2017 NBA Playoffs: First Round Predictions

As the 2017 NBA playoffs begin at the end of April, basketball fans around the world are primed for one of the more highly-anticpipated postseasons in recent memory. MVP candidates, exciting rookies, and retiring legends will all battle for a the chance to hoist the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy in June. Below are the Bottom Line sports editor’s predictions for the first round of the 2017 NBA playoffs.

Eastern Conference 

(1) Boston Celtics vs. (8) Chicago Bulls 

Prediction: Celtics (4-2) 

The Boston Celtics shocked most of the basketball universe by upending the Cleveland Cavilers for the number one seed in the East, and the spotlight will be on the C’s to live up to expectations. This first round matchup should be Boston’s to lose, given their offensive advantage.  Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo have enough talent and playoff experience to take two games in this series, but it won’t be enough to overcome the defensive unit of Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, and Jae Crowder. Isaiah Thomas is going to frustrate Chicago on offense, and the Celtics will advance in six games.

(4) Washington Wizards vs. (5) Atlanta Hawks 

Prediction: Wizards (4-3) 

This series has the opportunity to be the most entertaining of the first round, with two teams with top-level potent battling for a spot in the second round. Atlanta has been inconsistent during the regular season, but posted recent wins against the Cavilers and Celtics.  In the end, however, Washington’s John Wall and Bradley Beal will be too explosive, and the Wizards will benefit by the reduced rotations of the playoffs to win in seven games behind their superb starting five.

(3) Toronto Raptors vs. (6) Milwaukee Bucks 

Prediction: Raptors (4-1) 

The Milwaukee Bucks are on the verge of NBA championship contention. Unfortunately for fans in Wisconsin, they aren’t there just yet. The Raptors, led by DeMar DeRozan, are going to be too much. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, and Thon Maker have terrific long-term potential, but they aren’t prepared to overcome Toronto’s talent and playoff experience.

(2) Cleveland Cavilers vs. (7) Indiana Pacers 

Prediction: Cavilers (4-2) 

Yes, Cleveland has looked vulnerable down the final stretch of the regular season. Yes, the Cavilers struggle on defense and Paul George is an offensive star. But no, this series will not be the shocking upset many in the media are attempting to predict. LeBron James is still the best basketball player on the planet, and a first round exit isn’t happening to the reigning NBA champions.

Western Conference 

(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (8) Portland Trail Blazers 

Prediction: Warriors (4-0)

While many fans would love to see Portland’s young and exciting roster take the next step from last year’s challenge to the Warriors, that doesn’t seem likely. The Trailblazers might make a few of these games close, but Golden State is playing at too high of a level right now to be bothered in the first round.

(4) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (5) Utah Jazz 

Prediction: Clippers (4-3)

This series is going to be a fascinating one to watch for two reasons. First, the Jazz have been underrated all season, and will have a chance to upset some of the sport’s biggest names in the first round. Second, whichever team loses this series is likely going to see its roster alter dramatically, be it Gordon Hayward leaving for greener pastures, or the Clippers’ “Big Three” parting ways. This series will go the distance, but Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin will pull the win out in seven games.

(3) Houston Rockets vs. (6) Oklahoma City Thunder 

Prediction: Thunder (4-3) 

This matchup is going to have basketball fans glued to laptop screens and televisions to watch the two MVP frontrunners battle for a shot at a playoff run.  The Rockets have James Harden and a roster full of shooters, and Oklahoma City has Russell Westbrook and his historic momentum. Neither team would be where they are without their superstar guard. The edge in this seven game series is going to Westbrook, who more than anyone else in the league is playing like he doesn’t want his season to end.

(2) San Antonio Spurs vs. (7) Memphis Grizzlies 

Prediction: Spurs (4-1) 

The Grizzlies have quietly flown under the radar this season, with veterans Marc Gasol and Mike Conley expanding their games to keep the team competitive. However, the Spurs are still the Spurs. Kawhi Leonard would have been an MVP favorite in just about any other NBA season, and Greg Popovich is going to coach his team easily into the second round.

The 2017 NBA playoffs are here, and its time to sit back and watch the sport’s best teams go head-to-head in their pursuit of a championship.

Featured image: Boston Celtics’ guard Isaiah Thomas (4) shots against Washington Wizards’ guard John Wall (2). The two rivals could face off in round two of the NBA playoffs. (Flickr/ Keith Allison).

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