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Scholar & Athlete

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NBA Playoffs

Boston Celtics (1) vs Miami Heat (8):

This Boston Celtics team is one of the best rosters constructed in recent years. Having won 64 games in the regular season, the first round shouldn’t be a worry for the Celtics squad. However, it is the Miami Heat at the end of the day. The Heat clawed their way from the eighth seed last season all the way to the finals, where they ended up losing to the Denver Nuggets. However, a repeat of this is unlikely, given the amount of crucial pieces lost in the offseason, Max Strus, Gabe Vincent and more importantly the loss of Jimmy Butler. Butler went down with a MCL injury in the play-in game against the Philadelphia 76ers and it is unknown if he will be available to play in the first round. Also, Miami’s starting point guardTerry Rozier is still dealing with an injury of his own. Due to how good Boston has played, and given the injuries the Heat are facing, this series should not be of concern for Celtics fans. 


Prediction: Celtics in five games.


New York Knicks (2) vs Philadelphia 76ers (7):

Both the Knicks and Sixers are in similar situations going into the playoffs. The Knicks are down their second best player Julius Randle for the rest of the season and Philadelphia is waiting for the offseason to make a splash on a big name free agent, such as Paul George or even LeBron James. So neither team’s expectations are exceptionally high, however, this will not determine the intensity of the series by any means. Joel Embiid would likely have won his second MVP if it wasn’t for the knee injury he sustained midway through the season, an injury he is still dealing with. Furthermore, this is the best Knicks team in decades, led by breakout star Jalen Brunson and some of his Villanova teammates Josh Hart and Donte DiVincenzo. Lastly, both these teams stadiums always show out, making this series must see tv. 

Prediction: Knicks in six games.


Milwaukee Bucks (3) vs Indiana Pacers (6):


The Milwaukee Bucks vs the Indiana Pacers is one of the most exciting matchups in the first round. Tensions have been brewing against these two teams since December, when Indiana refused to give Giannis Antetokounmpo his 50 point game ball. After the game, Bucks guard Malik Beasley said if the Bucks face the Pacers in the playoffs that, it’s not going to be pretty for them. Also, Indiana signed black belt James Johnson for the rest of the season following the incident. The Pacers have the number one offense in the league, the Bucks have the fourth best. However, both of these teams struggle defensively, the Pacers rank 27th in defensive rating, and the bucks 21st. Giannis missed the last three games of the regular season with a calf strain, and it is unknown if he will be available for game one. Milwaukee got bounced by the eighth seed Miami Heat in the first round last season, and the Pacers missed the playoffs entirely.

Predictions: Pacers in seven games.


Cleveland Cavaliers (4) vs Orlando Magic (5):

The storyline of this series will be defense and size. Both the Cavaliers and the Magic ranked top 10 in defense and in the lower half on offense. The most notable matchup in the series will be Paolo Banchero and Evan Mobley. Banchero, the first overall pick in 2022, made history by becoming the youngest player to lead his team in scoring, rebounding and assists in a season. Mobley, the third pick in 2021, earned a spot on the all-defensive team last year. This is the first playoff appearance for the Magic since their rebuild three years ago. The main concern for this Magic team is shooting and backcourt scoring and as for the Cavs, their concerns revolve around health. Injuries have affected nearly all of their starters this season. 

Predictions: Cavs in six games. 


Oklahoma City Thunder (1) vs New Orleans Pelicans (8):

The Oklahoma City Thunder have blown their expectations out of the water by

 claiming the first seed in the very competitive Western Conference. After New Orleans defeated the Sacramento Kings in the play-in, the first round matchup was set. The Thunder not only have a clear advantage seeding wise, but also with injuries, since Pelicans star Zion Williamson exited their first play-in game against the Lakers with a hamstring injury, and subsequently missed their second play-in game against the Kings. It is unknown at this time if he will be available to play in this series. Nonetheless, Oklahoma City should be able to take care of business against the eighth seed. 

Predictions: Thunder in five games. 


Denver Nuggets (2) vs Los Angeles Lakers (7):

A rematch of the 2023 Western Conference Finals awaits. The Nuggets swept the Lakers in the regular season, and they swept them in the WCF last year as well. With this said, this series will be far from boring. The matchup between two-time MVP Nikola Jokic and DPOY candidate Anthony Davis will be one for the ages. Furthermore, Jamal Murray and LeBron James will be a stellar matchup as well. The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Pelicans in the play-in tournament to secure the seventh seed, giving them a week’s rest to recharge before game one. All eyes are on Denver, however, who won the championship last year and are favorites in some peoples eyes to win it again. 

Prediction: Nuggets in five games. 


Minnesota Timberwolves (3) vs Phoenix Suns (6):

The playoffs have given us yet another action packed three/six matchup in the first round. The Minnesota Timberwolves have had their best season since the Kevin Garnett era, and lead the league in defensive rating. Anthony Edwards is an absolute stud, having ranked seventh in MVP voting odds, Rudy Gobert is the front runner for DPOY, and Naz Reid is leading in sixth man of the year votes. However, Minnesota’s nightmare came true as they will face Phoenix in the first round. The Suns have won the season series three to zero against the Wolves this season, and things didn’t look pretty for Minnesota in those games. Furthermore, it is a bit of a matchup nightmare for the Timberwolves. The key to winning the series if you’re the Wolves is controlling Bradley Beal. He has been the thorn in Minnesota’s side in the three games. However on the other end, the Suns need to be concerned about the Wolves depth and defensive fortification, with Rudy Gobert controlling the painted area. 

Prediction: Wolves in seven games. 


Los Angeles Clippers (4) vs Dallas Mavericks (5):

Yet another rematch in the playoffs for the Clippers and Mavericks. The Clippers beat the Mavericks two to one in the season series, however, this was before the Mavericks added athletic pieces PJ Washington and Daniel Gafford. Los Angeles’ main concern however is Kawhi Leonard’s health. Leonard is battling a knee injury and is questionable to play in game one. The Clippers will need everything to defeat this Mavs team, led by Kyrie Irving and potential MVP Luka Doncic. 

Predictions: Mavs in seven games.


Second Round Predictions: 

Thunder beat Mavericks in six games. 

Timberwolves beat Nuggets in seven games.

Celtics beat Cavaliers in four games.

Knicks beat Pacers in six games.


Conference Finals Predictions:

Timberwolves beat Thunder in six games.

Celtics beat Knicks in five games.


Finals Predictions:

Celtics beat Timberwolves in five games.

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About the Contributor
Alex Gray
Alex Gray, Travel Lead
Alex Gray was born on March 13, 2006, and is currently a senior at Tracy High School. He enjoys taking road trips, ATVing and exploring new places. This past June he spent 42 days driving across six states and two provinces. During this 9,000-mile road trip, Gray encountered over twenty bears, mostly grizzlies, and was fortunate enough to see five wolves in Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley. Wyoming was his favorite state on the trip, with Montana being a close second. He also enjoys doing animal rescue, which his family has been doing his entire life. Gray is a huge basketball fan, and expresses his support for the Minnesota Timberwolves, even after a lackluster season. Alex Gray aspires to be a game warden in Wyoming and plans on going to Oregon State University to reach these goals.  

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