NBA Playoff Predictions: Second-round picks favor Celtics, Suns while Knicks-Heat split decision

NBA Predictions: Expert picks for second round of NBA playoffs as pickers get ripped at matchups East and West

After Thursday’s Game 6 decided the Celtics against the Hawks, three of the four matchups in the second round of the 2023 NBA playoffs are set. Bad news from the East: Joel Embiid may not be ready to play the No. 2 Celtics in the No. 3 76ers series opener due to sprained knee and Julius Randle is unsure if he will play for the Knicks No. 5 is ready’ series opener against the No. 4 Heat in renewing a long-standing rivalry.

In the West, we know it will be the No. 1 Nuggets against the No. 4 Suns while the No. 2 Grizzlies and No. 7 Lakers are underway after the No. 3 Kings forced a Game 7 against the No 6 warriors on Friday. The winners of these two series meet in the conference semi-finals.

Below you will find the selection of our employees for each specified series.

Rider’s choice: Knicks in 6: The Heat’s sudden rediscovery of their ability to score doesn’t last, and Jimmy Butler, despite being exceptional in the postseason, can’t lead Miami to four more wins. That’s in part because the Knicks’ sudden rediscovery of defense remains – this is a Tom Thibodeau team even after a mediocre regular season on defense. Jalen Brunson is a star indeed, to our embarrassment, Mitchell Robinson’s presence on the boards is legitimate, RJ Barrett can be a game changer and Josh Hart is a secret ingredient.

Botkin’s choice: Knicks in 6: I’m not betting Miami’s 3-point shooting will hold and I think New York has more opportunities to generate attacks. Mitchell Robinson’s offensive rebound could be a big swing factor in a tight matchup.

Herbert’s choice: Heat in 6. The Heat can’t count on shooting as well as they did in the first round, but their approach should be the same, and I’m not interested in doubting Jimmy Butler (or Erik Spoelstra, for that matter). at the moment. While the Knicks could find some success in matchup hunting, it’s hard to imagine them owning the boards like they did against Cleveland.

Ward-Henninger’s choice: Heat in 7: Jimmy Butler, Jimmy Butler, Jimmy Butler. The Knicks have a great story and have the toughness to take on Miami, but as excellent as Jalen Brunson was, the Heat still have the best player in the series. Not to mention Miami’s advantage in deep playoff experience and the confidence they have after demoralizing the top-seeded Bucks.

Kaskey-Blomain’s choice: Heat in 6: This series will be a battle between two teams who can lag behind on defense and screw up the game. However, The Heat have more postseason experience and the best player of the series in Jimmy Butler, who took his game to a new level in the first round. This gives them an advantage.

Maloney’s choice: Knicks in 6: What Jimmy Butler did in the first round was remarkable, but it took the Heat a Giannis injury, some unstoppable shots and two massive fourth-quarter collapses to win that series. I’m not sure they can sustain that, especially against a stubborn Knicks defense managed by Butler’s former coach Tom Thibodeau.

Quinn’s choice: Knicks in 7: Jimmy Butler has averaged 38.5 points per game in his last seven playoff games. I am almost certain that it is not sustainable. Milwaukee played conservative drop coverage against him. Tom Thibodeau is becoming significantly more aggressive. The Heat shot 34.4% from deep during the regular season but are down to 45% in the playoffs. This series screams throwback, even if Julius Randle hobbles.

Wimbish’s choice: So Heat in 6: Playoff Jimmy Butler is back! Tyler Herro’s absence will hurt Miami more this series, but there’s a chance Julius Randle will be hobbled to start the series for the Knicks and that feels like a bigger loss. I’m trusting Miami on a matter that’s certainly not going to score points.

Rider’s choice: Celtics in 5: Embiid is devastated. The sixers are soft. And the Celtics are by far the best team in the East, despite a surprisingly tough series against Atlanta. Boston boasts a top three rating on offense and defense, historically a hallmark for budding champions. And her experience at last year’s Finals, along with her depth and star power, overwhelms Philly.

Botkin’s choice: Celtics in 5: When the Celtics attack offensively and move, they are simply a better team than the Sixers on either side of the ball. They’re more versatile, deeper, and have a lot more options to create a consistent semi-court offense. This is before I consider Joel Embiid’s knee situation.

Herbert’s choice: Celtics in 6. Boston is deeper, more balanced and more athletic than the Sixers. It offers more lineup flexibility, more scheme versatility, and more playmaker options. The big, game-changing advantage Philadelphia has is Joel Embiid…but he’s dealing with a sprained LCL. When he’s not himself, oh-oh.

