NBA playoff predictions: Bracket picks & 2022 Finals champion

Now that the 2021-22 postseason is in full bloom, it’s time to check in on our NBA Playoff predictions.

It was an odd season around the Association with the Los Angeles Lakers struggling big time and missing out on the postseason. Meanwhile, up-and-comers such as the Memphis Grizzlies have made some noise.

Check out our NBA playoff predictions below with updates on the first-round action around the Association and how we view things will go moving forward.

Related: Sportsnaut’s updated NBA power rankings

Eastern Conference NBA Playoff predictions

nba playoff predictions: joel embiid
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
  1. Miami Heat (53-29)
  2. Boston Celtics (51-31)
  3. Milwaukee Bucks (51-31)
  4. Philadelphia 76ers (51-31)
  5. Toronto Raptors (48-34)
  6. Chicago Bulls (46-36)
  7. Brooklyn Nets (44-38)
  8. Atlanta Hawks (43-39)

Miami looks like a true juggernaut with consecutive home wins to open its first-round series against Atlanta. The wins came by a combined 34 points with Jimmy Butler having put up an awe-inspiring 45 points in Game 2. Even after losing Game 3 in Atlanta, the Heat came back the following outing to blow out the Hawks in a big way. In addition to Butler, Miami’s defense has frustrated Trae Young in a big way. This might be the most well-rounded team back east.

Speaking of Philadelphia, Joel Embiid’s buzzer-beating three-pointer in overtime of Game 3 against the Raptors seemed to edn that series. Shockingly, Toronto pulled off a Game 4 win at home before absolutely blowing out the 76ers on the road in Game 5. This series is headed back to Canada for a Game 6 with a championship-contending Philadelphia squad facing a ton of pressure.

Speaking of title contenders, the Boston Celtics have been absolutely insane recently. Including their four-game sweep of Brooklyn, the Celtics are 30-5 over their past 35 games. More than anything, it’s been about the team’s elite-level defense led by reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart. Just ask Kevin Durant, who is coming off the worst playoff performance of his career. As for the Nets, they are done and could be looking at some dramatic changes this summer.

Our Eastern Conference NBA Playoff predictions initially included the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks being completely healthy. That’s now not the case. Underrated wing Khris Middleton suffered a sprained MCL in Milwaukee’s ugly Game 2 home loss to the Chicago Bulls. Despite this, the Bucks boast a 3-1 series lead and are on the verge of closing out Chicago.

Western Conference NBA Playoff predictions

nba playoff predictions: golden state warriors, phoenix suns
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  1. Phoenix Suns (64-18)
  2. Memphis Grizzlies (56-26)
  3. Golden State Warriors (53-29)
  4. Dallas Mavericks (52-30)
  5. Utah Jazz (49-33)
  6. Denver Nuggets (48-34)
  7. Minnesota Timberwolves (46-36)
  8. New Orleans Pelicans (36-46)

Devin Booker. Devin Booker. More Devin Booker. The Suns’ star two-guard suffered a hamstring injury in their shocking Game 2 home loss to the New Orleans Pelicans earlier in this series. More than the NBA-best Suns losing at home to a 46-loss team, Booker’s injury could impact Phoenix moving forward. That series is now tied at two after New Orleans took one of two at home. Game 5 in Phoenix Tuesday evening is going to be something.

Speaking of upsets, the Minnesota Timberwolves — fresh off advancing past the play-in tournament, defeated the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 1. Unfortunately, they were also blown out in Game 2 with Karl-Anthony Towns continuing to struggle making a consistent impact. With this series tied at two, Game 5 in Memphis looms large. We wouldn’t put it past the Wolves to pull off an epic upset.

Whether it’s Memphis or Minnesota advancing to the conference semifinals, said team is going to be in for a rude awakening if the opponent is the Golden State Warriors. They won their first three games against the Denver Nuggets in dominating fashion. Jordan Poole’s asension to stardom coupled with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson being back at 100% has made the Warriors a force. Even with the Nuggets having avoided elimination, we expect Golden State to close this one out at home in Game 5 Wednesday evening.

Among the most-intriguing first-round matchups, the Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks are nodded up at two. Jalen Brunson avoided a 0-2 series hole for Dallas by scoring 41 points in Game 2. Dallas ended up winning two consecutive despite Luka Doncic’s absence. It then lost with him returning to the court in Game 4. We’re not 100% sure what to make of that.

NBA Playoffs bracket predictions: Matchups and winners

NBA: Playoffs-Minnesota Timberwolves at Memphis Grizzlies
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Eastern Conference, first round

1. Miami Heat over 8. Atlanta Hawks (4-1)

4. Philadelphia 76ers over 5. Toronto Raptors (4-3)

3. Milwaukee Bucks over 6. Chicago Bulls (4-1)

2. Boston Celtics over 7. Brooklyn Nets (4-0)

Western Conference, first round

1. Phoenix Suns over 8. New Orleans Pelicans (4-3)

4. Dallas Mavericks over 5. Utah Jazz (4-2)

7. Minnesota Timberwolves over 2. Memphis Grizzlies (4-3)

3. Golden State Warriors over 6. Denver Nuggets (4-1)

NBA Playoff predictions: Conference semifinals

nba playoff predictions: miami heat
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Eastern Conference

4. Philadelphia 76ers over 1. Miami Heat (4-3)

2. Boston Celtics over 3. Milwaukee Bucks (4-2)

Western Conference

1. Phoenix Suns over 4. Dallas Mavericks (4-2)

3. Golden State Warriors over 7. Minnesota Timberwolves (4-2)

Conference Finals

NBA: Boston Celtics at Memphis Grizzlies
Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Eastern Conference

2. Boston Celtics over 4. Philadelphia 76ers (4-2)

Western Conference

1. Phoenix Suns over 3. Golden State Warriors (4-3)

2022 NBA Finals predictions: Phoenix Suns over Boston Celtics, 4-2

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