2024 NBA Playoffs: Driscoll’s First Round Predictions

Knicks, NBA playoffs

We’re here! After one of the craziest regular seasons we have seen in a long time, the NBA playoffs have finally arrived. Similar to last year, many of these first-round matchups are somewhat unpredictable. There will be great basketball played for the next month and a half.

Without further ado, here are Driscoll’s first-round predictions and expectations.

Eastern Conference

#8 Heat vs. #1 Celtics

Are the playoffs even legitimate if the Celtics and the Heat don’t match up? While you can never count out Erik Spoelstra in a playoff series, he has a lot to overcome. The Heat will be without their star, Jimmy Butler, for at least the first couple of games. Even though the Heat’s ceiling and floor are lower without him, it almost makes them scarier. Miami is not an extremely deep team, but they have players who can deliver buckets and pull off the unexpected. There are several players on the Heat capable of taking over a game.


Boston has been the far more consistent team on both ends of the floor. Their main issues last year were beating the zone and defending the three. Kristaps Porzingis has been awesome against zone defenses, and this team is far more disciplined on the defensive end. If they lose to the Heat, it will not be because of talent, but psychological reasons. While you can never count Spoelstra out, this series should not last too long. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown need to conclude this series in five or six games.

Prediction: Celtics in 5


#5 Magic vs. #4 Cavaliers

This will likely be the series with the lowest viewership throughout the playoffs. Neither team has a big market, neither has a shiny superstar, and both are below average offensively. However, they are elite defensively (Orlando ranks third while Cleveland is seventh). While I love a good defensive game, most fans prefer high-octane offense. If the Magic want to win this series, they will probably need Banchero to play even better because their offense is not that strong.

While I believe that Banchero can elevate his game in the playoffs, I’m not sure we will see it this year. For the Cavaliers, their season has been somewhat of a roller-coaster. For about six weeks before the All-Star break, they looked like the best team in the league. Outside of that stretch, however, they have been inconsistent.

Miami’s offense has not been great, but it has been far better than Orlando’s. Their main advantage is Donovan Mitchell, the one elite shot creator in this series. While this will likely be a super close series, give me the team with the best, most well-rounded player.

Prediction: Cavaliers in 7


#6 Pacers vs. #3 Bucks

This will be one of the more unpredictable series. The Pacers were one of the better teams at the beginning of the year and Tyrese Haliburton looked like one of the best offensive players in the league. However, ever since Haliburton’s injury, they have not been great. They will need to have both Haliburton and their new second-scoring option, Pascal Siakam, run the floor and expose Milwaukee’s defense.

The Bucks, meanwhile, will be without Giannis Antetokounmpo for at least the first two games. They have been disappointing even with him on the floor, so this is another obstacle. In addition, Damian Lillard has been relatively disappointing. The Bucks will need both Lillard and Khris Middleton to play great. Between Antetokounmpo’s injury and the Bucks’ inconsistencies the entire year, it feels like a recipe for disaster.

Prediction: Pacers in 6

#7 Sixers vs. #2 Knicks

As of this writing, the Knicks have gone up 1-0 in the series. They have to be pretty happy with how Game 1 went. Jalen Brunson did not play great, but New York found a way to squeak it out. With this being said, the Knicks had several things work out for them, too. Deuce McBride and Josh Hart shot great (especially Hart down the stretch) while Mitchell Robinson played fantastic defense on Joel Embiid.

Though Embiid dropped nearly 30 points, he was not too efficient. It is tough to determine how he will recover from this. It is also hard to tell whether Tyrese Maxey can duplicate his 30-point performance. As great as Embiid has been post-injury, the Knicks are a tough matchup for Philadelphia. I expect Robinson and Isaiah Hardenstein to continue to minimize Embiid and Brunson to be much better.

Prediction: Knicks in 6

Western Conference

#8 Pelicans vs. #1 Thunder

The time has finally come for a young Thunder team to duplicate what they did in the regular season. Can Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continue to be elite, will Jalen Williams continue to be one of the better two-way guards in the league, will Chet Holmgren be great on defense, and will the bench continue to deliver?

While I think the Pelicans match up with the Thunder relatively well, they are not the same team without their star player, Zion Williamson. Towards the end of the season, it looked like the Thunder would wind up as the No. 3 seed and New Orleans as the No. 6 seed. Had these been the results, I might have picked New Orleans. However, between their inconsistencies and Williamson’s absence, I do not see a clear path for the Pelicans.

Prediction: Thunder in 6

#5 Mavs vs. #4 Clippers

Yet again, another injury. For the fourth straight season, we are looking at a situation where the Clippers will be without Kawhi Leonard at the end of the year. However, I think Los Angeles is being extra cautious with its treatment and handling of Leonard’s injury. The Mavericks, on the other hand, have been one of the better teams in the league for the past few weeks. Luka Doncic has been awesome, Kyrie Irving is healthy and has no off-the-court issues, and their defensive frontcourt has been much better since making additions at the trade deadline.

With this being said, if Leonard proves to be healthy, I expect him to be elite on both ends. While Doncic can be fantastic offensively, the Clippers have multiple players to target their defensive backcourt, and I think this will hurt them in the end.

Prediction: Clippers in 7

#6 Suns vs. #3 Timberwolves

After being swept by the Suns in the regular season, the Wolves are up 1-0 in the playoffs. While this is a good reason to believe the Suns will win the series, it is still a small sample size. The Suns have three great isolation scorers, an elite shooter off the bench, and an aging rim defender who has been solid this year. Other than that, they have no playmaking or defense, two things needed to succeed in the playoffs.

The Wolves, on the other hand, have the best defense in the league. Their offense has not been great, but they have a player who can elevate his game and an experienced roster. While you can never count out Kevin Durant or Devin Booker, basketball is a five-man sport, not two-man.

Prediction: Timberwolves in 6

#7 Lakers vs. #2 Nuggets

It’s a rematch of last year’s Western Conference Finals and the Nuggets are up 1-0 so far. I simply do not see a path for the Lakers to win the series. Though not to the extent of the Suns, the Lakers are limited outside of their two stars. They have no perimeter defense and a relatively inconsistent bench.

Some critics do not believe Jamal Murray can duplicate what he did last year. However, I expect him to expose Los Angeles’ woeful perimeter defense.

Even though Anthony Davis is debatably the best defender in the league, I do not think he can slow down Jokic. And, although there is a world where LeBron James goes all out and plays like he did in 2018, I am not sure if I see it. Give me the team with the best player and a significantly better roster.

Prediction: Nuggets in 5

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Tyronn Lue, NBA
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