NBA 2020 Playoffs Preview – Predictions In The Bubble

Danuel House Jr. of Houston Rockets against Derrick Favors of Utah Jazz on December 17, 2018

If there’s anything that NBA analysts can agree on, it’s that the bubble games have definitely been surprising, with some teams that were unstoppable being put in their place by squads lower down the rankings. Factoring in the changes caused by this new match environment, here is our preview for the NBA 2020 playoffs. 

Conference predictions

In our preview below, we give NBA and sports betting fans a look into what the conference standings and NBA playoff matches might look like, as well as the NBA championship odds for the final match. 

Eastern Conference standings

With the last matches still to wrap up, these are our predicted standings in the Eastern Conference going into the playoffs:

  1. Milwaukee Bucks
  2. Toronto Raptors
  3. Boston Celtics
  4. Miami Heat
  5. Indiana Pacers
  6. Philadelphia 76ers
  7. Brooklyn Nets
  8. Orlando Magic

Eastern Conference First Round

Gary Clark of Orlando Magic defends Giannis Antetokounmpo of Milwaukee Bucks on February 8, 2020

Milwaukee Bucks (1) vs Orlando Magic (8)

Winner: Milwaukee Bucks

Unfortunately, there’s not much to say here. The Bucks are miles ahead of the Magic and it would take nothing short of a miracle for Orlando to stand a chance.

Miami Heat (4) vs Indiana Pacers (5)

Winner: Miami Heat

If their last victory with Miami’s 114 to the Pacers’ 92 is anything to go by, Jimmy Butler will set the pace and lead the Heat to victory. However it ends, hopefully Butler and Warren won’t have another postgame locker room argument and embarrass both teams.

Boston Celtics (3) vs Philadelphia 76ers (6)

Winner: Boston Celtics

This is a classic rivalry which the Celtics have a tradition of winning. We’re expecting the Celtics to continue their bubble streak, beat the Wizards in their next match, and then defeat the 76ers in the first round. 

Toronto Raptors (2) vs Brooklyn Nets (7)

Winner: Toronto Raptors

This matchup is less one-sided than it seems, with the Raptors actually losing to the Nets the last time they faced off in February. However, the Raptors have been performing well in the bubble, and are overall the stronger team, so it’s doubtful we’ll see an upset here.

Eastern Conference Semifinals

Brad Wanamaker of Boston Celtics against Norman Powell of Toronto Raptors on August 7, 2020

Milwaukee Bucks vs Miami Heat

Winner: Milwaukee Bucks

Despite a rough start versus the Heat in the last game they played, the Bucks managed to turn it around and end the game with a double-digit lead. Kudos to the Heat for giving the Bucks a tough time, but when the going got tough, Khris Middleton stepped up and delivered in the fourth quarter. 

We expect the Bucks to take the win, even if they have another rough start against the Heat.

Boston Celtics vs Toronto Raptors

Winner: Boston Celtics

The Celtics are leading the Raptors 3-1 in this regular season, and lost by 22 points in their August 7th game. In this matchup, the Celtics will likely win, even if the Raptors are the stronger team on paper. 

Eastern Conference Finals

Milwaukee Bucks vs Boston Celtics

Winner: Boston Celtics

Considering the Bucks’ overall performance this season, many people might label us mad for predicting a Celtics win over the Bucks. However, the Bucks’ performance in the bubble has been inconsistent at best, while the Celtics have been delivering wins far more regularly. Even with a single-digit loss to the Celtics in the bubble, if the Celtics can keep up their current performance, they have a good chance of winning. 

Western Conference standings

Again, with a few matches still to be played out, these are our predicted standings in the Western Conference going into the playoffs:

  1. LA Lakers
  2. LA Clippers
  3. Denver Nuggets
  4. Houston Rockets
  5. Utah Jazz
  6. Oklahoma City Thunder
  7. Dallas Mavericks
  8. Portland Trail Blazers

Western Conference First Round

Anthony Davis ofLos Angeles Lakers and Caleb Swanigan of Portland Trail Blazers on January 31, 2020

LA Lakers (1) vs Portland Trailblazers (8)

Winner: LA Lakers

The Trailblazers have been showing up more than the Lakers in the bubble, but it would be hard to argue that the LA Lakers aren’t the stronger team overall.

