Nostra-Dan-us’ Way Too Early 2020 NBA Playoff Predictions

Yeah, I broke my crystal ball, but it never really worked in the first place

If you’ve been following my writing, you’d know that last year I incorrectly predicted the Golden State Warriors to three-peat as NBA champions. Not just once, but twice; Therefore, I really have no business trying to do this a second time.

But, I did correctly nail the Eastern Conference semi-final matchups, and I even predicted that the Raptors would beat the 76ers in seven games.

Plus, writing this piece is just too much damn fun.

So, call me now, readers, as I, Nostra-Dan-us, gaze into this murky crystal ball of mine. This now cracked, and spotted crystal ball, that no matter how many times I wash it in my kitchen sink, it just will not get clear! Maybe if I did the dishes first?

Follow me and my predictions, all the way into the NBA playoffs!

Western Conference

  • Leonard and his new team from Los Angeles sweep his old team from San Antonio in the first round. When asked by a brainless reporter if the organization has any regrets for trading Leonard away, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich frigidly responds, “Fuck off.”
  • James and his Lakers draw his old foe Steph Curry and the #7 Golden State Warriors, who prove to still have a lot of fight in them (especially since the dramatic return of Klay Thompson); However, the Lakers size proves too much for the Warriors and their small ball tactics – what was once thought to be revolutionary is for the first time being considered “dated” – and Los Angeles advances in six.
  • Season long conflict between James Harden and Russell Westbrook cause the Rockets to plummet all the way down to a sixth seed, where they draw the three seeded Portland Trailblazers. The matchup allows Damian Lillard to once again out-duel Westbrook in a first round showdown. This massive step backwards prompts the firings of both GM Daryl Morey and head coach Mike D’Antoni.
  • Third year guard Donovan Mitchell shines in this first round matchup – particularly in the seventh game – and the Utah Jazz survive a dogfight with the Denver Nuggets.
#1 Los Angeles Clippers vs. #4/5 Utah Jazz

The Jazz have so far dazzled their fans with fantastic guard play from both their budding All-Star Mitchell, and Mike Conley; However, both guards come falling back to Earth with a thud in Game 1, combining for 8 points and 9 turnovers. The Clippers perimeter defense of Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Patrick Beverley reminds everyone watching that defense wins championships, particularly in an ugly 93-78 Game 4 series victory, which prompts NBA TV to run a marathon of 90’s playoff classics.

#2 Los Angeles Lakers vs. #3 Portland Trailblazers

The Blazers steal Game 1 at Staples Center, coming off a 50 burger by Dame, of which the final three points are scored at the buzzer for the win. In Game 3, the Lakers are greeted with a familiar chant of “BEAT L.A.” The chants trigger both nostalgia and a reminder of what the playoffs are all about for James, who dishes out a whopping 23 assists, tying a franchise record set by Magic Johnson in 1985 (who, coincidentally, set the record in a Game 3 at Portland).

The Lakers take a commanding 3-1 lead when Anthony Davis records his ninth block on Lillard’s potential game winning drive to the basket. Davis, however, comes down on Javale McGee’s foot, injuring it, and never quite looks the same. Back in Los Angeles, James records a much needed triple-double, and – despite a hobbled Davis barely making an impact – the Lakers win the deciding Game 5 in surprising blowout fashion.

#1 Los Angeles Clippers vs. #2 Los Angeles Lakers

Don’t lie. This is why you’ve stopped to read this post in the first place. You probably even skipped everything I wrote earlier just to get here.

Leading up to the series, everyone wonders which fan base will dominate the arena. But, once Staples Center hears the excitement over the “hallway series” reaching a fever pitch, prices for seats are jacked to such absurd amounts, no real fans can attend. What we get instead are yuppy A-list celebrites sitting among a smattering of die-hard season ticket holders.

In Game 1, the Lakers fail to break 88 points, and lose. In the loss, James is locked up by a combination of Leonard and George – picking him up at the half court line – and finishes with 6 turnovers. After leading the league in assists, constant comparisons to Magic Johnson himself are whispered during the regular season. Now that we are this deep into the playoffs, one can’t help but recall the defense that Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen applied on Magic in ’91, and how the Clippers defense closely mirrors it.

With the physicality allowed in this season’s playoffs reaching heights not seen since 1998 (particularly during Clippers games), James continues to struggle making plays for his teammates. In the Lakers regular season success against the Clippers, Davis was a huge contributor, not just as a rebounder and rim-protector, but as a playmaker; However, finally succumbing to pressure from the media (and some tweets from Magic Johnson) Lakers coach Frank Vogel is finally forced to sit the injured Anthony Davis in Game 6. The Lakers are out-rebounded for the first time in the series, Lou Williams nets 35 against his former team, and the Clippers advance to the NBA Finals.