Ward-Henninger’s choice: Celtics in 5: Joel Embiid picked up 52 points in the Sixers’ only win over Boston of the regular season, and I’m betting he won’t do that on a butt in four games of this series. I don’t trust James Harden to close the gap and the Celtics did a good job restricting Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris while their own role players thrived. Unless Embiid is healthier than I expected, this will be a short series.

Kaskey-Blomain’s choice: 76ers in 7: I might regret that choice, but I’m going into this series with Philly thanks largely to the presence of Joel Embiid. He’ll draw a lot of attention from Boston, and Philadelphia improved the list around him, so now there are other people who can take advantage of that. If Embiid isn’t at full strength, things will tip in Boston’s favor, but if he can play at the level he’s played all season, he’ll make the difference.

Maloney’s choice: Celtics in 6: The Celtics are deeper, more athletic, shoot more 3s, and have home field advantage. That matchup already favored the Celtics, and now Joel Embiid will operate at less than 100 percent, reducing the one advantage the Sixers had. Give me the Celtics here.

Quinn’s choice: Celtics in 7: I’m feeling a little queasy after watching Boston’s defense against Trae Young collapse, but James Harden is no Trae Young in his current state. If Joel Embiid were healthy, that might be a different story, but without her typically dominant pick-and-roll, I can’t trust Philadelphia to score enough to match a Boston team that shoots so well.

Wimbish’s choice: Celtics in 6: Joel Embiid’s injury is a concern and simply put, if he’s less than 100% then the Sixers are in trouble. I choose Boston for that alone.

Rider’s choice: Suns in 7: This is a series of question marks. Can Denver’s inconsistent defense buckle enough to confuse the Suns at times? Is Denver ready to break through – can Nikola Jokic dominate, can Jamal Murray be a star, can Michael Porter Jr. deliver an overwhelming offensive barrage for a game or two? Will Kevin Durant’s short stint in Phoenix and the ongoing work that is the team’s chemistry short-circuit all of the talent on this team? Will Devin Booker continue his playoff excellence? The best guess is that the Suns’ talent outstrips their time together in Denver.

Botkin’s choice: Nuggets in 7: When the trade with Kevin Durant closed, I placed the Suns as title favorites. I’ll go back to that. I think they’re losing the math game to Denver loaded with 3 point shooters and a full back Jamal Murray. The Suns, great as their midrange triumvirate is, won’t make enough 2s to keep up.

Herbert’s choice: Suns in 7. There is nothing significant from the regular-season series and the only thing I can predict here is tons of points to be scored. I like Denver’s offensive system a lot more than Phoenix’s right now, but I tend so easily for the Suns to find a more reliable two-way formula as the series progresses.

Ward-Henninger’s choice: Suns in 6: No one can stop Nikola Jokic but Deandre Ayton has done a good job of containing him in the past. But most of all, this prediction is a bet that Denver’s defense won’t be able to stop Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Chris Paul in 4 games out of 6. The Suns will have their own battles with defense and depth, but I’ve got to ride the top-end scoring talent.

Kaskey-Blomain’s choice: Suns in 7: This should be a fun high-scoring series, but ultimately I’m rolling with Phoenix, thanks largely to the presence of Kevin Durant, who is the most proven playoff player on either side of the series. Also, Devin Booker has played excellent basketball so far this postseason, and while Denver is talented, they will struggle to keep up with the performance of these two superstars.

Maloney’s choice: Nuggets in 7: When the Suns offense starts to click, it’s a sight to behold, and Kevin Durant and Devin Booker will see them win multiple games in this series. But their lack of options outside of their top four players is a real problem and their inability to slow down the Clippers despite first-round injuries to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George does not bode well for this series. Ultimately, I think the depth and willingness of the nuggets to shoot more 3s will make all the difference in the numbers for a shootout.

Quinn’s choice: Nuggets in 7: A more experienced group together might have better answers to their obvious defensive errors, but if Torrey Craig hadn’t shot 55.6% from 3 in the first round, Phoenix might still be fighting with the Clippers. The Suns just offer too many safe spots defensively between Craig, Josh Okogie and even Chris Paul, whose teams have been asking to shoot lately. In a year this series could be more interesting. For the time being, rely on experience.

Wimbish’s choice: Suns in 7: This has the makings of a really entertaining series, but I prefer the Suns. Even if the Nuggets manage to contain Devin Booker, who went haywire in the postseason, there’s still Kevin Durant to worry about.

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