2023 NBA Eastern Conference Second Round Playoff Predictions

The first round was full of surprises and upsets. Boston struggled after game four while the New York Knicks took care of Cleveland in five games. Philadelphia is desperate to reach the championship and feels they have a lot to prove even if MVP candidate Joel Embiid doesn’t play most of the series. Miami is the hottest team on both sides of the ball. Jimmy Butler led the Heat towards an upset in Milwaukee and dominated despite foul trouble in multiple games. Two of the remaining four will advance to the conference finals. Time to break down which of the two have the best chance to make round three.

#3 Philadelphia 76ers v. #2 Boston Celtics

The uncertainty of Joel Embiid’s status for the series leaves James Harden (left) as the primary scoring threat against the best remaining team in the east.

This is the series everyone penciled in due to easy opponents both the 76ers and Celtics had in round one. However, things couldn’t be more different due to star center and MVP candidate Joel Embiid injuring his LCL in Philadelphia’s series clinching win versus Brooklyn. Embiid’s uncertain return means James Harden will be the main target of the Celtic defense. Tyrese Maxey, P.J. Tucker and Tobias Harris must make up the scoring difference and play shutdown defense against Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Malcolm Brogdon. This series could end faster than most anticipate if Embiid doesn’t return by game three.

Prediction: Celtics win series 4-1

#8 Miami Heat v. #5 New York Knicks

Jimmy Butler (22) won’t have to carry the Heat through the series if Julius Randle (30, blue) and the banged up Knicks starters have limited minutes from last rounds injuries.

The more exciting and least expected series in the east. Jimmy Butler dragged the Heat to round two after back-to-back franchise best performances. Miami’s advantage over New York is their health. While Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo are out, Kyle Lowry’s return helped Miami in critical scoring runs last series. Knicks star Julius Randle injured his ankle near the end of their first round clinching victory in Cleveland and couldn’t play game one. Randle might have minute restrictions when he returns. The Knicks also don’t have the elite playmakers Milwaukee does, so Butler won’t be doing everything on offense the way he had to last series. Starters such as center Bam Adebayo have to step up on offense, be the best big man on defense and dominate by the basket.

It’s up to Tom Thibodeau’s defense to suffocate any chance Miami has of making significant scoring runs, just like they did to the Cavaliers. Both Thibodeau and Erik Spoelstra are creative coaches and will be quick with early adjustments and adjusting starting rosters. Expect a long and fun series.

Upset prediction of round two: Heat win series 4-3

Eastern conference first round picks record: 2-2


2023 NHL Western Conference First Round Playoff Predictions

If one was told the NHL’s western conference had more 100 plus point teams make the postseason than the east (despite Boston’s historic season), many fans and analysts would question the validity. While true, many wonder if whoever comes out of the conference can put up a fight against an eastern conference heavyweight. Los Angeles followed up last year’s impressive season with improvement but has to face Edmonton again. Dallas and Minnesota are favorites to make the conference finals but couldn’t win their division against an up-and-down Avalanche team. The current Stanley Cup champions won’t have their captain all postseason and begin the playoffs against the newest NHL franchise. Only four teams advance to the second round. Time to break down which four have the best chance to move on.

#5 Los Angeles Kings v. #3 Edmonton Oilers

Captains Connor McDavid and Anze Kopitar have been playing chess style hockey ever since last year’s first round series went seven games.

How things change in a year. Last season’s playoff prediction was written as a sweep. Not only did the series go seven games but the regular season matchups after showcased the Los Angeles Kings being the only team to suffocate and slow down a historically great Edmonton Oilers power-play. Despite the goalie change from Jonathan Quick to Joonas Korpisalo, coach Todd McLellan’s done a better job guiding the team’s defense, improving the offense and growing young talent.

Like some teams this postseason, Los Angeles would fare better against another opponent. Edmonton will go as far as MVP favorite Connor McDavid takes them and Stuart Skinner has been the better goaltender the past two months in Alberta. He knows how to stop the Kings offense and slow down charges toward the net. The Oilers offense won’t be fully contained, but expect Los Angeles to drag down pace of play the longer this series lasts.

Prediction: Oilers win series 4-2

#8 Winnipeg Jets v. #1 Vegas Golden Knights

The Jets played their best hockey the last month of the regular season. Vegas needs to be careful and do the same if they want a deep run in the playoffs.

