NBA 2023 Playoff Preview


Advaith Modali, Staff Writer

With the culmination of the NBA’s play-in tournament, the star-studded matchups for the NBA playoffs are set. The seventh and eighth seeds of the Western Conference were filled by the Los Angeles Lakers and the Minnesota Timberwolves, respectively, while the Eastern Conference seeds were filled by the Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat.


Here is a rundown of each series, as well as predictions for each one:


For the Western Conference:


Denver Nuggets (1) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (8):

The Denver Nuggets enter this series with arguably one of the best starting lineups in the league, but it will be interesting to see how they compete against a similarly strong lineup in the Minnesota Timberwolves. Ultimately, it will come down to how reigning MVP Nikola Jokić will be able to control the offensive flow, as well as how the Timberwolves’ Rudy Gobert will be able to match up with Jokić defensively, limiting the ways in which he impacts the game. It will also be important for Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns to maintain a strong presence on the offensive side, while matching the high energy brought by Denver. With the dominance of Jokić and the role of players such as Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray, my prediction is that the Nuggets will win the series 4–2. 


Memphis Grizzlies (2) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (7):

This is arguably the most anticipated matchup in the playoffs, with the revitalized Lakers led by LeBron James and Anthony Davis going up against a younger team in the Memphis Grizzlies, led by Ja Morant. The keys to this matchup are how Anthony Davis will perform against a Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Jaren Jackson Jr., as well as the extent to which Morant can dominate on the offensive end. With the presence of strong players such as Jarred Vanderbilt and Austin Reaves for the Lakers as well as Desmond Bane for the Grizzlies, it will be important to see how they will have a two-way impact in the series. Most importantly, everyone will be interested to see how James will be able to maintain his history of strong performances in the playoffs. My prediction is that this will be a very close series, with the Lakers winning the series 4–3.


Phoenix Suns (4) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (5):

In another anticipated matchup in the Western Conference, the healthy Phoenix Suns with Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, and Devin Booker face off against the injury-riddled Clippers led by Kawhi Leonard and Russell Westbrook. The fate of this series is heavily dependent on Paul George being able to come back from his injury and perform at a consistent level. All eyes will be on the Kevin Durant vs. Russell Westbrook matchup, but it will be crucial for the Suns to limit Leonard, as his significant presence on both sides of the floor will be important throughout the series. In a close series with strong offensive factors on both sides, my prediction is that the Suns will win the series 4–2.


Sacramento Kings (3) vs. Golden State Warriors (6):

In a series where the team with the higher seed is viewed as the underdogs, the fate of the series will come down to how the Warriors can overcome the road struggles they have faced throughout the regular season. Meanwhile, for Sacramento, their strong record at home led by De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis will be tested by the dominant offensive power of Golden State, especially with the return of Andrew Wiggins. However, with the experience the Warriors have in the playoffs with the Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson trio, the Warriors should be able to win the series in 6 games.


For the Eastern Conference:


Milwaukee Bucks (1) vs. Miami Heat (8): 

With the two-way dominance of star Giannis Antetokounmpo, the performance of the Heat in this series will come down to the effectiveness of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo on the defensive end. However, with the depth the Bucks possess, it seems inevitable that the Bucks will dominate their matchup throughout this series. With the stellar defense of Jrue Holiday, the Bucks will take over on both sides of the floor, resulting in the prediction that the Bucks will win the series in 5 games. 


Boston Celtics (2) vs. Atlanta Hawks (7):

Although the Hawks are coming into this matchup with something to look forward to in the offensive gameplay with Trae Young, the depth of the Boston Celtics will be too much for them to handle, as the dominance of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown will consistently create problems. The performance of the Hawks in this series will depend on how well their defense handles what Boston throws at them. However, given Boston’s strengths on both sides of the ball, as well as the role of players such as Derrick White and Malcolm Brogdon, my prediction is that the Celtics will win the series 4–0. 


Philadelphia 76ers (3) vs. Brooklyn Nets (6):

In an interesting matchup featuring the changed Nets with added firepower in Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson, as well as a top MVP candidate in the 76ers’ Joel Embiid, the important factors will be the playmaking of James Harden, as well as the defense of Nicholas Claxton against Embiid in the paint. Ultimately, it will come down to being able to contain Embiid, which will be a very difficult task. With so much attention on Embiid, the 76ers’ depth with Tyrese Maxey should be a powerful factor in helping them finish the series in 5 games. 


Cleveland Cavaliers (4) vs. New York Knicks (5):

In arguably the most interesting and even matchup of the playoffs, the Cleveland Cavaliers led by the scoring talent of Donovan Mitchell face off against a revitalized Knicks led by Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle. The performance of each team will come down to the strong paint defense of the Cavaliers, particularly in Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, as well as the depth of the Knicks, who have a sixth man of the year candidate in Immanuel Quickley. However, due to the Cavaliers having home court advantage in the series, combined with their strong defense in the paint, my prediction is that they will win in 7 games.


With no obvious favorite, this season’s playoffs look to be especially exciting. While no one can predict exactly what will happen throughout the tournament, all of us fans will be anxiously watching to see who comes out on top.