The 16 participants in the 2021 NBA playoffs are all 16 wins away from a title. But each faces a daunting path to the championship podium. For now, it seems like a half-dozen or more title hopefuls could realistically get this done. Once the postseason spotlight shines on these clubs, though, it could reveal fatal flaws. Since the start of the season, a trio of teams was considered favorites to win the East and advance to the NBA Finals: the Philadelphia 76ers with Joel Embiid; the Brooklyn Nets with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving; and the Milwaukee Bucks with two-time defending Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo.
While the Eastern Conference is considered the Big Three then everyone else, the Western Conference is a jumbled mess. How jumbled? The favorite to win the conference isn’t even in the top six seeds. The Lakers went just 42-30 this season, the seventh-best in the West. Of course, there is one major caveat: The team played just 23 games with LeBron James and Anthony Davis in the lineup. In those games, the Lakers went 17-6, a .739 win percentage that would have been No. 1 in the NBA for an entire season. All of this shows that these Playoffs will be fantastic and hard to predict.
Click HERE to see the full bracket and how the results unfold. Below, we will make predictions on all the match-ups in the first round. Make sure to visit our section on Basketball Betting, to learn more about how to bet on the best NBA markets and odds.
No. 1 Utah Jazz vs. No. 8 Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies lived to fight another day by knocking off Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors in overtime 117-112 on Friday at Chase Center and now get to face a Jazz team that won 14 more regular-season games, including all three of their head-to-head matchups. Bake in one huge game for Ja Morant, but otherwise, Utah will come out of this series relatively comfortably.
Prediction: Our prediction here is quite straight forward. The Grizzlies barely made it to the playoff while Utah finished 1st in the West while having the best record. The Jazz should be able to make quick work of the Grizzlies and beat them in five.
No. 2 Phoenix Suns vs. No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers
The Suns must have infuriated the basketball gods at some point because a first-round date with LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the defending champion Lakers is downright cruel. Tack on Phoenix’s lack of big-game experience—this will be the playoff debut for the young nucleus—and there are too much factors working against it.
The Suns have no answer for James or Davis. They might pick up a victory or two if Chris Paul, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton time their hot nights just right, and they could win the whole thing if James and Davis aren’t physically right. But you can’t pick against L.A.’s stars this early.
Prediction: Lakers over Suns. These are, statistically speaking, the two worst backcourt defenses in the NBA. That benefits the Suns with their stronger offensive guard play. The forward spots? L.A. has LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Phoenix counters with Mikal Bridges and Jae Crowder. It’s not fair to get this draw as the No. 2 seed. Eventually the Suns will wear down.
No. 3 Denver Nuggets vs. No. 6 Portland Trail Blazers
The Nuggets will hide Jamal Murray’s absence (torn ACL) as well as they can, but that’s a lot to ask against a Portland team with the second-best offense and a middle-of-the-pack defense in May. Nikola Jokic and Michael Porter Jr. will put up huge numbers, but the Blazers will squeeze even more out of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Norman Powell and a resurgent Jusuf Nurkic.
Prediction: Nuggets over Trail Blazers. Denver held Damian Lillard to well under his season average in all three matchups. While the Nuggets won’t have Jamal Murray, the trade-deadline deal for Aaron Gordon has been golden. With Gordon as a starter, they’re 19-5.
No. 4 LA Clippers vs. No. 5 Dallas Mavericks
Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis and the ignitable Mavericks will make a good first-round test for a Clippers club yet to answer many questions from last year’s colossal collapse. Dallas could get a game or two, but ultimately, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will take charge of one of the NBA’s most talented rosters.
Prediction: Mavericks over Clippers: Los Angeles is a big favorite for a reason, but Dallas split two games that had each team at their best, winning one matchup by 16 and losing the other by 10. If we’re taking a first-round flyer, it’s on Luka Doncic willing the Mavs into the next round.
No. 1 Philadelphia 76ers vs. Washington Wizards
In three regular-season meetings—all Philly wins—Joel Embiid averaged 30 points on 60.4 percent shooting. He’ll again be the difference here, as Washington has no hope for even containing him. The Wizards will get a game when Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal go off, but otherwise the Sixers won’t really sweat.
Prediction: 76ers over Wizards. The Sixers swept the three-game series with the Wizards this season, and that includes a 60-point game from Bradley Beal. Joel Embiid feasted all three outings. A healthy and rested Philadelphia team has too much for Washington to deal with, especially in a best-of-7 format.
No. 2 Brooklyn Nets vs. No. 7 Boston Celtics
The Nets’ 22nd-ranked defense will be repeatedly run over. Jayson Tatum will average 30-plus points for the series, and Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier will combine for another 40 per night. But none of it will matter, as Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Brooklyn’s top-ranked offense will make quick work of this Jaylen Brown-less Boston team.
Prediction: Nets over Celtics. Brooklyn swept Boston 3-0 in the regular season and was missing at least one member of the Durant-Irving-Harden triumvirate in each. No Jaylen Brown for the Celtics, who was present in 12- and 28-point losses by a shorthanded Nets team that is no longer shorthanded.
No. 3 Milwaukee Bucks vs. No. 6 Miami Heat
The Heat remain a thorn-in-the-side matchup for the Bucks, but Jrue Holiday will become the difference-maker in this series like they hoped he would. The Heat will go all out to stop Giannis Antetokounmpo, but that will leave them vulnerable to big games from Holiday and Khris Middleton. When Miami then shows more attention to Milwaukee’s support players, Giannis will go off as the Bucks exorcise their playoff demons.
Prediction: Bucks over Heat. Miami is gaining traction here and has knocked Giannis and the Bucks out of the playoffs two straight years. Can the Heat make it a third? I’m not betting against the Greek Freak and a healthy Bucks lineup.
No. 4 New York Knicks vs. No. 5 Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks seem like the sensible pick. They have more depth and a higher-powered offense, which matters a lot in the modern NBA. But there’s something about these Knicks that make you want to believe. Julius Randle could shine like in the regular season, when he averaged 37.3 points and 12.3 rebounds per game against Atlanta. Head coach Tom Thibodeau can scheme the ball out of Trae Young’s hands, and Madison Square Garden will be absolutely rocking when New York squeaks out a Game 7 win.
Prediction: Knicks over Hawks. These No. 4 and 5 seeds in the East finished not just with identical records but identical marks at home (25-11) and the road (16-20). Judging by the records, that gives the homecourt Knicks a big boost. Here’s another one: New York bested Atlanta in all three regular-season meetings.
Basketball Betting & NBA Markets/Odds
Now that we have made our predictions on the first round in the playoffs, it’s time to talk about basketball betting. First, it’s crucial to find a great bookmaker that offers various NBA markets with competitive odds. We suggest visiting, the Coinbet24 Bitcoin Sportsbook for the best odds and markets when it comes to NBA betting.
Additionally, visit the Coinbet24 blog to learn more about basketball, the NBA, and basketball betting. Once the first round is done, make sure to check with us again about more predictions. We will cover all the games in the Playoffs, until one of the 16 teams is crowned NBA Champion.