This postseason re-match of the 2018 conference finals won’t live up to the hype but it could surpass the potential. While Vegas was the best team out west, Winnipeg seesawed. Both Bruce Cassidy and Rick Bowness are coaches any player would want to play for. When the latter called out his team for abysmal offensive production, the star players led the way and stepped up when needed most. When Cassidy criticized the defense, the Golden Knights became one of the better units to defend against the puck.

The last time these two met in the postseason it was one sided after two games. That won’t repeat even if Vegas advances. The Jets still have an elite goaltender in Connor Hellebuyck and Josh Morrissey will lead a top ten defense against a Golden Knight offense needing an early test. If Bruce Cassidy’s team wants to get back to the Stanley Cup finals, they must learn valuable lessons and apply pressure against a team already in playoff form.

Prediction: Golden Knights win series 4-3

#7 Seattle Kraken v. #2 Colorado Avalanche

Seattle and Denver have bad blood in previous sports rivalries. This series should re-energize the hatred.

Don’t look now but another Seattle versus Denver rivalry is taking shape in the playoffs. This time it’s the Kraken’s franchise postseason debut, and it comes against the reigning Stanley Cup champions. A total reverse of last season, Seattle scores in bunches while playing lackluster defense at best. The Avalanche are also in a reverse. Injuries to captain Gabriel Landeskog, Erik Johnson and Darren Helm could present depth problems in later rounds.

Colorado’s defense is more stout this year with Alexandar Georgiev in net and Mikko Rantanen’s highest scoring year will present a lot of problems to the newest team in the league. Regardless of result, general manager Ron Francis did a great job with asset management and hiring the right people to coach up a jumbled roster.

Prediction: Avalanche win series 4-1

#6 Minnesota Wild v. #4 Dallas Stars

There won’t be a hotter and meaner seven game series out west than the former North Stars versus the Wild. May the best green win!

This is the best series in the conference. Minnesota’s lockdown defense, hot goal-tending duo and a potent offense (even without Kirill Kaprizov) faces a resurgent Dallas Stars team layered in offensive scoring depth and great defense. Dean Evason and Peter DeBoer are the right coaches for both teams at this moment.

Rivalries are the main theme between these teams. Both coaches faced each other in the postseason a few years ago (when DeBoer was coaching the Golden Knights) and pulled out every trick. The Stars’ connection to Minnesota before moving to Dallas ensures there will be many fan reactions, fights, intimidation and a lot of penalty minutes for both teams. Expect enforcers Ryan Reaves and Jamie Benn to land in the penalty box often and games elongated with a lot of four-on-four power plays.

As much as coach Evason’s Wild have succeeded and defied expectations again, DeBoer’s Stars have more veteran leadership, talent and enough playoff experience to win the series. This could be Dallas’ last chance for a deep run in the playoffs and cornerstones such as Benn, Tyler Seguin and Joe Pavelski will do everything possible to get near the Stanley Cup one more time.

Prediction: Stars win series 4-3

2022 NHL Western conference playoff picks: 4-4

2023 NHL Eastern Conference First Round Playoff Predictions

Thankfully the eastern conference playoff race wasn’t locked up a month in advance unlike last year’s. A few teams most audiences are used to seeing in the postseason didn’t make it and some unexpected teams made deeper runs than predicted. Regardless of who clinched and who missed out, the east is still the deepest of the two conferences. The big name teams also acquired at least one major player by the trade deadline. Boston, Carolina, Toronto and the New York Rangers have their hands full despite being first round favorites. It’s time to break down which four teams have the best chance of moving on to the second round.

#8 Florida Panthers v. #1 Boston Bruins

David Pasternak is just one of many issues the Florida Panthers will face all series.

Starting the predictions with the last two President’s Trophy winners is too good to pass up. While Florida was unpredictable most of the regular season, their resurgence with Alex Lyon in net the past month is enough to give any playoff team caution. Coach Paul Maurice finally has his team playing the style many predicted at the beginning of the season.

