After a long and hard-fought regular basketball season, the NBA playoffs are ready to begin. Photo courtesy of Katie Haugland Bowen. (Katie Haugland Bowen )
After a long and hard-fought regular basketball season, the NBA playoffs are ready to begin. Photo courtesy of Katie Haugland Bowen.

Katie Haugland Bowen

NBA First Round Playoff Predictions

April 21, 2023

With the conclusion of the play-in tournament, the NBA playoffs have finally arrived for every basketball fan around the world to enjoy. This season brought many ups and downs for all 30 teams and their fan bases, but the stage is set and the fireworks are ready to begin, so here are my predictions for the first round of the 2023 NBA playoffs. 


One-seed Nuggets vs. eight-seed Timberwolves:

The Nuggets rolled through the season to secure the best overall seed in the West behind the  MVP finalist play of two-time MVP Nikola Jokić. The Timberwolves, on the other hand, did not find success so easy. Coming into the season, the Wolves looked to build off a blockbuster trade for star center Rudy Gobert, but the results did not show, leaving them to an eighth seed. This was in part by the lack of team chemistry they suffered all season, with Gobert never really finding his groove alongside another star center Karl Anthony-Towns. This is in contrast to the Nuggets, who found great chemistry between Jokić, Jamal Murray, and company, who will be too much for the wolves to Handle

Series Prediction: 4-1 Nuggets 

Two-seed Lakers vs. seven-seed Grizzlies 

Although there have been concerns surrounding Grizzlies Star guard Ja Morant and his off-court conduct, this Grizzlies team is too good to be upset this early in the playoffs. Potential defensive player of the year Jaren Jackson Jr. will do what he does best and lock down the Lakers’ already stagnant offense, and I doubt this series goes past six games. I do think LeBron James will do what he has been known for his whole career and lead the Lakers to a couple of wins, but ultimately the Grizzlies are just a better team than the depth-lacking Lakers.

Series Prediction: 4-2 Grizzlies

Three-seed Kings vs. six-seed Warriors

Steph Curry and company will have their hands full with the Sacramento Kings coming off one of their best seasons in franchise history, snapping their 16-season playoff drought. Led by stars De’aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis, the Kings’ offense put up stellar numbers with a league-leading 120.7 points per game, meaning the Warriors’ defense will need to be on their A-game if they want to advance. If history has taught us anything, you cannot count out Steve Kerr’s Warriors, especially not with sharpshooters and four-time champions Steph Curry and Klay Thomspon, meaning this may be a tossup.

Series Prediction: 4-3 Kings

Four-seed Suns vs. five-seed Clippers

This series truly may be a coin flip. Both teams are playing their best basketball as of late, and even with the recent news that Clippers star forward Paul Geroge will be out for the series, both teams are evenly matched. Even without George, this series features the most firepower on both sides, with stars Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, Chris Paul, and Deandre Ayton looking to outpace the also-stacked Clippers with Kawhi Leonard and Russell Westbrook. Both teams play good defense, with both ranked in the top half of the league in points allowed per game, and each has pieces capable of stopping the other. Ultimately, it will come down to coaching and whether Clippers coach Ty Lue can finally prove he belongs in the same Category as Former coach of the year Monty Williams.

Series Prediction: 4-3 Suns


One-seed Bucks vs. eight-seed Heat

It seems like nearly every year we get a matchup between these two teams making this series one of the most interesting and storied. With the help of two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks look to make it back to the finals and repeat their success from two seasons ago, while the Heat looks for redemption after failing to make the finals as the one-seed last year. Both rosters are fit to make a run this year, and despite the seeding discrepancy, this series is fairly matched. My only worry for the Heat is their ability to keep pace with the high-powered offense of the Bucks, and I fear that may be their demise. 

Series Prediction: 4-2 Bucks

Two-seed Celtics vs. seven-seed Hawks

If any series has the potential to be a sweep, it is this one. The Celtics got off to a historic start to the season, looking like the clear favorites to win the title this year, but after things cooled off, some wrote them off as an easy elimination to the Bucks. The Hawks, on the other hand, struggled to make it to the post-season facing the play-in, and have dealt with coaching issues all year, and although Trae Young and company will look to upset Jason Tatum and the Celtics, I think it won’t be close. 

Series Prediction: 4-0 Celtics

Three-seed Sixers vs. six-seed Nets

This series is one of the most storied and exciting in the first round. Two teams with lots of history, with players like James Harden and Seth Curry, are looking to play spoiler for their former teams. For some, the Nets being in their position comes as a surprise after the departure of Kevin Durant mid-season, but this team has battled adversity and has a chance to make a splash. Led by MVP finalist Joel Embid it is hard for me to pick against the Sixers team, who has found success all season, especially when looking at the drop-off that the Nets have at depth, being down point guard Ben Simmons. Brooklyn will have to be at their best to win this one.

Series Prediction: 4-2 Sixers

Four-seed Cavaliers vs. five-seed Knicks

The final series of the first round is an evenly-matched battle between two teams that have had very similar seasons. Both teams failed to make the playoffs last year with disappointing seasons, and both teams spent big to acquire the pieces needed to get them back in the title race. The Kicks signed former Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson an emerging star in New York, as well as making a move to trade for former Portland Trail Blazer and New Orleans Pelican Josh Hart, a good depth piece. The Cavs, on the other hand, made a few splashier moves trading for former Utah Jazz superstar Donovan Mitchell and relying on the development of Evan Mobley to fill the gap in their defense. Both teams have the talent capable of making a run this season, but the poise of Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau to be able to coach under pressure will be the deciding factor.

Series Prediction: 4-3 Knicks

The beauty of the NBA playoffs is that any team can win almost any series because that is just the nature of the game. Each team is trying its hardest, feeling the desperation, scratching, and clawing for one common goal, and that starts here in round one.

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Sawyer Grimaldi, Sports Editor

Class of 2025

Hi everyone! Coming from a family of writers and English majors I have always been keen on writing and reporting! I started in middle...

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