2023 NBA First-Round Playoff Series Previews: Odds, Predictions

Payton Matthews | Updated Apr 13, 2023

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks, 2022

The NBA’s postseason tips off this weekend with 16 teams, sans the Toronto Raptors, playing Game 1 of their first-round series either Saturday or Sunday.

 Let’s break down each series with current NBA odds to win.

Eastern Conference

NBA 22/23

Eastern Conference Outright
  • Boston Celtics -169
  • Miami Heat +318
  • Philadelphia 76ers +344

No. 8 Chicago/Miami vs. No. 1 Milwaukee: The Bulls, who shocked the Raptors 109-105 in the play-in game in Toronto on Wednesday night, visit the Heat on Friday for the eighth seed in the East. It probably won’t matter which team wins as the Bucks look unstoppable right now. Milwaukee went a league-best 58-24 in the regular season and enters postseason as the top overall seed in the NBA for the third time in the last five seasons. They didn’t win the NBA title the first two times but did in the 2020-21 campaign when the Bucks finished with the seventh-best regular-season record. They were 2-2 vs. both Miami and Chicago this season. 

No. 7 Atlanta vs. No. 2 Boston: The C’s are -1111 to win the series and Atlanta +550. The favoured result is a Boston sweep at +180. It’s the 13th playoff series between the Celtics and Hawks franchises, the first since Atlanta’s six-game Round 1 win in 2016. The Celtics had the best record in the NBA for a large chunk of the season but faded a bit and the red-hot Bucks overtook Boston. The Hawks upset the Heat in Miami on Tuesday in the play-in game, 116-105. Boston swept the regular-season series 3-0, but essentially one key player on each side missed a minimum of one game in it. Celtics star Jayson Tatum averaged 26.5 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in two games against the Hawks. 

No. 6 Brooklyn vs. No. 3 Philadelphia: The Sixers are -1111 on the series line and Nets +550. The favoured exact result is Philly in five at +187. Joel Embiid comes off an MVP regular season for Philadelphia and looks for his first trip to the Finals. So does former MVP James Harden, who was traded from the Nets to the Sixers in February 2022. The Nets dealt away Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving this season, plus fired Coach Steve Nash early in it, and are a bit in flux in terms of their future. Mikal Bridges has been great since coming over from Phoenix in the Durant trade. The Sixers swept the season series 4-0. 

No. 5 New York vs. No. 4 Cleveland: The Cavs are -213 on the series line and Knicks +157. The favoured exact result is Cleveland in seven at +284. The big question entering is the health of Knicks All-Star forward Julius Randle, who averaged 25.1 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.1 assists this season. He injured his ankle on March 29 vs. Miami and hasn’t played since but has been at practice this week. It seems as if he’s trending toward playing in Game 1. Cleveland led the NBA this year in allowing 106.9 ppg but lost three of four in this series. 

Western Conference

NBA 22/23

Western Conference Outright
  • Denver Nuggets -143
  • LA Lakers +196
  • Golden State Warriors +487

No. 8 Oklahoma City/Minnesota vs. No. 1 Denver: The Thunder were upset winners in New Orleans on Wednesday night in the play-in game, while the Timberwolves were the better team for most of Tuesday night at the Lakers but lost in overtime. They meet on Friday in Minnesota for the right to advance to this matchup, and the Nuggets will be huge favourites regardless. Denver has never reached the NBA Finals and this might be the team’s best chance to date with Nikola Jokic playing at an MVP level again (he won’t win it a third straight year), and Kitchener native Jamal Murray healthy and playing well. He missed last year’s playoffs. 

No. 2 Memphis vs. No. 7 LA Lakers: The Grizzlies are -147 on the series line and the Lakers +110 with the favoured result Memphis in seven at +298. The NBA would never say it, but it had to be thrilled the Lakers rallied to beat the Timberwolves in the play-in game Tuesday because LA remains a massive ratings draw thanks to LeBron James. At age 38, this might be his last realistic chance to win a fifth title. The Grizzlies haven’t had starting centre Steven Adams, one of the NBA’s best rebounders, since Jan. 22 due to a knee injury and he will not make it back for the playoffs. Memphis won two of three regular-season meetings vs. LA. 

No. 3 Sacramento vs. No. 6 Golden State: The Warriors officially begin defence of their NBA title and are -313 on the series line with the Kings +210. The favoured result is Dubs in six at +220. Golden State will welcome former All-Star and Toronto native Andrew Wiggins back to the lineup for Game 1 on Saturday. He hasn’t played since Feb. 13 while dealing with some family issue but has been practicing. Almost impossibly, Golden State has won 18 straight playoff series vs. Western Conference teams. Sacramento ended the NBA’s longest playoff drought as it last played extra basketball in 2006. This is the first time the northern California neighbours have been in the playoffs at the same time. 

No. 4 Phoenix vs. No. 5 LA Clippers: The Suns are -625 series favourites and the Clippers +383 with the favoured result Phoenix in five at +198. This would be easily the best first-round matchup and maybe it still will be, but the reason the Suns are so heavily favoured is because the Clippers will be without All-Star Paul George at least for the start of it. He injured his ankle on March 21. With PG-13, the Clippers are title contenders. Without him, even as good as former Raptor Kawhi Leonard is, they aren’t winning this series and might get swept. We’ll give them a game assuming George perhaps gets back by Game 3 when the series shifts to LA. Former Thunder teammates Kevin Durant (Suns) and Russell Westbrook (Clippers) face off. The teams split four regular-season meetings. 

Eastern Conference Predictions

Bucks in four regardless of opponent; Celtics in five; 76ers in five; Cavaliers in seven

Western Conference Predictions

Nuggets in six regardless of opponent; Grizzlies in seven; Warriors in six; Suns in five