Eastern Conference

  • Philadelphia sweeps their first round matchup with the “defending champion” Toronto Raptors.
  • Milwaukee crushes [insert trash]
  • Indiana takes advantage of a weakened Eastern Conference, and Victor Oladipo picks up where he left off two seasons ago, receiving his second All-Star appearance, and helping his Pacers dispose of [insert garbage] in five games.
  • The Brooklyn Nets finish comfortably in the fourth seed, but a first round matchup against an angry Celtics squad awaits. Kyrie Irving is booed unmercifully in Games 3 and 4, and the Boston faithful are overjoyed to see their Celtics take a commanding 3-1 lead. The Nets fight back valiantly in a Game 5 at Brooklyn, only to return back to Boston and be laughed off the floor in Game 6.
#1 Philadelphia 76ers vs. #5 Boston Celtics

Two seasons ago, the Celtics used home court advantage to crush a young and inexperienced 76ers team in five games. This time, Philly has home court, they have more talent, and they have championship aspirations demanding that they go deep into the playoffs. Boston looks to tie the series up in Game 4, but Al Horford reminds Celtics management what a mistake it was to let him go, scoring 23 points, nabbing 15 rebounds, and even manages to drop 4 dimes. In the final game, Ben Simmons goes a perfect 5-5 on 3-pointers, and Philly slams the door on Boston at home in five.

#2 Milwaukee Bucks vs. #3 Indiana Pacers

Malcolm Brogdon continues an upward progression in his development, averaging 18 points on the season while shooting 50% from the field, 40% from three, and 90% from the line. And much to the chagrin of Bucks management, who had let him leave for Indiana over the summer. In Game 5, Brogdon outguns both Wes Matthews and even Kyle Korver – who were signed by Milwaukee in the offseason to replace him – draining 9 threes in front of his old fans, and gives his new team a 3-2 series lead.

Game 6 is a game for the ages. Giannis Antetokounmpo – who pours in 50 points – out-duels a more than game Victor Oladipo – who nets 40, shifting the series back to Milwaukee. Game 7 goes to overtime, and Antetokounmpo registers 30 points and 20 rebounds to advance his Bucks to the Conference Finals.

#1 Philadelphia 76ers vs. #2 Milwaukee Bucks

The series is simply a case of a team of twelve players going against a team with one. Khris Middleton has gone missing for the second consecutive post-season, and for the first time since inking that lucrative five year, $177.5 million contract. Even though Giannis averages 35 points for the series, the losses of Brogdon (physically) and Middleton (spiritually) prove too much, and Philly downs Milwaukee in six.

In the offseason, with one year left on his contract and only Middleton to show as anything close to a partner-in-crime, the Bucks begin listening to other teams’ offers for Giannis.

2020 NBA Finals

Clippers coach Doc Rivers implements his “LeBron Rules” in the Finals against the Sixers large ball handling “guard”, Ben Simmons. Simmons survives the exhausting half-court press marginally better than James did, particularly in a Game 3 at Philadelphia, when he drops 12 dimes to 1 turnover, and sets up Joel Embiid for 39 points.

In fact, Embiid’s utter destruction of the much shorter Montrezl Harrell, and much meeker Ivicia Zubac, leads the 76ers to a 3-2 lead, and prompts Rivers to resort to a cheap tactic: In Game 6, he desperately decides to intentionally foul Simmons, sending him to the line, where his average still just hovers around 60%. The plan works, as Simmons shoots 2-12 from the line, taking the series back to a Game 7 in Los Angeles. 76ers head coach Brett Brown is simultaneously chastised and commended by talking heads everywhere for his stubborn refusal to bail out his star.

Game 7 in Los Angeles is a strange one. The 76ers are not greeted with hostility, but rather, a crowd half cheering for them to win. Chants of “CLIP-PERS SUCK!” erupt from the stands, and a familiar purple and gold cloud rains boos on Kawhi Leonard and Paul George during free-throws. Through it all, Leonard appears unfazed. He is a killer, after all.

The game is close, but again, Sweet Lou Williams saves the day, dropping 8 unanswered points to seal the victory, and the championship, for the Clippers. Leonard averages 25 points, 10 rebounds and 2 steals to earn his third Finals MVP award, and becomes the first player in NBA history to win Finals MVP with three different franchises (an honor fellow Staples Center tenant LeBron James was hoping to accomplish first). Following Leonard’s speech, Clipper Darrell is seen crying in the halls because he was not permitted to celebrate with the Clippers players in their locker room, and was told to stay away from the parade (Just like old times, eh, Darrell?).

The turnout for the Clippers championship parade is so small, the rendezvous point is changed to L.A. Live’s Nokia Plaza. It’s argued by Clippers brass that this is to allow their deserving fanbase a more intimate celebration, but anyone with a brain views it correctly as an effort to make the crowd appear larger. Doc Rivers jokes to the hundreds in attendance that “We finally have a banner for the Lakers to cover up!”; However, the Lakers organization doesn’t need to cover up anything, because their criminally passionate fans continue to mysteriously vandalize the banner all season.

Following the Clippers victory, Magic Johnson (predictably) tweets, “Congratulations to my friend Jerry West and the Clippers organization on their 1st NBA championship!” A week later, he is hired by the Clippers to serve as President of Basketball Operations.

Follow me on Twitter, for more of my comedy passed off as predictions, as well as some other takes on the NBA season. And you might as well be following @MagicJohnson, too, since his tweets are probably going to be in ESPN and Bleacher Report headlines all season long.

I really do hope I’m wrong, and that anyone but the Clippers or Celtics wins the NBA championship. My hope is that, although my predictions have been way off, maybe my jinxing powers work just fine? I did manage to screw up the absolute layup of picking the Golden State Warriors last season. We all thought competitive basketball was dead, remember?

So, here’s sending some bad juju the Clippers’ way. You know, like what usually stops this snake-bitten franchise.

Author: Commissioner Dan

Unofficial-next-commissioner of the NBA. Covering all things pro basketball (mostly Lakers), even if it's not like it was in the '90's.