2021 Second Round NBA Playoff Predictions

June 5th, 2021

By Alan Lu

It’s been really interesting to watch the 2021 NBA Playoffs, to see how it’s been unfolding.  The Philadelphia 76ers and the Atlanta Hawks won their first-round series to play each other, as that was expected after both of them were able to get out to 3-1 series leads in their respective series.

The Phoenix Suns defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in a decisive fashion in 6 games due to the superb shooting and scoring prowess of superstar guard Devin Booker, and stellar playmaking skills of future Hall of Fame point guard Chris Paul.  As the Lakers were without a healthy Anthony Davis, it looked to be increasingly more likely and expected for them to lose to the Suns in the first round, but it still looked to be shocking that a team with LeBron James ended up losing in the first round, nonetheless.

The Los Angeles Clippers-Dallas Mavericks’ series is going to seven games, and the road team has won each time.  Doncic’s 42-point performance in Dallas’ Game 5 win was tremendous to watch, and Kawhi Leonard’s 45-point showing in the Clippers’ Game 6 win was equally as mesmerizing, as both of them made big shots down the stretch in both of those games. It’s been surprising that the road team has won each time, and at this point, Game 7 could be anyone’s guess and game amongst them at this point.

Without further ado, here are my second round predictions for the next series.  This was supposed to have come out early on Saturday, so this is a little late, but here are my thoughts on how the series will go regardless.

The 2021 2nd Round NBA Playoff Predictions:

Brooklyn Nets’ superstar forward, Kevin Durant and Milwaukee Bucks’ superstar forward, Giannis Antetokounmpo will play against each other in the second round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs. The Brooklyn Nets lead 1-0 in this series.
Jeff Hanisch/USA Today Sports, via NBC Sports)

(2) Brooklyn Nets vs. (3) Milwaukee Bucks

In their regular season head-to-head series, the Milwaukee Bucks won two of the three games in meeting up with the Brooklyn Nets.

For the Brooklyn Nets, they’ve only had a healthy James Harden in one of those games, but they won when he played against Milwaukee on that day, as he scored 34 points and dropped off 12 assists against them. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have played very well, as they’ve really excelled at scoring the basketball against Milwaukee.  They’ve also got solid shooting out of Jeff Green, Joe Harris, and Blake Griffin in their season series, and several other players are expected to be contributors for Brooklyn.  Unfortunately for the Nets, they had trouble defending the Bucks in their regular season series against them. A lot of Brooklyn’s potential success against Milwaukee in the playoffs will hinge on the health of their Big Three.  If they’re healthy, they can take this series.  If they end up getting injured and if it prevents them from playing well or playing in this series, this could hurt their chances a bit to win against Milwaukee.

For the Milwaukee Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo has been tremendous for them, as he played at an MVP level for them against the Nets.   In those games, he averaged nearly 40 points per game in their head-to-head matchups only against the Nets in the regular season, and he was regularly getting 10 rebounds and 5 assists, as well as a steal and a block a game to go along with that in those meetings. Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday also played very well on both ends of the floor for the Bucks in those games, and they also got strong shooting from veteran guard, Bryn Forbes. On the downside, Brook Lopez, Bobby Portis, and Donte DiVincenzo really struggled to shoot in those games.  Also, Pat Connaughton and P.J. Tucker both shot the ball very well with limited touches, and they may need to shoot and play more in the playoffs to help their team.

For Milwaukee, veteran center Brook Lopez could be at a serious disadvantage in the second round series against Brooklyn, as his lack of mobility will force Milwaukee to use drop coverages to defend Brooklyn, which will likely give Durant and Kyrie Irving all the space and time they need to get and make shots at will. Lopez has also not shot the ball well against Brooklyn in the regular season, so Lopez might be a limited use player at best in this series, and at worst Brook Lopez could be a player who should not play at all against the Nets in the playoffs.

