The Torch’s NBA Playoffs First Round Predictions: No upsets


Don’t expect any surprises in the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs.

In what has been the most obscure NBA season to date, the playoffs have arrived and everything is back to the way it should be. Most teams allow a limited number of fans to attend the games, and some are allowing for full attendance for the playoffs. We also just witnessed the first-ever play-in tournament, which gave us Jayson Tatum dropping 50 points in Boston’s win over the Wizards, and in the most anticipated matchup probably all season, LeBron leading the Lakers over Steph and the Warriors with a clutch 3-pointer at the end of the game. So, here are The Torch’s NBA Playoff’s first-round predictions.

Eastern Conference:

#1 Philadelphia 76ers vs. #8 Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook of the Wizards have been arguably the most exciting duo to watch this season, but they are just way too outmatched against Philly. Joel Embiid will get his way down in the post area, and Ben Simmons has proven his effectiveness against smaller guards, especially ones that try to bully opponents such as Westbrook. Beal and Westbrook will be able to put together one perfect game, but beyond that, it’s all 76ers. Final Prediction: 4-1 76ers

#2 Brooklyn Nets vs. #7 Boston Celtics: Celtics fans are riding high after Jayson Tatum’s 50 piece, but they don’t stand a chance against Brooklyn. If Jaylen Brown were healthy, the conversation would be much different, but without him, the Celtics just don’t have enough punches to throw. This will be Kyrie Irving’s return to Boston in front of a full crowd, which will look something like Brett Favre returning to Green Bay after signing with Minnesota. Although Boston has no chance to win the series, there will be some hiccups with Brooklyn, as they have never played a game with all of their stars and role players together. With that being said, the lack of defense played by both teams combined with the incredible offensive talent on both sides will make for a very entertaining series. Final Prediction: 4-2 Nets

#3 Milwaukee Bucks vs. #6 Miami Heat: If prior history tells us anything about this series, it’s that the Heat own the Bucks and it’s not generally close. Last year the Heat bounced the #1 seed Bucks out of the playoffs in a convincing 4-1 series win, but things have changed since last year. For starters, teams aren’t in a bubble, which a lot of people pointed towards to explain Miami’s success, and Milwaukee has since added guard Jrue Holiday. He makes the Bucks much more multi-dimensional to counteract the Heat’s perimeter play. The Heat have not played up to their potential that we saw in the bubble, and that might be the reason Milwaukee wins. After being bounced early last year, the Bucks had the extra month or so of rest that Miami never had. This series will for sure be better than last year’s, but won’t end with the same result. Final Prediction: 4-3 Bucks

#4 New York Knicks vs. #5 Atlanta Hawks: This is quite honestly the weirdest series in the East. Both teams have combined for 10-straight years missing the playoffs, and now they find themselves the 4th and 5th seeds respectively. Most had expected Atlanta to make a big jump this season due to offseason acquisitions, but no one saw this coming from the Knicks. They play a tough brand of basketball that focuses on defense and getting to the paint. The Hawks on the other hand don’t play too much defense and rely on the outside shot for much of their offense. When these differing styles meet, the more defensive-minded one usually comes out on top and that is what will happen here. Final Prediction: 4-2 Knicks

Western Conference:

#1 Utah Jazz vs. #8 Memphis State Grizzlies: Memphis just played themselves into the playoffs in what was one of the biggest upsets of the year over Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors in a play-in game. Their good fortune will run out there because they are running into the team with the best record in the NBA. The Jazz have been a well-oiled machine all season. They shoot and make the most threes in the NBA, and have a top-three defense in the league in terms of opponent’s points per game. The Grizzlies’ Ja Morant will be special enough for one win in this series but nothing further. Final Prediction: 4-1 Jazz

#2 Phoenix Suns vs. #7 Los Angeles Lakers: For the Suns to work all year for the #2 seed after not making the playoffs for the past ten seasons and then to get the Lakers in the first round is a travesty. However, they have Chris Paul, who has seen just about everything when it comes to playoff moments and is a great leader for these young guys. The problem Phoenix will face is, just like any other team playing against the Lakers, you will never have either of the two best players in the game. The Suns can counter that with great depth and way fresher legs. This series will be won by Phoenix dominating when either LeBron or Anthony Davis is not on the court and holding steady when they are. Final Prediction: 4-3 Suns

#3 Denver Nuggets vs. #6 Portland Trail Blazers: These two teams are very familiar with each other, especially in the playoffs. They met back in the second round of 2019, when Portland closed out game seven on the road behind C.J. McCollum’s 37 points. That series was electric, with neither team winning back-to-back games, and it all culminated into one incredible winner take all game. Hopefully, this year we get treated to something remotely similar to that. Denver looked dominant all season long with MVP front-runner Nikola Jokic leading the way, but a late, season-ending injury to Jamaal Murray was sure to totally deflate them. Quite the opposite actually. They ended the season 9-3 after losing Murray and seem optimistic about their chances without him. On the other side, Portland has been steady all season. Besides C.J. being out for some time to start the season, they haven’t suffered any major injuries. We know how dangerous Damian Lillard is in the playoffs, but Jokic seems to have Portland’s number. This should be another one that goes the distance. Final Prediction: 4-3 Nuggets

#4 Los Angeles Clippers vs. #5 Dallas Mavericks: The Clippers lost their last two games of the regular season in order to avoid the Lakers, and did they ever make the right decision. However, they have seen what Luka Doncic can do in the playoffs after he averaged 31 ppg and took them to six games last season. Even if Luka can produce to that level again this year, the Mavericks don’t have answers to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Leonard should be able to keep up with Doncic, so it will be up to George to put them over the top. Like last year, Dallas will put up a fight, but to no avail. Final Prediction: 4-2 Clippers