Who Will Lose to the Warriors this Time?

With the 2019 NBA Playoffs underway, here are our predictions of how it will go down.

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Playoffs often bring shocks, thrills, and excitement—the 2019 NBA Playoffs are underway and set to live up to that expectation. The Eastern Conference is loaded with teams that have the potential to make a deep run in this year’s postseason, but, of course, most pundits and experts can only see the Golden State Warriors winning the chip. While many of us would find it hard to bet against the Warriors, there is still plenty of debate about which team will take them on in the finals.

Western Conference (MM)

1 Seed: Golden State Warriors)
Prediction: NBA Finals

Yet again, the Golden State Warriors are the team to beat out of the Western Conference. An injury to DeMarcus Cousins might slow the Warriors a bit, but this squad will be tough to beat in a best-of-seven series. Led by the scoring trio of Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Steph Curry, Golden State is loaded with talent. Each of these three players was able to average more than 21 points per game this season. Curry led the Warriors in scoring, dropping 27.3 points per game. And don’t count out their role players. Young forward Kevon Looney can stretch the floor with a dependable mid-range jump shot, and Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston deliver consistent, hard-nosed defensive performances night in and night out. Look for Golden State to stick around for a while in the playoffs this season, as per usual, with a Finals appearance as our prediction for Steve Kerr’s squad.

2 Seed: Denver Nuggets
Prediction: Western Conference Finals

The young Denver Nuggets head into the postseason as the second-best team from the Western Conference. Despite their youth, this team has proven to have the potential to string together big wins this season, especially at home. The Nuggets have the best home record in the NBA this season, going 34-7 at home. This elite home form will help Denver as they maneuver through the Western Conference playoffs. Predictions for this Nuggets team see Denver taking out the Spurs and Trail Blazers. The latter matchup will be tight, as Damian Lillard is playing the best basketball of his life. However, the Blazers lack a strong defensive paint presence after the injury to Jusuf Nurkic, and will struggle to contain all-star center and triple-double machine Nikola Jokic. The Nuggets should scrape out a win because of this, but we predict them to lose to an experienced Warriors team in the Western Conference Finals.

3 Seed: Portland Trail Blazers)
Prediction: Western Conference Semifinals

The Blazers proved themselves in the regular season, finishing in third place in a highly competitive Western Conference. The strong guard play of C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard has been the driving force for the Blazers this season. McCollum averaged 21.0 points per game, while Lillard put up 25.8 points per game in the regular season. Despite this elite performance, the Blazers will have a difficult time coping with the absence of Jusuf Nurkic. The big man, who went down with a season-ending injury, will be a hard player to replace. Nurkic was averaging 15.6 points and 10.4 rebounds per game for the Blazers before his injury. Our prediction for the Blazers has Portland overcoming their obstacles and winning against the Thunder in round one before losing to the Nuggets.

4 Seed: Houston Rockets)
Prediction: Western Conference Semifinals

The reigning MVP James Harden has returned for another stellar season with the Houston Rockets. Harden led the league with an astounding 36.1 points per game and took the Rockets to a fourth-place finish in the Western Conference. This Rockets team has a great balance of elite shooters and athletic defenders. Perimeter players like Eric Gordon and Danuel House have been able to hit the three-ball at the 37 to 41 percent range all season. Center Clint Capela has also developed into a consistent threat on the pick-and-roll with guards James Harden and Chris Paul. Capela is putting up monster stats, averaging 16.6 points and 12.7 rebounds during the regular season. Unfortunately for the fourth-seeded Rockets, a meeting with the Warriors in the second round looks inevitable, leading to a Western Conference Semifinal exit for the Rockets. While James Harden is the most capable player in the NBA at single-handedly beating a team, he’ll need more consistent scoring from Chris Paul and Eric Gordon to even have a shot at knocking off the Dubs.

Eastern Conference (LW)

1 Seed: Milwaukee Bucks )
Prediction: Eastern Conference Semifinals

The Bucks seem to have everything—a one-of-a-kind player in Giannis Antetokounmpo surrounded by pieces like Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe. The stats don’t pop off the page for the latter two players, but Middleton was chosen to be in the All-Star game this year, and Bledsoe constantly wows with his scrappy athletic plays at key moments. Add in a bench with the most depth in the NBA, and you have a championship team. They even have veterans like Pau Gasol who bring championship experience, and obviously a fantastic Coach of the Year candidate in Mike Budenholzer. The Bucks had the best record in the NBA this season and were able to easily beat the Pistons. However, they don’t have Kyrie Irving. The Bucks do not have a proven closer in the clutch, which will prove enough to hold them again from another championship run, falling short to the Boston Celtics in the second round.

2 Seed: Toronto Raptors
Prediction: Eastern Conference Semifinals

If you can believe it, the Toronto Raptors have made the playoffs for six straight years. There have been different coaches and different star players all those years, but always one constant: they’ve never made it far in the playoffs. The Cavaliers and LeBron James have been a menace to them for the past three years. And even though James didn’t make the playoffs, their luck won’t change. Kawhi Leonard turned in another stellar season this year, with 27 points a game shooting 50 percent, but he doesn’t have enough chemistry with his new squad yet. Pascal Siakam is a huge bright spot for the Canadian squad, and these two players have been able to and will handle the Magic. The 76ers have too much firepower, though, and while we expect a seven-game series, we think Toronto will fall to a dangerous Joel Embiid-led Philadelphia team.

3 Seed: Philadelphia 76ers
Prediction: Eastern Conference Finals

After losing game one at home to the Nets, the 76ers regained momentum by taking the next four games. Brooklyn was scrappy (2020 champs, I’m calling it right now), but Philly was able to take care of business at home. The Raptors will prove to be a formidable test for the young team, but if Joel Embiid can stay healthy, Philly will have the upper hand. The starting lineup of Embiid, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, Jimmy Butler, and J.J. Redick have too much firepower from beyond and within the arc, regardless of Simmons’s lack of a jump shot. Embiid averaged 27.5 points during the regular season despite battling with many injuries, which was good for fourth in the league. He also averaged the second most rebounds, with almost 14. Embiid is literally unstoppable when completely healthy, and the Sixers will succeed if he can make the most of his post opportunities. While we think the 76ers will win in a seven-game series (even with Drake cheering on his home team), it’ll be interesting to see what happens to Brett Brown following a loss either to the Raptors or the Celtics/Bucks.

4 Seed: Boston Celtics
Prediction: NBA Finals Champion

The Celtics are the team to dethrone the Warriors, because they can beat the Warriors both defensively and offensively. Playing against the Bucks will be almost as hard of a test though. The Celtics will struggle to guard Giannis, but they have much more offensive prowess than what they’ve shown at all this season. They can shoot the three one through five, and go nine deep without really giving up anything in terms of talent. Marcus Smart, when he comes back from his injury, is a key player for the team’s matchup against the Bucks and ultimately, the Warriors. Gordon Hayward is also a huge component to a talented Celtics bench and has already delivered by pouring in 20 points toward a decisive win against the Indiana Pacers. It will ultimately be up to Kyrie Irving to lead a young team, filled with tremendous young offensive and defensive talent in Jason Tatum and Jalen Brown, to close out the east and the Golden State Warriors, preventing the three-peat. We believe that the Warriors need to be dethroned, and the Celtics are the team to do it.