The NBA Playoffs begin on Monday in the Orlando bubble with a four-game slate that marks the start of one team’s trip to the NBA Finals. While things will certainly feel different this year for everyone, we’re expecting plenty of great action for NBA fans to enjoy.
Monday’s playoff action tips off with the Utah Jazz facing off against the Denver Nuggets, a battle that could get heated with the added intensity of the teams being in the same hotel.
We’ll also see some exciting Eastern Conference flashes later in the day. The Toronto Raptors will look to start their title defense against the Brooklyn Nets, a series that could end quickly. While the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers will go head-to-head in an incredible series.
The NBA’s playoff action on Monday will conclude with a star-studded clash between the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers, the dessert to a great day of playoff basketball.
With the first tip-off right around the corner, here are a few bold predictions for Monday’s NBA Playoffs slate.
Nikola Jokic drops a triple-double
Even before he slimmed down during the NBA’s indefinite suspension, Jokic demonstrated he could take his game to another level in the big moments. In his first taste of the postseason last year, Jokic regularly filled the stat sheet and overpowered his opponents.
While it might seem like a clash with Rudy Gobert would make things more difficult, Denver’s 7-foot athletic specimen can be unstoppable. He averaged 29.3 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists in three starts against the Jazz this season. Looking to set the tone early for this series, we’re expecting Jokic to drop a triple-double and secure the win.
Toronto Raptors slash the Nets in massive blowout
While Toronto didn’t get the No.1 seed in the Eastern Conference, a matchup with the Nets almost feels like a first-round bye. Brooklyn might have posted a 5-3 record in the seeding tournament, but three of its key contributors opted out and neither Kyrie Irving nor Kevin Durant made the trip to the bubble.
Toronto comes into Monday’s game as a 9.5-point favorite, but that doesn’t seem nearly enough. The Raptors are incredibly deep, Fred VanVleet is putting defenders on skates and Nick Nurse should be the NBA’s Coach of the Year. We could easily see the Raptors winning this game by 20-plus and they might start looking for brooms shortly after.
Shake Milton emerges on national stage
Many in Philadelphia know and love Milton, especially after he stepped up for this team earlier in the year when Ben Simmons was sidelined. Admittedly, the 23-year-old didn’t look sharp during the early run in the bubble, but we’re betting on him to step things up on Monday night.
The key for Milton will be an aggressive mindset, attacking and letting it fly from beyond the arc. Boston will focus its efforts defensively on stopping Joel Embiid, which could create open looks for this former second-round pick. Don’t be shocked if he comes out hot with 20-plus points, making it rain from the three-point line. On a national stage, when the 76ers need him to thrive, this is Milton’s chance to become known around the NBA world.
Jayson Tatum takes the leap into NBA superstardom
Boston’s 22-year-old forward showed plenty of promise in his first two years then made major strides to become an NBA All-Star during the regular season. This is now his team and he heads into the NBA Playoffs feeling more confident than ever in his shot.
Now is the time for Tatum to take that leap and showcase why he is a superstar. After averaging 15.2 points in the playoffs last year, Boston’s fans want more from Tatum this year. This should be a close series and Monday’s contest could be pivotal. In a big game, we think Tatum could erupt for 40-plus points, including a huge fourth quarter to close it.
Luka Doncic drills game-winner to stun the Los Angeles Clippers
This is the moment Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks dreamed of. Trading up for Doncic was done with the belief he could carry this organization back to the playoffs. He’s now here and if you thought the 21-year-old was already unbelievable, we could be entering “Playoff Luka” mode.
The Clippers are clearly the better team with a significant advantage off the bench, in the starting five and on the coaching side. However, we see every year that one player can put the team on his back and do the extraordinary. On Monday night, we’ll bet on Doncic to deliver a masterful playoff debut and predict he’ll sink the game-winning bucket for the Game 1 stunner.