In the NBA playoffs, it seems that we’re going to see a recurring theme. If an NBA team needs to implement a drop coverage on the defensive end, that may doom them because they might end up being too slow to guard quicker scorers and ball-handlers in the modern game where more NBA players can comfortably shoot threes and handle the ball on offense. In this case, if an NBA team deploys a slow-footed big man on defense, a good offense will exploit the coverage to consistently get an open three on every possession.

Unfortunately, James Harden aggravated a hamstring injury in Game 1 of the 2nd Round in the 2021 NBA Playoffs, as that could tip the scales in Milwaukee’s direction, especially if that affects him for the duration of their playoff series.  If Harden can’t play the rest of the series, the Nets will have to lean more heavily on Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to try to get the playoff series win over the Milwaukee Bucks.

(Previous Prediction: The Brooklyn Nets over Milwaukee Bucks in 6 Games)

Current Prediction: The Brooklyn Nets over the Milwaukee Bucks in 6 Games.

James Harden going down with a hamstring injury was leading me to think about switching the pick to Milwaukee, but Brooklyn’s game 1 domination in their win over Milwaukee has me convinced that the Nets will be just fine with or without James Harden, and that they can afford for him to take his time to fully recover from a hamstring injury and still beat Milwaukee due to their tremendous talent, depth, and cohesive team play.

The much favored, Philadelphia 76ers will play against the upstart Atlanta Hawks in what is expected to be a very fun and entertaining, second round series in the 2021 NBA Playoffs.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images, via Fansided’s The Sixer Sense)

(1) The Philadelphia 76ers vs. (5) The Atlanta Hawks

In the three games that the Philadelphia 76ers and the Atlanta Hawks played against each other this season, the 76ers won two of them this year.

Joel Embiid has played at an MVP-level in general this year, but he didn’t quite dominate against the Hawks in the regular season, and he didn’t quite shoot as well as expected in those games.  Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, Seth Curry, and Furkan Korkmaz shot the ball very well in those games, and the four of them are expected to be key players in their playoff series. They will need to get more consistent production out of Shake Milton, who was up and down in their season series, and they will also rely on other players such as Matisse Thybulle, Tyrese Maxey, George Hill, and Dwight Howard to round out their rotation.

The Atlanta Hawks won just one game against Philly in their regular season series, but they won in the one game that second year forward, De’Andre Hunter played against them in those games. Hunter also played very well in that game, so he could be very valuable for the Hawks in their second round series. The Hawks’ superstar point guard, Trae Young shot the ball really well, as he averaged 29 points in two games against the 76ers in the regular season.  John Collins also scored efficiently, but he didn’t play nearly enough minutes nor grab enough rebounds and blocks in those games.  Clint Capela rebounded the ball well, but he didn’t shoot nor defend quite as well as expected in those games. The Hawks will also count on other players such as Danilo Gallinari, Lou Williams, Bogdan Bogdanović, Tony Snell, and Kevin Huerter to step up in their roles, as they will help round out the rotation in the playoffs.

The Prediction: The Philadelphia 76ers over the Atlanta Hawks in 6 games

The Phoenix Suns and the Denver Nuggets will go head-to-head in a fun-filled, second round matchup, as they boast two of the biggest superstars in the NBA game right now in Suns’ superstar guard Devin Booker, and Nuggets’ superstar point center, Nikola Jokic.
David Zalubowski/Associated Press, via Arizona Sports 98.7 FM)

(2) The Phoenix Suns vs. (3) The Denver Nuggets

In their three regular season games that Denver and Phoenix played against each other, Denver won two of those games.  Of course, they will be without point guard Jamal Murray, because he blew out his ACL and will miss the entire playoffs, so that changes things. In his absence, Nikola Jokić has been leaned on even more, as the MVP candidate played really well in their first round series win over the Portland Trail Blazers, and Jokić has taken over much more as a scorer than previously.

