The NBA playoffs have finally begun and the way the first few games went, there just may be a couple of upsets as the first round continues.
There are a lot of factors that go into winning an NBA playoff series, from the overall health of the teams to the matchups of the players to the stars taking over at the most pivotal moments. Adjustments during the course of the game also play a crucial role, along with favorable bounces.
In particular, there are three factors that tend to have the most predictive power: the regular season performance of the two teams as measured by point differential, their head-to-head record in the regular season, even though the great teams take their game to a higher level when the playoffs start; and home court advantage.
Using these criteria can help predict the outcome of the best of seven series.
Up first is the Cleveland Cavaliers versus the Indiana Pacers. This series has the largest chance of producing an upset with my winning percentage being close to 50 percent.
Victor Oladipo and the Pacers came out on fire from the start of game one and they never looked back. Indiana’s offense will definitely give the Cavaliers all they can handle and if they do not get what they need from each and every player that plays, they will find themselves bounced out of the playoffs in the first round.
They already lost the series opener, which has never happened to a LeBron James team in his career. I just do not know what to think about the Cavaliers.
The Pacers actually had the better point differential during the regular season and won the head to head series 3-1 although those four games were played before the trade deadline. Lower seeds have won 30 percent of the first round series when they won the season series 3-1, as compared to 22 percent for lower seeds overall.
At the same time, two of the Pacers head-to-head wins came by a combined six points and the other was a 17-point blowout so the series was still close to even. But this model cannot account for James, which is why the factor is the biggest reason the Cavaliers remains the favorites to win the Eastern Conference at the Westgate Superbook in Las Vegas.
Another interesting series is the Boston Celtics versus the Milwaukee Bucks. Though I feel the Celtics will ultimately win the series, it will not be an easy win, as we all saw in game one that went to overtime.
The Celtics are still benefiting from their strong start with Kyrie Irving in the lineup but if we consider only games Irving missed, their point differential drops.
The Bucks will also have their best player in the series, forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, and history says teams with this advantage win somewhat more often than their team statistics would suggest. Injuries make things tough for Boston but head coach Brad Stevens crafts a game plan that limits Antetokounmpo’s impact on the series, which will force the Bucks’ supporting cast to beat them.
The Celtics are well coached and play a team game, which bodes well for them. But with Irving injured, Antetokounmpo needs to seize the opportunity to knock Boston out.
The Philadelphia 76ers versus the Miami Heat is another intriguing series that everyone should enjoy watching. I would give this series a 30 percent chance of producing an upset.
Like most of the Heat games this season, all four matchups with the Sixers were close, with both teams winning a pair by nine points or fewer.
Philadelphia enters the series on a 16-game winning streak and increased that to 17 when they blew out the Heat in game one, and that was without their star player Joel Embid. The Heat isn’t an ideal matchup for a young team like the Sixers.
This matchup combines the intrigue of Hassan Whiteside versus Embid with the joy of watching Ben Simmons glide past every defender but how Miami schemes to stop Simmons is the biggest question of the first round. Will he be able to thrive without a jump shot in a seven-game series?
Shaquita Newton is a sports blogger. She can be reached at email@example.com.