My Second Round Playoff Predictions for the 2023 NBA Playoffs

April 28th, 2023

By Alan Lu

The Miami Heat defeated the Milwaukee Bucks in 5 games, and Jimmy Butler made a spectacular shot towards the end of regulation to help send the game to overtime in Game 5 of their first round series.
(Photo: Stacy Revere/Getty Images, via SB Nation)

There have been surprises and letdowns in witnessing the first round of the 2023 NBA Playoffs.  Some things have gone as expected, such as the 76ers defeating the Nets in a very quick fashion, and they did so perhaps a little more quickly than I thought they would take.  Other things have gone unexpected, such as the New York Knicks defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers in their first round series and the Miami Heat defeating the Milwaukee Bucks in theirs, and both teams did so in convincing fashion.

In my NBA.com Playoff Bracket Challenge, so far I’m 4-3 in picking the winners of each series.  I correctly predicted the Nuggets over Timberwolves, Suns over Clippers, Celtics over Hawks, and 76ers over Nets, but I missed on the Cavaliers and Bucks picks, and I was very surprised with their defeats to the Knicks and Heat, respectively.  Also, the Lakers just defeated the Memphis Grizzlies, and while I filled in those picks before the play-in tournament started, I’ll take the loss on that pick, too.  

In fact, I was actually kind of happy to take the loss there, because I feel like Dillon Brooks and the Grizzlies have talked entirely too much trash, and they haven’t done enough to back it up, as their franchise still hasn’t won a title yet. The Grizzlies went from being an endearing team to being arguably the most annoying team in the NBA, and that Ja Morant and the Grizzlies attempted to trash talk the Warriors after they lost to them and after the Warriors won the title last year is absolutely unforgivable. So I’ll state it here. I’m glad that the Grizzlies lost to the Lakers, and they were in some serious need of some humble pie with all of the trash talking at some of the game’s greatest that they were slinging along the way.

The Warriors-Kings’ series is still ongoing, and I had picked the Warriors to win the series, but time will tell to see which team will win Game 7.

As for my playoff picks…to quote John Witherspoon from the movie Friday, you win some, you lose some, but you live to fight another day.  Without further ado, here are my picks for how the second round might go in the 2023 NBA Playoffs.

Here are my thoughts on how the second round of the Eastern Conference could go.

My Eastern Conference 2nd Round Predictions:

Miami Heat vs. New York Knicks

The New York Knicks were really convincing in their series win over the Cavaliers.  I thought Donovan Mitchell and their twin towers of Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen would get them past the Knicks, but the Knicks played very well, as they shot the ball really well, did a great job of moving the basketball, and also played very good defense in this series.  They basically rendered 3rd place in the DPOY voting, Evan Mobley almost completely useless in their first round series, as Mobley was foul prone and fouled out of the last game of this series, and they found a way to bottle up Donovan Mitchell.  Moreover, Jalen Brunson did a great job of making shots and running the team, and Josh Hart was terrific, and looked like the ultimate Thibs type of player.

I’m really tempted to pick the Knicks here.  However, the Miami Heat defeated a very good Milwaukee Bucks’ team that was led by Giannis. While Budenholzer made the absolutely puzzling decision to not play Brook Lopez in Game 5 when up 2 in regulation with 2.1 seconds left that allowed Jimmy Butler to score on a tip-in, and that the Bucks also traded away five second round picks for a guy that refused to suit up to play for a rival contender only to barely play in this year’s playoffs (Jae Crowder), that does not damper on the fact that the Heat defeated the Bucks fair and square.

Jimmy Butler is a very good player and a gamer, and he’s a superstar that has been able to put forth clutch performances time and time again, and Bam Adebayo is one of the league’s best defenders.  The Miami Heat have found ways to win in the playoffs, and head coach Erik Spoelstra is a very smart coach that helped them get to the 2020 NBA Finals.  Therefore, I think I’ll pick the Heat in 7 games.

Prediction: Miami over New York in 7 

Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers

This was a matchup that was a long time in the works.  The 76ers dispatched the Nets easily, and they were both very good with and without Joel Embiid, and this year, Philadelphia looks to be a title contender for certain, especially with James Harden, Tyrese Maxey, and their bench coming together to strengthen the squad.  Paul Reed filled in nicely in Embiid’s absence in Game 4 to help them secure the series win, and the 76ers have been quietly a formidable squad in the Eastern Conference.

The Boston Celtics had played great basketball all year long, and they had gotten a lot of mileage from their two best players, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.  Both, especially Tatum, have shown that they can absolutely take over games, and the Celtics have a very deep and versatile squad led by head coach, Joe Mazzulla.  They have the reigning Sixth Man of the Year in Malcolm Brogdon, a versatile, super skilled guard that can run the point or play off the ball, as well as a former Defensive Player of the Year in shutdown defensive guard in Marcus Smart, along with a slew of other savvy veterans such as Al Horford and Robert Williams.

On the other hand, the Celtics stumbled a bit at times in their series’ win over the Atlanta Hawks.  They had some trouble defending former All-Star point guard Trae Young, and their loss in Game 5 made it so that superstar singer and performer Janet Jackson had to delay her concert in Atlanta for a bit.  The Celtics still managed to get the series win, as Tatum and Brown were able to go on scoring binges down the stretch to clinch a Game 6 victory to move onto the next round, but that the Celtics had some unexpected defensive breakdowns at times could be worrisome for them.

I’m tempted to pick the 76ers, as they have been surging, and swept the Nets (although the Nets did trade Durant away), but the Celtics were my NBA.com playoff bracket challenge pick to win the title this year, and for now, I’ll stick with them.  But it’ll be very close, and it could go either way.