If this were against any other opponent the Panthers would surge into the second round with confidence. Unfortunately they drew the historically best Boston Bruins, a team with little to no weaknesses on any side of the puck. Whether it’s captain Patrice Bergeron on face-offs, Linus Ullmark in net or gritty play from Charlie Coyle, Jake DeBrusk and Pavel Zacha, this team doesn’t know how to lose. This is the worst opponent Florida could draw in the first round.

Prediction: Bruins win series 4-1

#6 Tampa Bay Lightning v. #4 Toronto Maples Leafs

Good news for Toronto: no original six first round matchup. Bad news for Toronto: they draw the incumbent eastern conference champion Lightning…again

Somewhere the hockey gods and goddesses are laughing themselves silly. Toronto shook off playing an original six team in the first round of the playoffs and drew the three-time defending eastern conference champion Tampa Bay Lightning again. Leafs fans know how this roller coaster season ends.

There weren’t a lot of regular season meetings but when they did play each other, there was a lot of scoring and nasty physical play. Toronto’s young stars and core players are growing and maturing but that won’t be enough against the committed trio of Brayden Point, Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, who are all having career years in scoring. While the Leafs have better defensemen depth, the deciding factor is who will hold up better in net each game. Andrei Vasilevskiy is still the best goaltender in any professional hockey league while Toronto’s Ilya Samsonov and Matt Murray are inconsistent and have shown their weaknesses against playoff caliber teams. This year’s Lightning team is just as talented but meaner in attitude and physical play despite top line scoring production. We could have a seven game series depending on how locked in Tampa Bay is from the start.

Prediction: Lightning win series 4-3

#7 New York Islanders v. #2 Carolina Hurricanes

Shayne Gostisbehere (41, black) is one of the few Hurricanes who’s been consistent on offense. He might play a bigger role in Carolina advancing to round two than most think.

This is one of the few first round series where one would’ve thought at the beginning of the year the higher seed would crush the lower due to a deeper, more talented roster led by a coach who’s a former champion. This is what makes the NHL one of the best North American sports leagues. Thoughts are meaningless when games are played and this series highlights it.

The New York Islanders found a younger and refreshing version of Barry Trotz at head coach and scraped into the postseason due to a career year from Ilya Sorokin and a former captain in Bo Horvat (who’s had a career high in scoring this year before traded to Long Island). The return of Matt Barzal keeps this a contested series with no Max Pacioretty or Andrei Svechnikov for Carolina.

The Hurricanes are in the same position from previous playoff appearances; they can not afford to let a lesser, out-matched team stay alive and extend a series. Goaltender Frederik Andersen has a chance for a hefty contract extension after the season and must play for that option. Defensemen Jaccob Slavin, Brady Skjei and Brett Pesce should reinforce why they were the second best defensive unit in the league while Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Martin Necas and Jesper Fast have to elevate their offensive performances after sputtering the last month of the season. If Carolina can’t eliminate the Islanders early in the series, their second round opponent will capitalize.

Prediction: Hurricanes win series 4-3

#5 New York Rangers v. #3 New Jersey Devils

Fights and penalties in the Battle of the Hudson will play into both teams’ favor. Regardless of who wins, this rivalry will be televised next regular season.

If one was told at the beginning of the season we’d get a Battle of the Hudson, the common idea would be the New York Rangers would be the dominant high-seeded team while the New Jersey Devils barely scraped into the playoffs. How wrong we all would be and were.

New Jersey has been one of the funner, brighter and feel good stories of the year. Most people paying attention to the NHL are happy Lindy Ruff came back to coach, teach and raise a young roster on how to elevate their games to new levels. No one outside the Prudential Center thought the Devils could finish as a top four team in the east.

There’s one man who’s been in a similar scenario and did much better in Ruff’s position: Gerard Gallant. Unfortunately for the up-and-coming Devils he’s the head coach of their first round opponent the New York Rangers, located on the other side of the Hudson River. This will be a nasty, physical and mean series. New York faces more pressure due to offseason signings and mid-season trades, but they also play better defense and have a better goaltending tandem than their division rivals. Many teams struggled to contain Mika Zibanejad in previous postseason appearances. The Devils will have a young defensive core struggling to contain him in a best of seven series. The feel good story is great confidence to build on for next season and the rivalry will continue regardless of the final result.

