NBA Playoffs Second Round Previews + Predictions


Benjamin Kruer

Boston Celtics (2) vs Philadelphia 76ers (3)

In what feels like a throwback to the 80s, the Celtics and 76ers meet again in the playoffs. This will be the 22nd time that these two teams have met in the playoffs. This storied is among the best in the NBA and expect this series to be no different. Not only will the players be heavily invested but so will each of the fanbases.

“We know [the 76ers are] going to bring the fight,” Celtics star Jaylen Brown said according to ESPN. “Philly is a tough environment to win. Their crowd gets involved in the game. It’s going to be fun.”

Joel Embiid of course leads the 76ers. Embiid is having his best season yet and at this point, it seems likely that he will win the MVP. His impressive tear this year has been simply historical and the Celtics should be in for a hard time slowing him down. That being said, the Celtics have an ace of their own. Jayson Tatum seems to be on the precipice of reaching that upper echelon of NBA players. His fantastic and eye-opening playoff run last year was a thing of beauty, even though he did sputter a bit in the Finals. Both Embiid and Tatum will likely be constants so the series will come down to the rest of the respective teams. It is because of this that the Celtics will win. The depth that Boston has just isn’t matched around the rest of the league. Brown is a name that has not yet been mentioned but is, at times, just as good, or even better than Tatum. Guards Derrick White, Marcus Smart, and Malcolm Brogdon, forwards Grant Williams and Sam Hauser, and big men Robert Williams III and Al Horford are all very, very good role players that will make it extremely difficult for Philly to win the series. Furthermore, some elements of the 76ers team are still unknown. James Harden continues to be a wildcard in playoff games and as he ages his health has also become a worry. Tyrese Maxey is a very talented player, but can he match up against the three-headed defensive monster that is the Celtics backcourt? Ultimately the series will come down to one simple fact: when the Celtics are playing their best, they are the best team in the NBA.

Celtics in 6


Denver Nuggets (1) vs Phoenix Suns (4)

This series going to be a real test for each team. The Suns, while playing well, still look as if they have not completely meshed as a team since acquiring  Kevin Durant. Don’t fear though Suns fans, it’s likely that they start to put it together a bit more. Durant is a one-of-a-kind player and can fit into any system because of his offensive prowess. It should also be mentioned how good Devin Booker has been as well. Booker has likely been the best player in the playoffs so far and it will be extremely difficult to stop Booker and Durant when both of them are getting their shots to fall. The Suns largest negative is their lack of depth on the bench. While there are some quality players, it is certainly difficult to win another playoff series with Damion Lee playing 15 minutes a game for you. On the other side, the Nuggets feel as if they have been just levitating above the field for a while. They had their slip-ups as the season ended but were able to retain the one seed. However, the Nuggets have two glaring issues. The first is that outside of Jokic no one can truly win a series for them. Now, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr both can sure get some buckets in spurts but lack overall consistency between games.  Aaron Gordon is an amazing role player and was almost an All-Star but he can’t create his shot as well as others. The Nuggets can win with a second-best player by committee-style performances but in a series where the Suns have arguably four out of the top five players in the series this may not work. The second biggest weakness is their defense. While it is slightly above average, Phoenix has had the best offense of the playoffs, and who on the Nuggets is going to be able to stop Booker and Durant?

Suns in 7


Miami Heat (1) vs New York Knicks (5)

It feels like the Miami Heat did the impossible. While Giannis Antetokounmpo did miss two games for the Bucks and seemed to still not be 100% in games 4 and 5, the Heat were the better team. While it has become a joke at this point that Jimmy Butler seems to elevate his game during the playoffs, the stats seem to speak for themselves. He torched Jrue Holiday, who was often his primary defender and who is arguably the best perimeter defender in the entire league, to such an extent that Giannis essentially begged to guard Butler. While this first-round victory was impressive the Heat still have numerous glaring weaknesses. They have no depth as a team and without Tyler Herro are handicapped offensively. Once again, the Heat will go as far as Jimmy Butler takes them.  The New York Knicks have looked very good thus far in the playoffs. They vanquished a Cleveland team, that felt like it could be a sneaky Eastern Conference Final pick. The Knicks are led by Jalen Brunson who is the quintessential New York point guard. Scrappy and undersized, Brunson isn’t the prototypical guard for today’s game. His bread is buttered by being crafty in order to get shots close to the bucket and to kick to teammates rather than live and die by the three-point shot. The rest of the Knicks are similar to Brunson regarding toughness. Players like Josh Hart are winning players with intangibles that simply help a team win. While the Knicks seem to be in a prime position to make it back to the conference finals for the first time in a generation, they can’t overlook this scrappy Heat team. Expect plenty of technical fouls, skirmishes, and low-scoring games.

Knicks in 7


Golden State Warriors (6) vs Los Angeles Lakers (7)

Truth be told, it feels as if neither of these teams should be here. It feels like a lifetime ago now that the Los Angeles Lakers were the 13 seed in the West and had no shot of reaching the playoffs. All it took was some unreal performances from Anthony Davis and an amazing trade deadline from General Manager Rob Pelinka to even get the Lakers into the Play-In tournament. The Lakers then were able to catch several strokes of luck with Ruby Gobert being suspended from the Minnesota Timberwolves in the Play-In game and with the Memphis Grizzlies missing key big men such as Steven Adams and Brandon Clarke in round one. The Lakers were able to win the series against the Grizzlies with relative ease. The game six, series-clinching win for the Lakers felt inevitable leading up to the game, and the way the Lakers played cemented that fact.

“It was definitely a game seven mentality for us,” LeBron James said according to ESPN. “We understood that we had an opportunity to play in front of our fans, and we wanted to try to end it tonight.”

James’ mentality mirrored the rest of the teams’ as they thumped the Grizzlies in game six. The Warriors on the other hand had to claw tooth and nail to beat the Sacramento Kings. It took seven games and an all-time Stephen Curry performance, but the Golden State Warriors were able to come out on top. This series feels like it could be a classic and there are two legacies on the line. The rekindling of the Curry-James rivalry will be an amazing story to watch. The series, like most, probably won’t be decided by the stars, but rather by the role players. Jordan Poole has been less than stellar for the Warriors, which should be a major cause for concern. As for the Lakers, Rui Hachimura was phenomenal during the first round and if he continues to play well the Lakers should be in a good place during the series.

Lakers in 7