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Despite falling to second place in the Western Conference and losing start point guard Steph Curry for the first round of the NBA playoffs due to a Grade 2 MCL sprain, the Golden State Warriors are listed as +135 favorites (per OddsShark) to win the NBA Finals. That puts the Dubs on top of the odds ledger and just ahead of the Houston Rockets at +160.
Houston finished 65-17 and has looked phenomenal (especially when Chris Paul and James Harden are on the court together), but the Warriors clearly showed that they have no interest in renouncing the NBA throne as they crushed the San Antonio Spurs 113-92 in their 2018 playoff debut.
It will be fascinating to see how the Warriors do in the playoffs after an injury-marred regular season, but until then, here’s a look at round-by-round predictions for the remainder of the NBA postseason, in addition to some notes on three playoff teams.
NBA Playoff Bracket
First Round: Eastern Conference
No. 1 Toronto Raptors over No. 8 Washington Wizards
No. 2 Boston Celtics over No. 7 Milwaukee Bucks
No. 3 Philadelphia 76ers over No. 6 Miami Heat
No. 4 Cleveland Cavaliers over No. 5 Indiana Pacers
First Round: Western Conference
No. 1 Houston Rockets over No. 8 Minnesota Timberwolves
No. 2 Golden State Warriors over No. 7 San Antonio Spurs
No. 3 Portland Trail Blazers over No. 6 New Orleans Pelicans
No. 4 Oklahoma City Thunder over No. 5 Utah Jazz
Eastern Conference Semifinals
No. 4 Cleveland Cavaliers over No. 1 Toronto Raptors
No. 3 Philadelphia 76ers over No. 2 Boston Celtics
Western Conference Semifinals
No. 1 Houston Rockets over No. 4 Oklahoma City Thunder
No. 3 Portland Trail Blazers over No. 2 Golden State Warriors
Eastern Conference Finals
No. 4 Cleveland Cavaliers over No. 3 Philadelphia 76ers
Western Conference Finals
No. 1 Houston Rockets over No. 3 Portland Trail Blazers
No. 4 Cleveland Cavaliers over No. 1 Houston Rockets
One game doesn’t necessarily dictate how a series might go, but the Toronto Raptors’ second-half performance against the Washington Wizards could be a good sign for a team looking to defeat its postseason demons from this decade, which include a 2015 sweep to their 2018 playoff opponent.
Down 96-95 with just under nine minutes remaining on Saturday, Toronto went on a 14-1 run en route to a 114-106 win. The fantastic Raptors bench once again starred, as Delon Wright (18 points) and C.J. Miles (12) led the way.
Most notably, the bench helped carry the offensive load on an afternoon where the team’s All-Star backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan had off-nights (just 28 points combined). It’s a testament to how good the rest of the team is that the Raptors were still able to score 114 points, which was 2.3 more than their regular-season average.
The second-unit production will only get better when Fred VanVleet returns to action (the former Wichita State star missed the game with shoulder soreness). If the bench continues to produce, then we could be talking about the Raptors making their first NBA Finals appearance in franchise history.
Golden State Warriors
Although the San Antonio Spurs have struggled on the road this year (including playoffs, they are 14-28), the Golden State Warriors put the league on notice with their emphatic win on Saturday.
Looking nothing like the team that lost to the Utah Jazz by 40 points to close the regular season, the Warriors never trailed in a game that was over by the beginning of the fourth quarter. The biggest surprise was center JaVale McGee, who started and scored 15 points (in just 16 minutes) while acting as a pest on defense against Spurs big man LaMarcus Aldridge.
If the Warriors’ Game 1 win is any indication, the team won’t even need Curry until the second round anyway. The Spurs also face a significant road handicap, as they have gone just 14-28 away from San Antonio this year.
The question is whether Curry can return for the second round, which would mean a matchup with the Portland Trail Blazers or New Orleans Pelicans. Both of those teams are arguably tougher draws than the Spurs, so if Curry can’t suit up, the Warriors might have to navigate a tricky second round.
This might be the most interesting team in the NBA playoffs, in part because they may have the most plausible gap between playoff ceiling and floor out of anyone.
Without All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, would it that much of a surprise to see the young starting trio Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier engineer a run to the NBA Finals? It may not be, considering that the three have combined for some excellent individual performances in Irving’s absence, most notably Tatum’s 23-point, 11-rebound stat line in a 100-99 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Of course, the C’s are a much better team with Irving, and it’s hard seeing them seriously contending for an NBA Finals crown against a team like the Houston Rockets or Golden State Warriors. But an Eastern Conference title isn’t out of the question, especially considering that Boston is guaranteed home-court advantage for two rounds.
On the flip side, the Bucks’ trio of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton could score close to 70 points per night and lead a first-round upset of the Celtics. In particular, Antetokounmpo is a nightmare matchup for any team in the league, and the Celtics are no exception (he averaged 33.5 points, 10.8 rebounds and 5.0 assists in four games against Boston).
However, the C’s have one of the best head coaches in the league in Brad Stevens, in addition to a fantastic team defense that ranked first in efficiency. It won’t be a shock to see the Celtics go far.