Prediction: Rangers win series 4-1

2022 NHL Eastern conference playoff picks record: 5-3

2023 NBA Western Conference First Round Playoff Predictions

The 2022-23 NBA regular season ended in anticipation for a thrilling western conference playoff race. MVP runner-up Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets are the favorites to make a deep run to the championship while the Clippers and Grizzlies were plagued with drama involving who would step up and lead besides their franchise stars. No one should underestimate the resurgence of Sacramento and Phoenix is still the team everyone wants out in order for a fair chance at the finals. Four deeply talented teams will advance to the second round. Time to break down which four have the best chance.

#6 Golden State Warriors v. #3 Sacramento Kings

The Steph Curry led Warriors dominated most of their home state rivals. That includes resounding wins versus the Sacramento Kings.

First off, congratulations to the Sacramento Kings for their first playoff berth since 2006. The franchise went through unprecedented hardships until this season. Coach Mike Brown should be the unanimous coach of the year winner for how well he’s led and guided the team.

Good feelings aside, the current NBA champion Golden State Warriors had a roller coaster regular season but look to bounce back with the return of Andrew Wiggins and the full health of Klay Thompson, Steph Curry and Draymond Green. It will be hard for Sacramento to outperform a veteran Warriors unit that has better depth at guard and forward. Golden State also won the regular season series despite missing two of their three stars at various points. Expect veteran leadership of the core players to make this a fast series.

Prediction: Warriors win series 4-1

#5 Los Angeles Clippers v. #4 Phoenix Suns

This heavy-weight Pacific division rivalry should reach new heights by game three. If the Clippers have any chance of making it to the second round, they have to overwhelm Phoenix early and often.

Whoever loses this series will carry the most disappointment of any first round elimination in either conference. Both teams are healthy, have elite starting units and coaches who know how to make changes when needed. It’s a shame one of these Pacific division teams will be eliminated after one round, but there are a few factors determining the favorite.

The guard tandem of Russell Westbrook and Paul George v. Chris Paul and Devin Booker will elevate both teams’ play. Nicolas Batum and Kawhi Leonard look to clamp Torrey Craig and Kevin Durant’s production. The Clippers also have better depth with Eric Gordon, Robert Covington, Marcus Morris Sr. and Norman Powell.

This will be one of a few series where coaching determines who advances. Tyronn Lue hasn’t replicated previous season successes nor utilized the roster to its best efforts consistently. The Los Angeles Clippers are the western conference version of the Philadelphia 76ers. The Suns with Monty Williams are more sound. His decision to limit Kevin Durant’s minutes and easing the starting roster into a playoff transition before the regular season ended gives Phoenix the second round nod.

Prediction: Suns win series 4-2

#7 Los Angeles Lakers v. #2 Memphis Grizzlies

The popular Los Angeles Lakers are a quiet underdog versus a young and growing Grizzlies team that’s been through a lot of drama this season. It’s possible Dennis Schroder (17, yellow) and the Laker bench steal a series and advance to the second round.

Three months ago many fans and analysts would’ve said the Memphis Grizzlies would steamroll Los Angeles in four or five games of a playoff series. It’s a much different discussion in April compared to January. The Lakers are playing their best basketball with a healthy Anthony Davis and LeBron James together for the first time since 2021. Dennis Schroder plays better defense in his second stint back and coach Darvin Ham found ways for this team to beat a healthy Grizzlies squad when injuries took a toll before the All-Star game.

Memphis will win a few games but the trash talk of the western conference early in the season could come back to knock the Grizzlies out of the playoffs again when the team is struggling internally. Steven Adams will be out the rest of the year and the Laker’s centers and forwards have to take advantage on both defense and offense.

Upset prediction of the first round: Lakers win series 4-2

#8 Minnesota Timberwolves v. #1 Denver Nuggets

Nikola Jokic (left) will have to play at an MVP level past Karl-Anthony Towns (right) and Rudy Gobert

One of the few first round series where the one and eight seeds look similar and mirror each other, at least on paper. Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic will have Rudy Gobert in his face the whole series while guards Anthony Edwards, Mike Conley, Jamal Murray and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope elevate the offenses. Karl-Anthony Towns and Aaron Gordon have to step up at forward and play their best series after last year’s discussions on their postseason performances under pressure.

