The 2017 NBA Playoffs are set to begin this weekend with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors as the favorites to meet for a third straight year in the NBA Finals. Though both the Cavs and Warriors are the favorites, there are still teams who could make a splash in the NBA Playoffs other than those two.
If the Cavs or Warriors don’t make the NBA Finals, it would be the ultimate surprise of the NBA Playoffs, but even more so, it would be a shame to not have a “Part 3” of the NBA Playoffs rivalry that we’ve all become accustomed to the past two years, with each team winning one NBA championship.
But to be fair, there are other teams in the 2017 NBA Playoffs that will make some noise and provide NBA fans excellent basketball during the playoffs. Listed are the first-round matchups for the NBA Playoffs, including both the Eastern and Western Conferences, with series predictions next to the games in parentheses.
Eastern Conference Playoffs
• No. 1 Boston Celtics vs. No. 8 Chicago Bulls (Celtics, 4-0)
• No. 2 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. No. 7 Indiana Pacers (Cavaliers, 4-1)
• No. 3 Toronto Raptors vs. No. 6 Milwaukee Bucks (Raptors, 4-0)
• No. 4 Washington Wizards vs. No. 5 Atlanta Hawks (Wizards, 4-2)
Western Conference Playoffs:
• No. 1 Golden State Warriors vs. No. 8 Portland Trailblazers (Warriors, 4-0)
• No. 2. San Antonio Spurs vs. No. 7 Memphis Grizzles (Spurs, 4-1)
• No. 3 Houston Rockets vs. No. 6 Oklahoma City Thunder (Rockets, 4-2)
• No. 4 Los Angeles Clippers vs. No. 5 Utah Jazz (Clippers, 4-2)
Though most believe the Warriors and Cavs have a good chance to meet up in the NBA Finals, let’s not forget about all of the first-round matchups, as here are predictions of which teams will win in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
In the Eastern Conference, it should be all chalk so to speak with the Celtics, Cavs, Raptors and Wizards all winning their playoff series. There is intrigue with the Cavs and how they will “flip the switch” into playoff mode after a lackluster end to the regular season.
The Celtics shouldn’t struggle at all with the Bulls, and the same goes with the Raptors over the Bucks. Fans shouldn’t expect the Wizards to lose their series either, but that could be the closest of the four series in the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
As for the Western Conference, it belongs to the Warriors until there is a team in the West who proves they can stop them. The West is a bit more tricky, as besides the Warriors winning in the first round, and the same going for the Spurs, are the other two series with the Rockets vs. Thunder and Clippers vs. Jazz that easy to predict?
The most exciting series of the NBA Playoffs, in any round, could be the Rockets and Thunder, and for good reason. This NBA first-round playoff series involves James Harden of the Rockets and Russell Westbrook of the Thunder. In the battle of the top two players in the NBA in terms of who will be named the Most Valuable Player, these games will be full of scoring and maybe not a lot of defense.
If this series becomes what it looks like it might become, the Rockets will advance to the next round in six games over the Thunder. As for the Clippers and Jazz, they faced each other four times during the NBA regular season with the Clippers winning three times, leaving this playoff series in favor of the Clippers and moving on to the Western Conference semifinals.
Though this first round of the NBA Playoffs doesn’t have a lot of buzz in each series, there is still some quality basketball to be played. Though it seems like the top-ranked teams should play well enough to advance to the semifinals, some of these series should provide excitement and make the next round of the playoffs the round to watch.
[Featured Image by Jason Miller/Getty Images]