NBA Playoffs 2020: Odds, Schedule, Game Times, Predictions for 1st-Round Bracket

Jake RillSenior Writer IAugust 18, 2020

Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard reacts during the first half against the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Monday, Aug. 17, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kim Klement/Pool Photo via AP)
Kim Klement/Associated Press

On the first day of the NBA playoffs, there were no upsets. Both No. 2 seeds (the Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Clippers) and both No. 3 seeds (the Boston Celtics and Denver Nuggets) took 1-0 leads in their respective series, starting the postseason on strong notes.

That may be an indication of how this year's opening round will go, as the top teams could all be difficult to beat in a best-of-seven series. Toronto, the reigning NBA champions, had the most convincing win on Monday, notching a 134-110 victory over the No. 7-seeded Brooklyn Nets.

While four series began Monday, the other four opening games get underway Tuesday. But with teams such as the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks in action, it wouldn't be surprising to see more of the favorites open the postseason with victories.

Here's a look at the upcoming playoff schedule, followed by predictions for each opening-round series.


Upcoming Schedule

Tuesday, Aug. 18

Game 1: No. 8 Orlando Magic at No. 1 Milwaukee Bucks (-12), 1:30 p.m. ET, TNT

Game 1: No. 5 Miami Heat (-4) at No. 4 Indiana Pacers, 4 p.m. ET, TNT

Game 1: No. 5 Oklahoma City Thunder (-1.5) at No. 4 Houston Rockets, 6:30 p.m. ET, TNT

Game 1: No. 8 Portland Trail Blazers at No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers (-5.5), 9 p.m. ET, TNT


Wednesday, Aug. 19

Game 2: No. 7 Brooklyn Nets at No. 2 Toronto Raptors (-11), 1:30 p.m. ET, NBATV

Game 2: No. 6 Utah Jazz at No. 3 Denver Nuggets (-4), 4 p.m. ET, TNT

Game 2: No. 6 Philadelphia 76ers at No. 3 Boston Celtics (no line), 6:30 p.m. ET, TNT

Game 2: No. 7 Dallas Mavericks at No. 2 Los Angeles Clippers (-6), 9 p.m. ET, TNT

Odds obtained via Vegas Insider. Complete postseason schedule available at NBA.com.


Series Predictions

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Milwaukee Bucks over No. 8 Orlando Magic in four games

No. 2 Toronto Raptors over No. 7 Brooklyn Nets in five games

No. 3 Boston Celtics over No. 6 Philadelphia 76ers in six games

No. 5 Miami Heat over No. 4 Indiana Pacers in six games

The Bucks, Raptors and Celtics should have no trouble getting past the opening round. Boston will likely have to play the longest series of those three teams, as Philadelphia is a solid team, even though it lost Ben Simmons to a season-ending knee injury.

In Monday's Game 1, the Celtics beat the 76ers 109-101 after they trailed by four points after three quarters. However, Boston outscored Philadelphia 34-22 in the fourth, with Jayson Tatum (32 points and 13 rebounds) and Jaylen Brown (29 points) powering it to victory.

But the 76ers are still likely to make it a competitive series moving forward.

"Philly, they're not going to go away," Tatum said, according to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN). "They're a tough team. It's the playoffs. You've got to come together as a team. You've got to play hard. You ain't going to be perfect. That's what we did. We came together and stuck it out."

One of the only shocks this postseason might come in the Pacers-Heat matchup, as the teams should be evenly matched. Indiana went 45-28 in the regular season, while Miami went 44-29. The Heat won three of their four games against the Pacers, although they split their two seeding contests after the season restarted.

Over the previous three seasons, Miami only reached the playoffs once, and it lost in the opening round to Philadelphia in 2018. But with Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo leading the way, the Heat not only have the potential to beat the Pacers but also to carry that momentum into the rest of the playoffs to potentially make a decent run.

"Now is the time to play your best basketball, to do whatever it takes to make sure that your team can win," Butler said, according to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

It should be a competitive series between Miami and Indiana and likely to go six or seven games. However, Butler and Adebayo should take their games to another level in the postseason, helping the Heat advance past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2016.


Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers over No. 8 Portland Trail Blazers in five games

No. 2 Los Angeles Clippers over No. 7 Dallas Mavericks in six games

No. 3 Denver Nuggets over No. 6 Utah Jazz in seven games

No. 4 Houston Rockets over No. 5 Oklahoma City Thunder in six games

Could the Lakers and Clippers be on track to face each other in the playoffs for the first time? The city rivals have been the two best teams in the Western Conference, and it's quite possible they'll face off in the conference finals later this postseason.

First, they'll both have to get past the opening round. The Trail Blazers have been playing well of late, which helped them sneak into the postseason by beating the Grizzlies in the Western Conference play-in game. However, the Lakers are likely to beat them in no more than five games.

The Clippers got off to a strong start Monday, beating the Mavericks 118-110, despite Dallas guard Luka Doncic scoring 42 points in his playoff debut. The 21-year-old will inspire the Mavs to win a game or two during this first-round series, even though it's likely the Clippers will come out on top.

"I mean, he's great," Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard said, according to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN).

But the Clippers are greater and will take down the Mavericks in the series.

Denver-Utah and Houston-Oklahoma City are likely to be the most competitive first-round series in the Western Conference, and both should go either six or seven games.

The Nuggets jumped out to a 1-0 lead over the Jazz on Monday, but it took overtime for them to pull out a 135-125 win. But that could give Denver momentum for the rest of the series, as it held on for a victory on a day when Utah guard Donovan Mitchell scored 57 points.

The Rockets and Thunder open their series Tuesday, and a strong start could be important in deciding which team wins the series. Houston guard Russell Westbrook is out with a quadriceps injury for at least the opener, so Oklahoma City may need to capitalize while the All-Star is out of his team's lineup.

However, James Harden has frequently gotten Houston past the first round in the past, and he remains one of the top players in the NBA. Expect him to put up some big numbers, especially while Westbrook is out, and help the Rockets win a competitive series against the Thunder.