Both teams are even in scoring depth. This is another series in the conference where coaching should be the deciding factor in advancing to the second round. Coach Michael Malone outdoes Chris Finch in a lot of categories ranging from timeout management to playoff experience. Minnesota can still find ways to advance but it’s difficult for eight seeds to top one seeds for many reasons.

Prediction: Nuggets win series 4-3

Regular season playoffs and play-in Predictions record: 6-4

2023 NBA Eastern Conference First Round Playoff Predictions

The 2022-23 NBA regular season ended in anticipation for a fun eastern conference playoff race. 76ers star Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo are breaking, setting and tying records to win league MVP. Most basketball analysts and fans see this conference as two elite teams versus everyone else. Philadelphia’s inconsistency makes them a distant third even if they take care of their first round opponent early. Cleveland and New York are two young teams that will use this postseason experience for further runs in later seasons. Four talented and competitive teams will advance to the second round. Time to break down which four have the best chance.

#8 Miami Heat v. #1 Milwaukee Bucks

Regardless of how long Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton plays most of the first round series versus Miami, point-guard Jrue Holiday (21) will have a field day against the Heat’s lack of depth at guard.

The easiest series in the east. Miami’s lack of guard depth puts them at a disadvantage against any opponent. Unfortunately for the Heat they face the league’s best Milwaukee Bucks in round one. Regardless of how long Khris Middleton plays, the best unit in the east should make quick work of an exhausted Jimmy Butler-led team.

Prediction: Bucks win series 4-0

#7 Atlanta Hawks v. #2 Boston Celtics

Trae Young v. Jayson Tatum is a fun matchup. Sadly the Hawks lack scoring depth to challenge the Celtics. Boston should make quick work of their first round opponent.

This is another series that will go five games at most. Boston swept the Hawks in the regular season with an average point difference of 20. Atlanta has little depth outside the guard tandem of Trae Young and Dejounte Murray, so this postseason series may pick up where the regular season one left off.

Prediction: Celtics win series 4-0

#6 Brooklyn Nets v. #3 Philadelphia 76ers

Even without Ben Simmons, Brooklyn can still find ways to frustrate Joel Embiid (21), James Harden and the Philadelphia starters.

Many think Philadelphia should dominate start to finish just by looking at both rosters. However coach Doc Rivers has a history of not coaching his best in series that should be finished early and the 76ers struggled throughout the regular season to put opponents away in the last 15 minutes of action.

Fortunately for Philadelphia, Brooklyn doesn’t have much star power since the trade deadline. Nic Claxton, Spencer Dinwiddie, Mikal Bridges, Joe Harris and Seth Curry are good players but the Nets’ defense keeps them in games. While roster depth and better coaching from Jacque Vaughn should prolong the series, star center Joel Embiid will take over and propel the 76ers to round two.

Prediction: 76ers win series 4-2

#5 New York Knicks v. #4 Cleveland Cavaliers

It’ll be hard for the Knicks to win a best of seven series versus the Donovan Mitchell-led Cavaliers while managing Jalen Brunson (left), RJ Barrett and Julius Randle’s minutes.

This was the first playoff series in the NBA clinched before April and the end of the regular season. It’s also the best first round matchup in the east. Tom Thibodeau’s Knicks are defensively stout and rebound well. Cleveland won’t have many second or third chance scoring opportunities. They’ll have to create and make good shots early to stay a game or two ahead of New York. The Cavaliers are the better shooting team while the Knicks score more points with a team lacking star players. The deciding factor could be how long Jalen Brunson, RJ Barrett and Julius Randle play every game of the series considering both were injured heading into the postseason. Cleveland has healthier stars and better depth at both guard positions. This could become an issue for the Knicks and a relief for the Cavaliers when game six rolls around.

Prediction: Cavaliers win series 4-3

Regular season playoffs and play-in Predictions record: 6-2

Bobby Wagner says he turned down more money to return to Seahawks — Seahawks Wire

Bobby Wagner is a saint. Even though the Seahawks unceremoniously cut him a little over a year ago, Wagner is back home in Seattle where he belongs. Speaking in a Zoom interview with the team’s beat writers, Wagner said that he turned down more money from other teams and that he never wanted to leave…

Bobby Wagner says he turned down more money to return to Seahawks — Seahawks Wire