#3 Seed Minnesota Timberwolves vs. #6 Seed Phoenix Suns

Suns won season series 3-0

Bryce’s Outlook and Prediction

This is one of the more interesting matchups in the first round. You have the Minnesota Timberwolves arguably the best defense in the association, playing against the Phoenix Suns who have one of the better offensive trios in the league in Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and Bradley Beal. Anthony Edwards has looked like a man on a mission this season leading the Timberwolves to their best season in franchise history. He’s been waiting for his moment to shine and will be looking to have a big series against the Suns. Pair that with Rudy Gobert’s paint defense, Naz Reid’s production off the bench as well as others, Phoenix is going to have their hands full. But knowing how players like Kevin Durant and Devin Booker perform in the playoffs, this could very well go the distance. It’s time to see if Phoenix has fixed its struggles on both ends. There really isn’t a definitive favorite in this matchup. Any game can go either way. But in the playoffs, we see time after time that this is when defense prevails the most.

Prediction: Timberwolves in 7

#2 Seed Denver Nuggets vs. #7 Seed Los Angeles Lakers

Season Series: Nuggets 3-0

Pierre’s Outlook and Prediction

This story of redemption versus glory features the Denver Nuggets, led by the talented Nikola Jokic. Jokic is on track to win his third MVP award after an excellent regular-season campaign, leading his team to a 57-25 record and second seed. The Nuggets are all business in this playoff, aiming to capture the same glory they achieved last season as they embark on their journey toward a second championship. On the other hand, the Lakers have redemption on their mind. LA enters this series on a great finishing stretch to the season, winning 12 of their last 15 games, including their play-in win against the New Orleans Pelicans. This win landed them the seventh seed, cementing this matchup and taking on the defending champs head-on. For the Nuggets to win this series, they must take advantage of Jokic’s ability to distribute the ball and create opportunities for his teammates. This has proven to be a challenge for the Lakers.

Additionally, Jamal Murray needs to continue to be a threat from all areas of the court and work on the pick-and-roll two-person game with Nikola Jokic. This is where Murray excelled in the playoffs last season and caused problems for the Lakers. He averaged 32.5 points, shot 52% from the field, and 40% from three-point range in that series.

In this upcoming series, Anthony Davis will be the key player for the Lakers. The star forward needs to work hard to bridge the skill gap between himself and Jokic. Davis must outperform Jokic in rebounding and utilize his defensive abilities to limit Jokic’s exceptional passing skills by disrupting angles and blocking lanes with active hands. Additionally, the collective efforts of the LA Guards are crucial on the defensive end. D’Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Gabe Vincent must work together to slow down Jamal Murray’s production, which is challenging. Lastly, Lebron James and especially D’Angelo Russell, who struggled in last year’s Western Conference Finals with an average of 6.3 points, shooting 32.3% and 13.3% from three, will have to score heavily in this series. They must get to their spots and get in rhythm early and often.

X-Factors- Nikola Jokic and Anthony Davis

Prediction-Lakers in 6—Too much has to go right for the Lakers to win this series. In reality, it should be the Nuggets who are heavy favorites and the better team, but luckily, sometimes the fact is that underdogs win. Give me the Lakers.  

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An avid sports fan and journalist who’s main focus is the lovely game of basketball. If I’m not covering the game, I’m either playing ball or watching it.