2023 NBA playoffs: Play-in, first round predictions

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It’s playoff prediction time.

Our NBA reporters Melissa Rohlin, Ric Bucher and Yaron Weitzman are here to offer their picks for the play-in tournament as well as the first round of the playoffs.

Check back for updates!



Rohlin: heat They know how to win when the stakes are high. Watch out for big games from Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro. The Hawks are too inconsistent to pull it off.

Bucher: heat They’re ready for a makeover and this should be their last win of the season, but in a one-game playoff, they have the best coach, the best big man and the best leader (Butler). Rumors that the Hawks are open to moving Trae Young couldn’t surface at a worse time, not that I’d blame the franchise for thinking that.

Weitzman: heat The Hawks are an embarrassment. Also, in a one-game matchup, I’m going with Jimmy Butler.


Rohlin: bulls DeMar DeRozan returns to the city where he made his name, playing against some former teammates. I expect a brilliant performance from him.

Bucher: raptors In terms of talent, the Bulls should win this easily. But they shouldn’t be a 10th seed either. Teams that give Toronto trouble generally have a big advantage in the 3-point arc, but that’s not the case for Chicago. In fact, Toronto averaged over 3 seconds per game. Acquiring Jakob Poeltl at the trade deadline added some much-needed size. The energy of the home crowd carries the Raptors through.

Weitzman: bulls Everyone with the Raptors – including their head coach — He seems ready for this season to end.


Rohlin: lakers Don’t bet against LeBron James in a big game, you know, the guy who has led three different teams to championships and been to 10 NBA Finals. And clearly, the Timberwolves are a mess right now, with Rudy Gobert and Jaden McDaniels out for Tuesday’s game.

Bucher: Lakers, but I only say that because Anthony Davis has consistently dominated Karl-Anthony Towns in the battle for bragging rights among Kentucky’s former big men, and that’s when Towns didn’t look out of shape. I wouldn’t be surprised if Gobert stays home and McDaniels breaking his hand galvanizes the TWolves, but I don’t know if that will be enough to make up for D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley looking to put it on their old man. team

Weitzman: lakers Rule I always follow: Anytime a team has two players throwing punches in their last game of the regular season, I pick against that team.


Rohlin: Pelicans. The Pelicans finished the season winning nine of their last 12 games. The Thunder have gone 6-6 during that same span. Without Zion Williamson in the play-in tournament last season, the Pelicans won two games as the ninth seed to reach the playoffs. They’ve been here before and proven they don’t buckle under pressure.

Bucher: Pelicans. They just have a huge advantage in overall postseason experience compared to the Thunder: most of the latter’s rotation is inexperienced. Couple that with playing at home and that’s enough.

Weitzman: Pelicans. The Thunder have the best player on the court, but the Pelicans are better and deeper. This, however, will be the last time for a while that the Thunder exit the postseason this early.


(1) MILWAUKEE BUCKS vs. 8 seeds

Rohlin: Match to be determined

Bucher: Match to be determined

Weitzman: Match to be determined

(2) BOSTON CELTICS vs. 7 seeds

Rohlin: Match to be determined

Bucher: Match to be determined

Weitzman: Match to be determined


Rohlin: 76ers in 5. Joel Embiid is finally healthy after being injured the last three postseasons. He is playing the best basketball of his life. I don’t see the Nets having much of an answer for him.

Bucher: 76ers in 6. They’re the opposite of the Celtics: They haven’t swept a first-round opponent in the first round during the Embiid era, including when they were the No. 1 seed in the East facing a Raptors team like at height – challenged like the Nets.

Weitzman: 76ers in 5. I’ll give the Nets a game. I think they may catch fire from the depths one night. But they also have zero response for Embiid.


Rohlin: Cavs in 6. I’m excited for Donovan Mitchell vs. Jalen Brunson. Both have transformed their respective teams this season. I’m giving the edge to the Cavaliers because they finished the season with the league’s top defensive rating (109.9), though going up against the Knicks’ fourth-ranked offense (117) should be exciting.

Bucher: Cavs in 6. The hallmark of Tom Thibodeau’s teams is that they overachieve in the regular season, leaving little room to elevate their games in the playoffs. I expect more of the same. As long as Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen can stay out of trouble, I would expect them to keep Julius Randle in check.

Weitzman: Cavs in 7. I think this series is going to be a blowout, and I’m not sure the Cavs have anyone to fit Brunson. But Mitchell is a stud and I think his inside size could be the difference. The interesting question for the Knicks: Would Randle returning from his ankle injury help or hurt them?

(1) DENVER NUGGETS vs. 8 seeds

Rohlin: Match to be determined

Bucher: Match to be determined

Weitzman: Match to be determined

(2) MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES vs. 7 seeds

Rohlin: Match to be determined

Bucher: Match to be determined

Weitzman: Match to be determined


Rohlin: Warriors in 5. Get ready for Steph, Klay and Draymond to show what they can do. It’s playoff time. Everything changes for this trio, who have won four championships together in the last eight years. The Kings are the Cinderella story of the league this season, but this is the nightmare game for them.

Bucher: Warriors in 6. I might feel differently if the Kings had some kind of shot-blocking presence, but they don’t, and despite Domantas Sabonis controlling the boards, the Warriors won three of their four regular season meetings . In a battle of offensive powerhouses, I’m not about to bet against the team that has lost a TOTAL of five games in its last six first-round series. Not having home advantage for a team that went 11-30 on the road is a concern, but it won four of its last five.

Weitzman: Warriors at 6. I know the Warriors can’t win on the road, and I know the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento will LUCK. But the Warriors are still, well, the Warriors. They finished the season winning eight of their last 10 games and also look set to get Andrew Wiggins back.


Rohlin: Only in 5. Man oh man, were the Clippers unlucky with this one. Had they had a lesser opponent and bided their time until Paul George returned, they could have had a deep playoff run. But the Clippers without George can’t compete against a team with Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton.

Bucher: Clippers at 7. It’s an up-and-coming pick, I realize, but the Clippers have several major advantages, the biggest being their bench. The other is the way Kawhi Leonard is playing right now, which is as good as he has been in years. If KD isn’t guarding Kawhi, who is? And if KD is, can he also carry a heavy offensive load? I’ve seen KD play really well and still lose a playoff series, I’ve seen Booker and Paul look dominant but lose to a one star team. Eric Gordon has the strength and wisdom to match Paul. If Ivica Zubac can limit Ayton, and Terance Mann and Norm Powell can make Booker earn his points and keep him off the free throw line, the Clippers have a chance to pull off the upset, even if KD s turn off

Weitzman: Only in 7. This might be the best series of the entire postseason. Crazy bets for both teams. The winner could very well win the title. But it looks like the Clippers will have to take a shot at the Suns without George. I think that will be the difference.

Ric Bucher is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. He previously wrote for Bleacher Report, ESPN The Magazine and The Washington Post and has written two books, “Rebound,” about NBA forward Brian Grant’s battle with young-onset Parkinson’s, and “Yao: A Life In Two Worlds”. He also has a daily podcast, “On The Ball with Ric Bucher.” Follow him on Twitter @Rick Bucher.

Melissa Rohlin is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. He previously covered the league for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times, the Bay Area News Group and the San Antonio Express-News. Follow her on Twitter @melissarohlin.

Yaron Weitzman is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. He is the author of “Tanking to the top: the Philadelphia 76ers and the boldest process in the history of professional sports.” Follow him on Twitter @YaronWeitzman.

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