2. Boston Celtics vs. 3. Philadelphia 76ers
Celtics in Five
The 76ers were going to have their work cut for them against the Celtics if they had a healthy Joel Embiid. However, with Embiid questionable with a knee injury, the task for Philadelphia nearly seems impossible. The Celtics needed six games to knock off a pesky Hawks team but were in control for the entire series, while the Sixers swept the heartless, gutless, prideless Nets. If the 76ers were to have a chance for an upset, they would need James Harden to turn back the clock to his MVP years. The Celtics have the scoring and a stronger defense that will every shot from Philadelphia seem like a chore. Without Embiid at his best, they cannot match Boston's physical play. The hope is that this could be a long series, but with Jayson Tatum leading the way, the Celtics will need just five games.
5. New York Knicks vs. 8. Miami Heat
Knicks in Six
The revival of the Knicks is the quietest secret in the NBA in 2023. The Knicks dominated the Cavs and advanced to the second round for the first time in a decade. They are playing well in all aspects of the game, getting strong defense, clutch shooting, and great rebounding. The Heat coming off a stunning upset of the top-seeded Bucks are riding the shoulders of Jimmy Butler, who has had historic performances to carry Miami into the second round. If anyone knows how to stop Butler, it is Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau, who was Butler's coach in Chicago. The Knicks are getting great balanced scoring with Jalen Brunson leading the way, but it is the rebounding of Mitchell Robinson that will be the difference as the Knicks reach the Conference Finals for the first time in 23 years by beating the Heat in six.
1. Denver Nuggets vs. 4. Phoenix Suns
Suns in Six
This could be the best series of the postseason, as the Nuggets, led by Nikola Jokic, are looking to overcome that big hump to make it to the Western Conference Finals, while the Suns, with Kevin Durant, are the most loaded team and in the best position to bring a title to the desert. The Suns had their struggles, losing Game 1 to the Clippers but roared back to win the next four as even Scott Foster could not stop Chris Paul. The Nuggets needed five to cut down the Timberwolves, as Jokic and Jamal Murray led the way. Kevin Durant appears to be settling into a grove after his ankle injury, as the Suns could be peeking at the right time. Look for Devin Booker to have a big series as the Suns advance in six games.
6. Golden State Warriors vs. 7. Los Angeles Lakers
Warriors in Six
The Warriors are just getting warmed up, rallying from an 0-2 hole to beat the Kings, winning Game 7 in Sacramento. The defending champions have played at a leisurely pace most of the season, but now going against the Lakers and LeBron James, we will see the best of Golden State. The Lakers' defense was crucial in their victory over the Grizzlies, but with Stephen Curry's ability to shoot from downtown, the Lakers could find themselves chasing in ever game. Look for a big series from Curry as the Warriors reach another Western Conference Finals.