2020 NBA Playoffs First Round Preview and Picks

We rank and preview every series in order of intrigue, plus picks and a big picture preview for the playoffs ahead. Playoffs!!

Brandon Anderson
Aug 17, 2020 · 13 min read

TIER IV — YEAHHHH… NO.

8. Milwaukee Bucks (1) vs (8) Orlando Magic

Listen, I don’t want to waste your time.

7. Toronto Raptors (2) vs (7) Brooklyn Nets

This series should be much more entertaining than Bucks-Magic in that it may actually be worth watching, but that doesn’t mean it will be much closer.

TIER III — CLOSE GAMES, NOT CLOSE SERIES

6. Indiana Pacers (4) vs (5) Miami Heat

Don’t be thrown by the seedings here. Miami and Indiana split a pair of games last week, and the Pacers win on Friday clinched a meaningless 4-seed, but Miami is the much better team right now.

5. Denver Nuggets (3) vs (6) Utah Jazz

I want to get excited about this series. It’s maybe the least predictable of the first round, and it could be our best bet for a seven-game series. But I’m just not that into it. Like Miami-Indiana, I don’t see the winner actually mattering here. Either winner will get steamrolled in the next round (yes, even if Dallas upsets the Clippers), so who really cares?

4. Boston Celtics (3) vs (6) Philadelphia 76ers

This was supposed to be a super awesome second-round matchup, but Philly just never got there. This is my shocked face.

TIER II — WILL EITHER L.A. TEAM STRUGGLE?

3. Los Angeles Lakers (1) vs (8) Portland Trail Blazers

On paper, this shouldn’t be a particularly interesting series. LeBron almost always sweeps first-round opponents, and the best version of the Lakers should have their way with this horrible Blazers defense.

2. Los Angeles Clippers (2) vs (7) Dallas Mavericks

As we waited months and months for playoff basketball, the Mavericks were the sleeper team I locked onto. Luka Doncic is already one of the five best players in basketball — yeah, I said it — and he’s still getting better. I wondered if he would hit another level after the “offseason” and in the playoffs, and I still think that’s possible. He has Best Player in the Series potential, even in this series. Kristaps Porzingis also leapt to stardom in the final weeks before the break and has continued his leap in the bubble. This team is the future.

TIER I — LITERALLY NO IDEA WHAT TO EXPECT

1. Oklahoma City Thunder (4) vs (5) Houston Rockets

This series stands alone as the most interesting to me and the one I genuinely can’t make up my mind about. I’m annoyed the Thunder and Rockets are playing each other, only because it left us that annoying Nuggets-Jazz series I’m not interested and sets up a boring second-round matchup.

2020 PLAYOFF PICKS

The East has two series that matter. Boston-Toronto is the key. I like Toronto better against Milwaukee because of their defense, but I like Boston better against Toronto because of their scoring options and their transition defense. I believe the Raps could beat the Bucks again. I’m not sure the Celtics can.

FIRST ROUND

Bucks over Magic in 4
Heat over Pacers in 5
Celtics over Sixers in 6
Raptors over Nets in 6
Lakers over Blazers in 6
Rockets over Thunder in 6
Nuggets over Jazz in 6
Clippers over Mavericks in 5

CONFERENCE SEMIS

Bucks over Heat in 6
Celtics over Raptors in 6
Lakers over Rockets in 6
Clippers over Nuggets in 5

CONFERENCE FINALS

Bucks over Celtics in 6
Clippers over Lakers in 6

NBA FINALS

Clippers over Bucks in 6

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Brandon Anderson

Written by

Sports, TV, NBA, NFL, culture. Words at SI's Cauldron, Sports Raid, Action Network, others @wheatonbrando ✞

SportsRaid

Original reporting and curated sports data journalism. Actively looking for additional writers.

Brandon Anderson

Written by

Sports, TV, NBA, NFL, culture. Words at SI's Cauldron, Sports Raid, Action Network, others @wheatonbrando ✞

SportsRaid

Original reporting and curated sports data journalism. Actively looking for additional writers.