Predictions for the First Round Games of the 2024 NBA Playoffs

April 20th, 2024

by Alan Lu

LeBron James and Nikola Jokic are two of biggest stars in the 2024 NBA Playoffs this year.
(Photo: Associated Press, via TribLIVE.com)

The NBA playoffs are soon underway, but I’ve been behind, because I’ve been trying to follow what’s happening at the 2024 Portsmouth Invitational, and that there are other work-related things that have slowed things down. As the playoffs start today, I haven’t had much time to do my research, so this won’t be a terribly insightful post. But I’m determined to make my picks, nonetheless. So without further ado, here they are.

Eastern Conference 1st Round Series Picks:

(1) Boston Celtics over (8) Miami Heat in 5

Boston swung some major trades to fortify themselves as a formidable contender, and with Jimmy Butler out for the series due to injury, and as Boston has some really talented players led by Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kristaps Porzingis, Jrue Holiday, Al Horford, and Derrick White, Boston will most likely easily win this series, although Miami’s Heat Culture could perhaps allow them to win a game in this series.

(7) Philadelphia 76ers over (2) New York Knicks in 6

The Knicks have been playing very well, and Jalen Brunson has turned himself into being an elite player in this league, but the 76ers are finally fully healthy, and Joel Embiid is healthy to play in this series. With Embiid and Tyrese Maxey able to suit up for Philly, the 76ers could find their early season stride to stave off a tough New York team.

(6) Indiana Pacers over (3) Milwaukee Bucks in 7

Giannis Antetokounmpo is a tremendously talented superstar that has helped Milwaukee win the 2021 title, and Milwaukee’s swing to land superstar point guard Damian Lillard was supposed to have elevated them or at least make their offense more potent. But right now, he’s hurt and it’s uncertain as to when he’ll be back. That combined with Milwaukee’s woes regarding their coaches in the regular season could make things difficult for them.

For Indiana, Tyrese Haliburton has become an NBA superstar, and the Pacers have a tremendously efficient, high-octane, fast-paced offensive attack. Indiana has played really well against Milwaukee this season, and if Giannis isn’t ready to play, Indiana could end up taking people by surprise to defeat Milwaukee in this series. Picking Indiana over Milwaukee sounds nuts, but Milwaukee did lose to an 8-seeded team last year, so it’s not completely unthinkable.

(4) Cleveland Cavaliers over the (5) Orlando Magic in 7

The Cavaliers allegedly tanking to be able to face Orlando towards the end of the regular season looked bad on Cleveland’s part, and Orlando does have two very solid forwards in Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner, as well as a bevy of promising, young up-and-comers. But Cleveland has four very good starters led by Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen, and Evan Mobley, some additional talented players such as Max Strus and Isaac Okoro, and as they have more playoff experience together, Cleveland could be able to fight off a feisty Orlando team. But if Cleveland loses in the first round again, they may have to rethink about how to build around their quartet in the future.

Western Conference 1st Round Series Picks:

(1) Oklahoma City Thunder over (8) New Orleans Pelicans in 6

The Thunder have one of the best players in the game right now in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and they have a lot of young talent on their team, as rookie big man Chet Holmgren is a very skilled player that has a solid set of all-around skills, has immense upside, and is a terrific shot blocker. Their head coach Mark Daigneault is the favorite to win the Coach of the Year award. The Pelicans are also a talented team, and if Zion is healthy, that would give them a nice star pairing with him and Brandon Ingram to compete against the Thunder. It’s tempting to go with New Orleans here, but Oklahoma City has been one of the consistently best teams in the NBA, and they should be able to at least win a round or two in this postseason.

(2) Denver Nuggets over (7) Los Angeles Lakers in 5

The Denver Nuggets have consistently played very good basketball, and they have gotten another tremendous season out of two-time MVP and superstar point center, Nikola Jokic. The Lakers have had their ups and downs, but they are led by legendary superstar forward, LeBron James, and star big man Anthony Davis.

Denver is the defending champions, and they are really tough to beat at home, as they have a lot of talent, are well-coached, and their altitude in home games will most likely allow them to advance and make a deep run in the postseason. Five years ago, I wouldn’t bet against any team that had Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, or LeBron James, but in the NBA, that’s a long time ago, and we may be entering a new NBA where neither of those guys end up making a trip to the Conference Finals this year.

(3) Minnesota Timberwolves over (6) Phoenix Suns in 7

The Timberwolves have been one of the surprise, feel-good stories of the season. They’ve really gelled as a team, Anthony Edwards has elevated his game to become an NBA superstar, and the Wolves have found a way to make the Towns-Gobert pairing really work in the frontcourt. Minnesota is a very good defensive team, with Jaden McDaniels being the rangy wing defender to really help them out, and Naz Reid has brought valuable production to help them off the bench.

Meanwhile, the Suns have dealt with injuries and inconsistent play, but as they have the superstar trio of Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and Bradley Beal, at times they’ve looked really good this season. But do they have the depth to keep up or make a deep run in the playoffs? It’s uncertain if they do, but this will be a good series for sure. If it plays out like how it did in the regular season, then Minnesota’s consistent play could be enough to allow them to edge out Phoenix in this series.

(4) Los Angeles Clippers over (5) Dallas Mavericks in 6

The Clippers-Mavericks’ series is primed to be a good one, and the Clippers added some much needed offensive firepower by swinging a blockbuster trade to land the controversial superstar James Harden to pair him up with their current stars, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. After some initial struggles, the Clippers have really hit their stride, and they’ve looked like a sleeper title contender at times. Meanwhile, Luka Doncic has continued to play great basketball, and Doncic and Kyrie Irving have finally found their stride as they have helped Dallas win 50 games this year. Both teams have the talent to make deep runs in the playoffs, but if everyone stays healthy and all goes expected, the Clippers could end up edging out Dallas to advance to the next round.

Those are my thoughts on how the series would go, but time will tell to see which predictions come true and which ones won’t. Thanks for reading.

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