NBA

NBA Playoff Mega Preview: Schedule, Predictions, and Best Bets For Round 1

It might be a little later than normal, but the NBA playoffs are finally here. The postseason tips off in the Orlando bubble on Monday, Aug. 17, and we couldn’t be more excited. Here’s everything you need to know about the first round matchups, including predictions and best bets.

NBA playoff schedule

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The 2020 NBA playoffs will begin on Monday, Aug. 17 with a four-game slate. Check out the entire first round schedule below. All times are Eastern.

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. No. 8 Portland Trail Blazers

Game 1: Aug. 18, 9 p.m. (TNT)
Game 2: Aug. 20, 9 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 3: Aug. 22, 8:30 p.m. (ABC)
Game 4: Aug. 24, 9 p.m. (TNT)
Game 5: Aug. 26, TBD
Game 6: Aug. 28, TBD
Game 7: Aug. 30, TBD

No. 2 L.A. Clippers vs. No. 7 Dallas Mavericks

Game 1: Aug. 17, 9 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 2: Aug. 19, 9 p.m. (TNT)
Game 3: Aug. 21, 9 p.m. (TNT)
Game 4: Aug. 23, 3:30 p.m. (ABC)
Game 5: Aug. 25, TBD
Game 6: Aug. 27, TBD
Game 7: Aug. 29, TBD

No. 3 Denver Nuggets vs. No. 6 Utah Jazz

Game 1: Aug. 17, 1:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 2: Aug. 19, 4 p.m. (TNT)
Game 3: Aug. 21, 4 p.m. (TNT)
Game 4: Aug. 23, 9 p.m. (TNT)
Game 5: Aug. 25, TBD
Game 6: Aug. 27, TBD
Game 7: Aug. 29, TBD

No. 4 Houston Rockets vs. No. 5 Oklahoma City Thunder

Game 1: Aug. 18, 6:30 p.m. (TNT)
Game 2: Aug. 20, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 3: Aug. 22, 6 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 4: Aug. 24, 4 p.m. (TNT)
Game 5: Aug. 26, TBD
Game 6: Aug. 28, TBD
Game 7: Aug. 30, TBD

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Milwaukee Bucks vs. No. 8 Orlando Magic

Game 1: Aug. 18, 1:30 p.m. (TNT)
Game 2: Aug. 20, 6 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 3: Aug. 22, 1:30 p.m. (TNT)
Game 4: Aug. 24, 1:30 p.m. (NBATV)
Game 5: Aug. 26, TBD
Game 6: Aug. 28, TBD
Game 7: Aug. 30, TBD

No. 2 Toronto Raptors vs. No. 7 Brooklyn Nets

Game 1: Aug. 17, 4 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 2: Aug. 19, 1:30 p.m. (NBATV)
Game 3: Aug. 21, 1:30 p.m. (NBA TV)
Game 4: Aug. 23, 6:30 p.m. (TNT)
Game 5: Aug. 25, TBD
Game 6: Aug. 27, TBD (ESPN)
Game 7: Aug. 29, TBD (TNT)

No. 3 Boston Celtics vs. No. 6 Philadelphia 76ers

Game 1: Aug. 17, 6:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 2: Aug. 19, 6:30 p.m. (TNT)
Game 3: Aug. 21, 6:30 p.m. (TNT)
Game 4: Aug. 23, 1 p.m. (ABC)
Game 5: Aug. 25, TBD
Game 6: Aug. 27, TBD (ESPN)
Game 7: Aug. 29, TBD (TNT)

No. 4 Indiana Pacers vs. No. 5 Miami Heat

Game 1: Aug. 18, 4 p.m. (TNT)
Game 2: Aug. 20, 1 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 3: Aug. 22, 3:30 p.m. (TNT)
Game 4: Aug. 24, 6:30 (TNT)
Game 5: Aug. 26, TBD
Game 6: Aug. 28, TBD
Game 7: Aug. 30, TBD

First round predictions

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No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. No. 8 Portland Trail Blazers

The Trail Blazers will be a popular upset pick in the first round, and rightfully so. Damian Lillard is playing out of his mind, and Portland is finally healthy at the right time, but this is LeBron James we’re talking about. Portland just doesn’t have the horses to contain either James or Anthony Davis in a playoff series.

