aren't done yet. Steven Adams being out means Anthony Davis should feast and getting Jaren Jackson Jr. into foul trouble. Ja Morant should have a great series, but this one will go to the Lakers after a nice, competitive series.


Prediction: Lakers win in 6 games


No. 3 Sacramento Kings vs No. 6 Golden State Warriors - 1st Round


Jane Tyska/Digital First Media/East Bay Times via Getty Images

Winner plays: No. 7 seed Los Angeles Lakers


Who thought the Kings would be here? Becoming one of the top teams in the Western Conference, the Kings are the biggest surprise of the season, no doubt. The Warriors have been disrespecting the Kings, with Draymond Green pleading to get the Kings in the first round. The Warriors road record is of concern, and the Kings offense is great. I believe the Warriors can steal 1 road game, which means I believe the Warriors squeak out a series win against the surprising Kings.


Prediction: Warriors win in 7 games.


No. 1 Denver Nuggets vs No. 4 Phoenix Suns - 2nd Round


via Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Winner plays: Winner of No. 6 seed Lakers vs No. 7 seed Warriors (see above)


The Nuggets have great depth and the Suns have great star power, with rotations getting smaller in the playoffs, I have to take the star power. We have seen Jokic struggle in the playoffs, and I don't think that he and Murray + others can match the Big 4 of the Phoenix Suns. Simple as that.


Prediction: Suns win in 6 games.


No. 6 Golden State Warriors vs No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers - 2nd Round


via Ashley Landis/AP Photo

Winner plays: No. 4 seed Phoenix Suns (see above)


LeBron James vs the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs. Starting to feel like 2018 again. The Lakers match up well with the Warriors, as you can see they won all 3 games against the Warriors past the trade deadline, the Lakers are a better team than the Warriors, and I think the road record will show in this series after it didn't in the series against the Kings.


Prediction: Lakers win in 6 games


No. 4 Phoenix Suns vs No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers - Western Conference Finals


via Getty Images

Winner plays: the Eastern Conference Winner


A rematch of the first round in 2021, where the Suns won. The Lakers have been great since the trade deadline, but injured. The Suns, have also been great and injured. The Lakers had to be in playoff mode for the last two months because of the bad start. I believe that will be part of the reason why the Suns have the upper edge in this series, not even considering their stars. The Suns win in an instant classic Western Conference Finals.


Prediction: Suns win in 7 games


EASTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS:


No. 1 Milwaukee Bucks vs No. 8 Toronto Raptors - 1st Round


John E. Sokolowski/USA Today Sports

Winner plays: No. 4 seed Cleveland Cavaliers vs No. 5 seed New York Knicks.


Raptors won 2 games to get here, and they'll be respected for that. To be fair, they match up well with the Bucks, and they can create a wall to stop Giannis, but the Bucks will be prepared for it, and they are just a better team. The Bucks win and win pretty easily.


Prediction: Bucks sweep the Raptors


No. 4 Cleveland Cavaliers vs No. 5 New York Knicks - 1st Round



Winner plays: No. 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks (see above)


Remember when Donovan Mitchell was supposed to go to the Knicks last off-season? Well, they now have a chance to feel justified in their decision or absolutely regret it. I believe they will regret it, Mitchell is one of the better playoff performers in the league and I believe he will have a better series than Jalen Brunson, the Knicks off-season PG addition. The Cavaliers have the better star and the better team, The Cavaliers will win this series and Knicks will be having to think of what could have been.


Prediction: Cavaliers win in 6 games.


No. 2 Boston Celtics vs No. 7 Miami Heat - 1st Round


Wilfredo Lee/AP Photo

Winner plays: Winner of No. 3 seed Philadelphia 76ers vs No. 6 Brooklyn Nets


Another rematch from last year for the Heat! I do believe that this rematch will have the same result as last year, which was the Celtics winning. The Celtics have a great team for the modern NBA. 2 guards who can shoot, 2 wings that can defend and shoot, and whatever big they want to use, is great for the modern NBA. The Heat have been struggling this year, and that will show in this series as the Celtics handle them pretty easily.


Prediction: Celtics win in 5 games


No. 3 Philadelphia 76ers vs No. 6 Brooklyn Nets - 1st Round


via NBA

Winner plays: No. 2 seed Boston Celtics (see above)


I, like many others, thought the Nets were finished after they traded KD and Kyrie. They held on to become the 6th seed, and believe it or not, they match up well with the 76ers, have multiple wings that can defend, and have Nicolas Claxton who can defend. In the end, Joel Embiid shows why he is the MVP this year as his team beats the Nets in a tough series.


Prediction: Sixers win in 6 games


No. 1 Seed Milwaukee Bucks vs No. 4 Cleveland Cavaliers - 2nd Round


via Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Winner plays: Winner of No. 2 seed Boston Celtics vs No. 3 seed Philadelphia 76ers


The Bucks and Cavaliers are top-tier East teams. I believe both teams match up well with each other. I do trust the Bucks more, and I believe a defensive core of Giannis, Jrue, Middleton, and Lopez can slow down the Cavaliers, and that is why I believe that they will win this series and get into the East Finals. The Cavaliers do show in this series that they will be a force to be reckoned with in years to come.


Prediction: Bucks win in 7 games


No. 2 Boston Celtics vs No. 3 Philadelphia 76ers - 2nd Round


via Charles Fox/The Philadelphia Inquirer

Winner plays: No. 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks (see above)


I believe that the Celtics have the 76ers number. There are quotes that show Joel Embiid admitting that his team can't beat the Celtics. Celtics won the season series 3-1 and I expect them to win this series. One of the best lineups and rosters in the league moves on to their 2nd straight East Finals.


Prediction: Celtics win in 6 games


No. 1 Milwaukee Bucks vs No. 2 Boston Celtics - Eastern Conference Finals


via Morry Gash/AP Photo

Winner plays: No. 4 seed Phoenix Suns (see above)


A rematch of the 2nd round matchup where the Celtics came back down 3-2 to win and ultimately go on to the Finals. Both Giannis and Tatum were MVP candidates this year, and I believe both have the teams to win it all. With how the teams look currently health-wise, I believe having Khris Middleton (someone they didn't have last year) for this series will help the Bucks get back into the Finals.


Prediction: Bucks win in 7 games


No. 1 Milwaukee Bucks vs No. 4 Phoenix Suns - NBA Finals


via Christian Petersen/Getty Images

A rematch of the 2021 NBA Finals. The Suns look way different than they did in the last Finals matchup, with the addition of one of the best basketball players currently and all-time, Kevin Durant. I believe the Big 4 of the Suns will be able to out-match Giannis and the Bucks in a great Finals series. Kevin Durant wins Finals MVP.


Prediction: Suns win the NBA Finals in 7 games. Kevin Durant wins Finals MVP.



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