The Game Day’s basketball staff weighed in on how the 2021 NBA postseason will unfold with their 2021 NBA Playoffs Bold Predictions.
2021 NBA Playoffs Bold Predictions
There will be no sweeps in the entire playoffs.
This is essentially unheard of in the NBA, since we have to go back to 1976 for the last playoffs without a sweep. There have been three sweeps in each of the past three NBA postseasons. However, with no clear favorites, teams struggling to find chemistry, and nearly everyone having the ability to score at a high clip, we will avoid a sweep. The NBA would also be OK with these extended series while raking in the money. —Zach Brunner
Neither of the top 2 teams in either conference will make the 2021 NBA Finals.
While this grouping of teams in the 76ers, Nets, Jazz, and Suns are all talented in their own right, they are flawed and will struggle for a variety of individual reasons come playoff time. The 76ers have proven clunky when the floor shrinks and they are forced to play in the half-court. The Nets are injury-riddled and have hardly played together as a big 3.
The Jazz are still missing Donovan Mitchell and, even when he returns, aren’t well-spaced enough to score enough versus several teams in the West. The Suns are extremely inexperienced despite the presence of Chris Paul who has only once played in a Conference Finals. —Kev Mahserejian
The Los Angeles Lakers will miss the 2021 NBA Finals.
While LeBron James has led his teams to 9 NBA Finals appearances in the past 10 seasons, I don’t think it happens again this year. James likely won’t be at 100 percent due to his ankle injury, and he could miss time if he has another setback.
The Lakers were only 12-15 without LeBron this year, so losing him for any amount of time would likely be a fatal blow. They’re also facing an uphill battle after the play-in tournament, which denied them some much-needed rest before the playoffs. The Western Conference is going to be a scrum this year, and the Jazz, Suns, or Clippers are better positioned to win it. —Tyler Maher
The Miami Heat will return to the NBA Finals.
Even though they have a much harder path to the NBA Finals than they did last year, this Miami Heat team can make it back. Jimmy Butler will be at full strength, which is good because Miami is 7-13 with him off the court and 33-19 with him on the court.
The Heat’s young stars also have the experience from last year’s run and have grown significantly since then. The hope is Trevor Ariza will try to replicate what Jae Crowder did last year for Miami, while the addition of big man Dewayne Dedmon can give Bam Adebayo rest while not sacrificing size. The Heat aren’t going to burn teams offensively, but they will outwork them defensively. —Gio Annatelli
The New York Knicks will topple the 76ers to reach the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Knicks can make noise beyond just the first round of the NBA Playoffs and knock off the 76ers. Once the Knicks defeat the Hawks, they’ll more than likely get the 76ers. The 76ers have been known for choking in the playoffs.
In the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons, the 76ers lost in the conference semifinals, and in the 2019-20 season, the 76ers lost to the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs. The 76ers will be under pressure knowing they’ve choked in this spot so many times before. —Jason Radowitz
The New York Knicks will make the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Knicks are back in the playoffs and I think they could surprise some people. A first-round matchup against the Hawks isn’t exactly scary given that the Knicks beat them in all three meetings during the regular season. If they get past them, though, they could be staring at a matchup with the Sixers to make the Conference Finals.
The defensive-minded Tom Thibodeau could throw the kitchen sink at Joel Embiid, but the more likely path to success is finding a way to limit the production of his supporting cast. If anything were to happen to Embiid on the injury front, the Knicks could certainly take advantage, as well. —Mike Barner
The Atlanta Hawks will reach the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Atlanta Hawks were a surprise to nearly everyone this season, but with their depth and mix of high scoring and solid defense, the Hawks will be a matchup for the 76ers that could be a big upset. The 76ers only have 2 players averaging over 2 made 3s a game in Danny Green and Seth Curry. The Hawks have 4 players knocking 2 or more 3’s a game.
The Hawks defense matches up well with Philadelphia and key vets that know 76ers coach Doc Rivers well (Rajon Rondo and Lou Williams) can give the advantage to the Hawks to pull off the upset. —Nate Bush
The Heat won’t win more than 1 game vs. the Bucks in Round 1.
The defending Eastern Conference champion Heat has been inconsistent all season and was defeated handily by the Bucks in two of three games this past regular season. Milwaukee truly hit its stride late in the regular season with eight wins in its last 10 games and has learned its lesson from last year’s playoff debacle against Miami.
With Milwaukee at full health, I see them returning the favor to Erik Spoelstra’s squad this time around with a series victory of no less dominant than 4-1. —Juan Carlos Blanco
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