After a long and difficult five months, which included a brief period with calls for the league to suspend play over a rising number of COVID-19 casts, the 2020-21 NBA season has reached the playoffs. And unlike last summer, there’s no bubble this time around. Games will be in home arenas, with fans in attendance. Something at least close to normalcy has arrived.
On the court, this has a chance to be the most wide open postseason we’ve had in some time. The Brooklyn Nets are the favorites, but their trio of future Hall of Famers has only played eight games together, and there’s no guarantee they all stay healthy for two months. Likewise, the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers are battling health problems of their own, as neither LeBron James nor Anthony Davis are 100 percent entering the first round. Meanwhile, other top teams such as the Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Clippers don’t exactly have the best postseason track record. And we haven’t even mentioned the Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns, the top two seeds in the Western Conference.
As the first weekend of the playoffs arrives, our experts did their best to predict what’s going to happen. Here’s a look at their picks for every single series, and their eventual champion:
First-round picks Second-round winners Conference finals and champion