For the Denver Nuggets, Nikola Jokić played extremely well, as he played a strong all-around game to lead their team to two of those regular season wins over the Suns.  They also got strong games out of Michael Porter Jr. and Monte Morris, and newcomer Aaron Gordon will provide defensive versatility, top-notch athleticism, and some offensive skills.  They will also rely on Paul Millsap, Austin Rivers, JaMychal Green, and Facundo Campazzo to help round out their rotation.

For the Phoenix Suns, superstar guard, Devin Booker has shot the ball really well both in the playoffs and against the Nuggets in their regular season series.  That he scored 47 points to close out the first round series against LeBron and the Lakers will mean that the Suns are a really good team, and they could be the team to beat in the West. Center DeAndre Ayton also did a great job of scoring and rebounding to help his team in the paint.  They’ve also got solid scoring out of athletic 3 and D role player, Mikal Bridges

Chris Paul has been racking up assists, but he’s struggled to make shots consistently.  He’s played very well in the playoffs so far.  They will need Jae Crowder and Cameron Johnson to shoot well, as they have done so against the Lakers in their first-round series.  Cameron Payne really struggled in the regular season against Denver, but he was an electrifying scorer and playmaker to help the Suns get the first-round series win over the Lakers. With the impressive way that the Suns closed out the Lakers, it’s looking more and more that maybe Phoenix’s head coach Monty Williams should win the Coach of the Year award instead. Devin Booker and Chris Paul were phenomenal in the first round as they consistently made shots and plays on offense, and Williams has also done a terrific job in leading his team to not only defeat the Lakers, but to also blow them out in a very impressive fashion in Games 5 and 6.

The Prediction: The Phoenix Suns over the Denver Nuggets in 6 games

Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, and the first-seeded Utah Jazz will await to play their next opponent in a second round series matchup of the 2021 NBA Playoffs.
Rick Bowmer/Associated Press, via Bleacher Report)

(1) Utah Jazz vs. (4) Los Angeles Clippers/(5) Dallas Mavericks

Game 7 between the Clippers and the Mavericks could be anyone’s guess.  It’s strange enough that both of the teams have won six road games in a row, and if it continues to trend that way, then the Dallas Mavericks may end up having the “road court advantage” for Game 7.  Both of those teams have looked really good at times, but there can only be one winner between the Clippers and Mavericks.

The Utah Jazz played the Los Angeles Clippers three times during the regular season, and won in two of those games.  The Jazz received the bulk of their scoring from Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley, and Conley dominated in both games that he played against the Clippers. They’ve also gotten solid production out of Rudy Gobert and Joe Ingles in those games, but Jordan Clarkson and Bojan Bogdanovic will need to shoot the ball better in those games.  Derrick Favors and Royce O’Neale are expected to play plenty of minutes in the playoffs in the second round.

The Los Angeles Clippers haven’t fared very well in their regular season series against the Jazz.  They’ve relied heavily on Kawhi Leonard and Paul George for offense, but while they did a good job of drawing and making free throws, neither of them shot the ball particularly well in the regular season against Utah. Pat Beverley and Ivica Zubac have shot the ball well in limited touches against Utah, but Zubac has not seemed to play very well in his current series against Dallas, as his team has looked better with him off the floor than on it. Serge Ibaka has a lingering back injury, so it’s uncertain if he will be able to play in the second round.  Marcus Morris has struggled to make shots against Utah this year. Also, the Clippers may call upon Luke Kennard, Nicolas Batum, Terance Mann, and Reggie Jackson to help round out their rotation.

The Utah Jazz played the Dallas Mavericks three times during the regular season, and they also won in two of those games.  They’ve gotten strong games out of Mike Conley, Jordan Clarkson, and Rudy Gobert, but strangely they lost in the only game that Donovan Mitchell played against Dallas. Superstar guard, Donovan Mitchell was vastly important for Utah against Memphis. After he sat out Game 1 due to injury as his team loss to the Grizzlies, the Jazz won four straight games after he came back, which really strengthened Utah’s case for the title once again. Joe Ingles and Bojan Bogdanović both have shot the ball very well in their roles, but Mitchell played poorly in his one game against the Mavericks this past season.  The Jazz will certainly need Mitchell to fare better against Dallas (if they play them) in order to execute well in the second round of their playoff series.