Lakers in 6

No. 2 L.A. Clippers vs. No. 7 Dallas Mavericks

The Mavericks are a dangerous No. 7 seed, but this Clippers team is built for playoff success. Kawhi Leonard has proven to be one of the best playoff performers of the last decade in the league. Add in Paul George, Lou Williams, and now Montrezl Harrell, and LA is just too lethal offensively for the Mavs to keep up.

Clippers in 5

No. 3 Denver Nuggets vs. No. 6 Utah Jazz

The Jazz would just be the perfect team to win the NBA title after Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 in March and the sports world stopped in its place. That said, Utah is a bit out of sorts with Mike Conley leaving the bubble recently, and Denver is simply the deeper team. The Nuggets have had their way with the Jazz in recent years, and that should continue here.

Nuggets in 7

No. 4 Houston Rockets vs. No. 5 Oklahoma City Thunder

OK, let’s get a little spicy. The top three teams in the West should take care of business in the first round, but here’s where we might see an upset. The Rockets have been notorious playoff failures in the past few seasons, as their unique style of play relies so heavily on the three. Oklahoma City has the third-best 3-point defense in the NBA this year. Steven Adams should also have his way inside against the smaller Rockets. Chris Paul gets his revenge over his former team.

Thunder in 7

No. 1 Milwaukee Bucks vs. No. 8 Orlando Magic

Not much to see here. The Magic have limped to the finish in their last few games in the bubble. Meanwhile, the Bucks have been on cruise control for weeks. They’ll be fired up and ready to go once the playoffs get started. Let’s keep it moving.

Bucks in 4

No. 2 Toronto Raptors vs. No. 7 Brooklyn Nets

The Nets have been a delightful story in the Orlando bubble. The undermanned roster plays hard and can keep games closer than expected, but talent usually outweighs heart in the NBA playoffs. Brooklyn will be a scary contender next season, but the Nets can’t hang with the reigning champs with their current group.

Raptors in 5

No. 3 Boston Celtics vs. No. 6 Philadelphia 76ers

This is one of the more interesting matchups in the first round. With Ben Simmons out for the series and most likely the entire playoffs, no one is giving Philly much of a chance. But not so fast. Simmons has struggled mightily against the Celtics in his career. Brad Stevens knows exactly how to contain Simmons, and its led to some of the worst performances of his career. Joel Embiid should have a monster series with the way Boston defends big men. If he can stay healthy, the 76ers will have a real chance.

76ers in 7

No. 4 Indiana Pacers vs. No. 5 Miami Heat

Ah, the Jimmy Butler, T.J. Warren series. If you didn’t know, these two guys absolutely hate each other. It all started with a chirping match earlier this season, and their beef has continued into the bubble. Expect these dudes to guard each other a ton in this series. That said, Butler should win the matchup with his playoff experience and defensive prowess.

Heat in 6

Best bets for the first round of the NBA playoffs

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Celtics/76ers OVER 5.5 games -148

The Celtics will most likely win this series in the end, but the 76ers should at least put up a fight. Embiid should have at least two or three dominating stat lines in this series, and that should lead to a few wins for Philly. With Kemba Walker still not 100% and Boston’s struggles to defend the center position, this one should go at least six games.

Thunder to beat Rockets +120

This line has plummeted down from as high as +300 in some places, but it’s still enticing at plus money. The Rockets will be without Russell Westbrook for at least Game 1. They also have a worse supporting cast than in years past. James Harden is special, but he can only do so much. This is a bad matchup for Houston against an Oklahoma City team that can defend the three and dominate in the paint. This one should be fun.

Raptors/Nets OVER 4.5 games +103

The Raptors should win this series fairly easily, but this scrappy Nets team can definitely steal at least one game. Brooklyn beat the Bucks and Clippers in the bubble and gave the Trail Blazers all they had in the season finale. The Raptors can go on long cold streaks offensively and allow teams to hang with them for a while. This one could cash by Monday.

All betting odds courtesy of DraftKings