We can now finally say it for real: the NBA Playoffs are back. As our tradition at this time of the year, we’ll be making our preview of the playoffs by taking picks for first round of postseason. So without further ado, let’s get to our NBA Playoffs First Round Predictions 2023.
NBA Playoffs First Round predictions 2023
(1) Denver Nuggets versus (8) Minnesota Timberwolves
Head-to-head matchup in 2022-23 regular season: Tied (2-2)
The Nuggets enter the playoffs with the top seed in the West, and with a fully healthy roster. We could finally see a healthy trio of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Michael Porter Jr. in the playoffs, but will that be enough for a deep postseason run?
They draw a first-round matchup with the Timberwolves, who are coming off a big win against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Wolves don’t have the best offense out there, but they have the stars (Edwards, Towns) who could take over on certain nights. The Nuggets’ defense will struggle in this series, as they will throughout these playoffs.
Having said that, I believe that Jokic and the Nuggets have enough offense to pull off four wins against the Wolves. The main problem lies when they advance to the next round.
Prediction: Nuggets win series 4-2 to advance to the second round
(4) Phoenix Suns versus (5) Los Angeles Clippers
Head-to-head matchup in 2022-23 regular season: Tied (2-2)
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Clippers injured star Paul George (leg) is likely to miss the beginning of the team’s first-round matchup against the Suns. That’s too bad, as the Clippers need every opportunity they have against a stacked Suns squad with a fully healthy (or almost) Kevin Durant.
But even in an alternate universe where the Clippers have a healthy George to start the series, it might not be enough to beat the Suns in a seven-game series. Durant has been undefeated in a Suns uniform, albeit a small sample size of eight games. I also have a feeling that Chris Paul might have been saving his best for the playoffs.
Prediction: Suns win 4-1 to advance to the second round
(3) Sacramento Kings versus (6) Golden State Warriors
Head-to-head matchup in 2022-23 regular season: Warriors won series, 3-1
After such a long, long drought, playoff atmosphere is finally real in Sacramento. As one of the higher seeds in the first round, they will host their return to the playoffs with a matchup against the….defending champions.
The Warriors aren’t just the reigning champions; the core of this team have won four championships in the last eight years. Sure, the Warriors have been uncharacteristically bad on the road this season. But come playoff time, look for the veteran stars of this team to get their elbows out and bask in the pressure of the postseason.
The Kings will put up a fight, but the Warriors’ experience and sheer determination will eventually win out.
Prediction: Warriors win series 4-1 to advance to the second round
(2) Memphis Grizzlies versus (7) Los Angeles Lakers
Head-to-head matchup in 2022-23 regular season: Lakers won series, 2-1
With a healthy pair of Anthony Davis and LeBron James, the Lakers have the heavy artillery to bring the Grizzlies down. Their defense has vastly improved in the latter part of the season, and they’re still trending upward as they accumulate more games as a group.
Grizzlies star Ja Morant could average 30 points in this series, and it still might not be enough to advance to the next round.
Prediction: Lakers win series 4-2 to advance to the second round
(1) Milwaukee Bucks versus (8) Miami Heat
It’s another Bucks-Heat chapter in the playoffs, and who wouldn’t be excited? These two teams have history in the past few years, and they enter the current postseason via very different pathways.
The Heat had to go through the needle to get here, but it’s hard to see them surviving the Bucks. The Bucks’ frontcourt defense anchored by Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez will be too much for a sputtering Heat offense, not to mention that Jrue Holiday can guard anyone on the backcourt.
Prediction: Bucks win series 4-1 to advance to the second round
(4) Cleveland Cavaliers versus (5) New York Knicks
Head-to-head matchup in 2022-23 regular season: Knicks won series, 3-1
We could have seen some of the greatest NBA playoff games of all-time when this series comes to a conclusion. Both the Cavaliers and the Knicks are hungry for playoff success, and they have the stars who can deliver the goods.
But the question now is this: will Julius Randle return to action in Game 1? The Knicks star forward suffered an untimely ankle injury a couple of weeks ago, with reports saying that he has participated in limited practice on Tuesday.
The Knicks need Randle to be at his best, especially against the Cavaliers’ twin towers of Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen. Another matchup to watch for in this series will be at the backcourt, where Knicks’ Jalen Brunson, RJ Barrett, and Immanuel Quickley try to level against the Cavaliers’ Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell.
Prediction: Cavaliers win 4-3 to advance to the second round
(3) Philadelphia 76ers versus (6) Brooklyn Nets
Head-to-head matchup in 2022-23 regular season: Sixers won series, 4-0
Mikal Bridges has been a revelation for the Nets, averaging a career-high 26.1 points on 60.7% True Shooting in the 27 games that he played for his new team. Cameron Johnson and Spencer Dinwiddie have also impressed since being traded to the team midway through the regular season.
But can they stop the freight train that is Joel Embiid? The Sixers big man is currently leading the league in scoring, and he might very well be crowned the Most Valuable Player this year. Along with Embiid, also look for James Harden to make his mark in this series.
It’s nice that the Nets are still in the playoffs despite all the drama they went through, but the Sixers will bring out the brooms in this one.
Prediction: Sixers win 4-0 to advance to the second round
(2) Boston Celtics versus (7) Atlanta Hawks
Head-to-head matchup in 2022-23 regular season: Celtics won series, 3-0
The Hawks may have surprised a lot of people by winning in South Beach and grabbing hold of the 7th spot in the East. Four of the players that came off their bench scored in double digits in the play-in win against the Miami Heat, and you also have to take into account the damage that Trae Young and Dejounte Murray can do in the backcourt.
However, they’ll be matching up with the Celtics’ vaunted defense. They’re currently ranked third in defensive rating (111.5), and their switching defense will be very effective against the Hawks’ pick-and-roll plays. On offense, the Celtics aren’t too shabby either, especially with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown around.
The Celtics are one of the most balanced teams in the NBA, making them a priority pick in any NBA playoffs first round predictions 2023 list. The Hawks will be an obstacle that the Celtics will easily overcome.
Prediction: Celtics win series 4-1 to advance to the second round