It’s been a long two days but finally the NBA is back on Saturday with four intense matchups on the schedule. We’re leaving our regular season NBA picks at the door (we nailed 67% of them) and starting with a fresh 0-0 slate for the NBA playoffs. Let’s see if we can’t get off to a hot 4-0 start as we get the ball rolling:
Washington Wizards (5) @ Toronto Raptors (4)
I don’t feel great about road teams to get the playoffs started, particularly because the NBA playoffs tend to go a while before a road team wins a game. That old saying “the playoffs don’t start until someone wins a game on the road” is kind of true, as the only way an upset can happen is by a road team stealing a win. I think it’s unlikely it happens on Saturday, but if anyone is going to do it, it’s probably the Wiz. Washington lost all three games to the Raptors this year, but one was in overtime and the other was by two points. These teams matchup really well and John Wall is a little healthier than Kyle Lowry at the moment. Washington is also the better defensive team by a mile and has the inside forces to get Toronto’s bigs in foul trouble.
Pick: Wiz 102, Raptors 98
New Orleans Pelicans (8) @ Golden State Warriors (1)
New Orleans may be a sneaky, sexy pick to get an upset over the Warriors in game one, but that’d include winning in Oracle Arena. The Warriors have lost at home twice all year, so I’m not about to pick them losing to the 8th seed on their own floor to get what amounts to a potential title run started. The Pellies took the Warriors to OT in one game and stole one win out of four contests, but they’re beyond over-matched.
Pick: Warriors 106, Pelicans 97
Milwaukee Bucks (6) @ Chicago Bulls (3)
Chicago is one of the more interesting teams in the playoffs, considering we have no clue who they are due to so many injuries during the year. Derrick Rose has returned (for the moment) and it looks like we might actually get a strong run from this Bulls team. They play host to the Bucks on Saturday, who they topped during the season, three games to one. Milwaukee can defend and should get up for a big series against a divisional rival, but Chicago is the better team. Milwaukee could be sneaky at some point in this series, but it’s doubtful they jump out with a 1-0 lead.
Pick: Bulls 105, Bucks 101
Dallas Mavericks (7) @ Houston Rockets (2)
This series is going to be intense. Houston took the season series (3-1), but two of those wins were by less than five points and in Houston. There is a fun underlying storyline to this one, too, as Chandler Parsons felt he got burned by the Rockets, who didn’t match the offer sheet he signed with the Mavs in free agency this past summer. The only problem is, he has a sore knee and might not be ready for game one (or play at all in this series).
While Dallas is a tad banged up, the Rockets have been ravaged by injuries with Patrick Beverley possibly out and Donatas Motiejunas done for the year. Dwight Howard is healthy, though, so the Rockets look like the clear favorite to handle the Mavs in this series. Even if Dallas does end up giving them a fight, I still think James Harden and co. get off to a great start by going up, 1-0.
Pick: Rockets 107, Mavs 104