Prediction: Boston Celtics over the Philadelphia 76ers in 7.

My Western Conference 2nd Round Predictions:

Denver Nuggets vs. Phoenix Suns

The Nuggets pretty much took care of business as expected, and two-time MVP Nikola Jokic was terrific in his team’s series win over the Timberwolves.  What was unexpected was basically a team meltdown of the Timberwolves towards the end of the season, even though they still technically made the playoffs.  There was the Rudy Gobert-Kyle Anderson fight, and their season ended with the Timberwolves losing in 5 games, despite also having Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards.  That aside, Jokic is finally getting some much needed help, as he has a healthy Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. to surround him along with having the very athletic Aaron Gordon, who turned in a very good season this year.

The Phoenix Suns have looked like the top team in the West, and they’ve been really rolling ever since Kevin Durant joined their team midway through the season by way of trade.  They easily dispatched the Clippers in 5 games, and they found ways to defeat them even in games when superstar forward, Kawhi Leonard was healthy.  Chris Paul has continued to be a stellar playmaking point guard, and Devin Booker’s sharpshooting and scoring prowess is a great complement to Paul and Durant’s skill sets.  DeAndre Ayton has been a solid interior presence, and the Suns have a pretty good bench.  The Suns fell short in the 2021 NBA Finals, but making the bold move to trade Mikal Bridges and an assortment of role players for the legendary Kevin Durant could be enough to get the Suns not only the series win over the Nuggets, but possibly the title this year.  Therefore, I’m picking the Suns to win this series.

Prediction: Phoenix Suns over the Denver Nuggets in 6.

As for the other second round game in the Western Conference, the matchup still hasn’t been set, because the Golden State Warriors will play against the Sacramento Kings in a deciding Game 7 matchup, so the winner of that series is still yet to be determined.  The Warriors are the defending champions, and are led by the legendary point guard, Stephen Curry, whose sharpshooting and shot making abilities are unparalleled, and head coach Steve Kerr has guided the Warriors to four titles.

That said, the Warriors have been maddeningly inconsistent this year, and they’ve really struggled to win on the road.  Their defensive ace, Draymond Green has gotten into a couple of incidents that have infuriated fan bases, their own and others alike (i.e. the Green-Jordan Poole incident, and the Green-Domantas Sabonis incident in the playoffs).  

On top of it, Jordan Poole has been not nearly as good as last season, and after getting a big payout in the offseason, he’s struggled to make as big of a splash as he made last year. It’s doubly frustrating, because he was so good last year, and all of the draft analysts seem to be looking or wanting a Jordan Poole-type of player in this year’s draft, but suddenly after Poole got a big payday, he hasn’t shot the ball or played nearly as well afterwards, and has looked unplayable at times in crunch time in this series. For the Warriors to have any chance to successfully defend their title this year, they will need Jordan Poole to play much better than how he has been playing this year, and they will need last year’s version of Poole instead.

The Kings have been the new team in town, and are led by head coach Mike Brown, who was a former head coach of the Cavaliers and Lakers, and was the lead assistant of the Golden State Warriors last year.  Domantas Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox have played really well this year, both of them made the All-Star team.  They’ve also got great production out of Kevin Huerter, rookie forward Keegan Murray, and Brown has incorporated a smooth motion offense along with keeping the pace running high to keep their offense flowing.  The Warriors are the proven team that has shown that they are built to last, but the Kings are the new, up-and-coming team that could outrun them and cause the Warriors’ reign to end abruptly.  Moreover, the Kings could be the type of upstart team that could surprise most people and suddenly advance to the Western Conference Finals.

Game 7 could go either way, and both have very good coaches, so I think it’ll come down to how the players perform in that game.  The smart money may be to pick the Kings, since the Warriors have struggled mightily on the road and haven’t gotten consistent play out of their bench, but I think I’d pick the Warriors over the Kings based on their experience, ability to win in the playoffs, and Stephen Curry can hit impossible shots and do so while making it look almost easy.  Is it the end of Golden State’s reign this year?  I think Golden State will live to fight another day, but it definitely won’t be easy for them.

Warriors-Kings’ Game 7, 1st Round prediction: Golden State over Sacramento in Game 7.

The Los Angeles Lakers vs. the Golden State Warriors

The Lakers have played very well as the season progressed, and in the playoffs, they were able to defeat an upstart Memphis Grizzlies’ squad.  LeBron James is playing great basketball, especially in his age-38 season, Anthony Davis has been superb when healthy, and the Lakers were able to ably defeat a team that were led by Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Desmond Bane.

Also, Austin Reaves has played really well for the Lakers, and he’s been a smooth operating shot creator that has provided them with a scoring and playmaking boost.  The Lakers also quietly made good moves this year, as they signed Dennis Schroder for the veterans’ minimum, and they made good additions by trading to get Jarred Vanderbilt and D’Angelo Russell to bolster their depth.

It’d be very tough to pick against the Warriors, especially since they are also a battle-tested team that also has won titles, and they also have Klay Thompson, one of the league’s best all-time movement shooters.  But the Warriors have looked weary this season and their younger players haven’t shown that they can consistently step up and take the mantle.  That said, it would be a shame if the Warriors couldn’t at least get to the Western Conference Finals this year, especially after they won the title last season.

Prediction:  The Golden State Warriors over the Los Angeles Lakers in 7.

All in all, those are my playoff predictions for the second round. In recap, my picks to advance to the conference finals for the 2023 NBA Playoffs are Miami, Boston, Phoenix, and Golden State (or Sacramento). Time will tell to see how things will play out, but it will be fun and entertaining to watch for sure. Thank you for reading.

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