The Dallas Mavericks have really relied upon Luka Dončić to score the bulk of the points on offense, and he did so quite well for them this season, especially against Utah.  He did virtually everything well for Dallas, and they will lean heavily upon him to try to take them far in the playoffs. Tim Hardaway Jr., Jalen Brunson, and Dorian Finney-Smith also shot the ball well for the Mavericks against Utah in the regular season, but they will need Kristaps Porzingis to shoot and play significantly better than how he fared against Utah this year.  Also, Josh Richardson, Trey Burke, Maxi Kleber, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Boban Marjanović will likely help round out the rotation for the Mavericks in their playoff series against Utah, if they make it to the second round.

The Prediction: The Utah Jazz over the Los Angeles Clippers/Dallas Mavericks in 6 games

Both Luka Doncic and Kawhi Leonard have been terrific in the Dallas Mavericks-Los Angeles Clippers’ first round series in the 2021 NBA Playoffs, with both teams combining for an impressive six road wins, but only one team amongst them can advance to the second round.
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press, via The Bleacher Report)

Game 7 of the 1st Round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs:

(4) The Los Angeles Clippers vs. (5) The Dallas Mavericks

Both teams have won three games apiece on the road, so game 7 may be anyone’s game at this point. For the Los Angeles Clippers, Kawhi Leonard has been tremendous, as he’s averaged almost 33 points per game, as he made over 60% of his field goals, 43% of his threes, and 88% of his free throws in these games.  He’s been the MVP for the Clippers in this series, and he had a scintillating 45 point game to get them the Game 6 win on the road. The Clippers have also had strong performances from Paul George and Reggie Jackson, but they haven’t quite been able to get consistent scoring elsewhere.  Nicolas Batum has excelled as a scorer and defender in a low volume role on offense, but they will need Marcus Morris and Rajon Rondo to shoot the ball better.

Luka Dončić also has been terrific in this series, as he’s averaged 34 points, 8 rebounds, and nearly 10 assists per games in the playoffs against the Clippers so far, and he’s had two 40+ point games in this series.  The only thing is that he’s struggled to make his free throws, which is a little baffling considering that he is one of the best and most skilled players in all of the NBA. The Mavericks have been able to get solid scoring out of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Kristaps Porzingis.  Dorian Finney-Smith and Jalen Brunson have shot the ball well in lower volume offensive roles, but Boban Marjanović has strangely struggled to shoot well in extended playing time for Dallas.  Both teams have played very well on the road. 

The Los Angeles Clippers need Kawhi and Paul George to play well, and Dallas needs Luka Dončić to play well.  It’s a tremendous feat that the road team has won each time, and one has to wonder if a home team will win at all in this series.  Both teams have played very well on the road, but only one of these teams can win, though.

The Prediction: The Los Angeles Clippers over the Dallas Mavericks in a close game in Game 7

In revisiting my first-round predictions post that I made before the start of the NBA playoffs, here is how I’ve fared so far in the round-by-round picks in the 2021 NBA Playoffs so far (not counting subsequent posts where I’ve flipped the picks):

My 2021 1st Round Playoff Predictions Record on this site: 5-2.
I’ve correctly picked the Utah Jazz, the Denver Nuggets, the Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks, and the Brooklyn Nets to all advance to the second round. However, I incorrectly picked the Los Angeles Lakers and the New York Knicks prior to the start of the postseason, as both of those teams ended up getting eliminated by the Phoenix Suns and the Atlanta Hawks, respectively.

I will be keeping track of how I will fare in these predictions, and it will be interesting to see which teams will end up winning or losing in the 2021 NBA playoffs. There will be more exciting playoff games to watch, and it will be interesting to see which NBA teams will win in the postseason.  Thank you for reading.

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