Houston Rockets (4) vs Utah Jazz (5)

Winner: Houston Rockets

Another rivalry for the history books. While the Jazz have the lead in all-time series and regular-season results, the Rockets have a historic lead in the postseason. Then there’s the Rockets 4-1 win in the 2019 Western Conference first round, and the 4-1 win in the 2018 Western Conference semifinals. 

The Jazz are also currently down 1-2 to the Rockets this season, with the two losses being double-digits. Factor in that the Utah team isn’t performing in the bubble, and we’re going to give the win to the Rockets.

Denver Nuggets (3) vs Oklahoma City Thunder (6)

Winner: Denver Nuggets

Neither of these teams are playing exceptionally well or badly in the bubble, and considering that the last time they faced off the game went into overtime, neither team seems to have the edge on the other. However, the Nuggets did take the win, and they have performed better this season overall, so we’re expecting the Nuggets to walk away the victors.

LA Clippers (2) vs Dallas Mavericks (7)

Winner: LA Clippers

With such a great gap in skill overall, it’s unsurprising that the Clippers beat the Mavericks with a healthy double-digit lead in their last bubble match. Don’t expect any surprises in the playoffs.

Western Conference Semifinals

Monte Morris of Denver Nuggets against Patrick Patterson of LA Clippers on August 12, 2020

LA Lakers vs Houston Rockets

Winner: Houston Rockets

The Lakers are another team that seem to have lost their mojo in the bubble, with a current score of 3-4. Given the Rockets’ recent win against the Lakers, and the fact that the Los Angeles team doesn’t seem to have answers for their poor play in the bubble, the Rockets have a good chance of beating the Western Conference favorites. 

Denver Nuggets vs LA Clippers

Winner: LA Clippers

With the Nuggets right on the Clippers’ tail in the Western Conference standings, as well as the fact that neither team seems to be playing exceptionally well at the moment, it is very difficult to judge which team will walk home the winner.

This brings it down to the potential of the individuals on each team, and the Clippers have the higher ceiling overall, especially with regards to their offensive power. With players like Leonard Kawhi finally starting to step up, we’ll give this win to the Clippers.

Western Conference Finals

Houston Rockets vs LA Clippers

Winner: LA Clippers

While analysts like Nick Wright may believe the Houston Rockets are the better team, the most recent game between the Rockets and the Clippers show the LA team winning with a double-digit lead. Again, there isn’t a clear cut difference between these teams, with either potentially taking the win depending on their performance on the day. 

However, we believe the Clippers are a more complete team and are more likely to win more matches and walk away the winners in a conference final. 

NBA Finals

Daniel Theis of Boston Celtics against Kawhi Leonard of LA Clippers on February 13, 2020

Boston Celtics vs LA Clippers

Winner: Boston Celtics

Odds to win the tournament: 1800

Odds for these two teams to reach the final: 2200

Eastern conference team to win: 125  

No-one else has predicted this matchup so far, and even statistics sites like FiveThirtyEight believe the Bucks should be playing against the LA Clippers. However, the bubble has definitely thrown the league on its head, and the idea that the Celtics could cause an upset has definitely gathered more support after their recent victory over the Raptors. 

Even if the odds are not in their favor, if the current bubble trends and performances hold, the more consistent and efficient performance of the Celtics means they are more likely to win this potential final. 

Place your bets with BetMGM

It’s possible our NBA betting predictions for the playoffs might change as more of the actual playoff games are decided. But in the meantime, there are still plenty of other exciting NBA betting opportunities to enjoy at BetMGM sportsbook and casino.

BetMGM, the official betting operator of the PGA Tour, offers a premier online sports betting platform for sports bettors who want to find out more about the latest NBA betting odds, so they can make more informed NBA betting picks. 

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