Playoffs

NBA playoffs: Predictions for each second-round series and Game 7 of Cavaliers-Magic

NBA playoffs: Predictions for each second-round series and Game 7 of Cavaliers-Magic

Round 2! The conference semifinals of the NBA playoffs are here with three series now set. Who wins Nuggets-Wolves? Knicks-Pacers? Thunder-Mavs?

And who wins Game 7 of the first-round series between the Cavs and Magic on Sunday for a chance to play the Celtics next? Our writers make their picks.

Dan Devine: Nuggets in 7. I have faith Minnesota’s defense and Anthony Edwards are good enough to beat the best competition in the league. But I know, beyond a doubt, that Nikola Jokić, Jamal Murray, Aaron Gordon and Co. are good enough to do it. And in what feels like a coin-flip series, that certainty is enough to tip me toward the defending champs.

Vincent Goodwill: Nuggets in 6. This has the makings of a 2-2 series, both teams winning on the other’s home floor before the champs use experience and sweat equity to eek out another tough one. Minny is well-equipped to beat them, and this will serve as the official Anthony Edwards coming out party, featuring Jaden McDaniels. Can’t wait, but this will bring the best out of Nikola Jokić, and a rested Jamal Murray.

Ben Rohrbach: Nuggets in 7. This is a high-pressure series, perhaps the biggest of any non-Finals set, and Denver was an automatic bucket in the opening round. As incredible as Anthony Edwards has been, he has never been in a situation like this. Bet against Nikola Jokić at your own peril.

Jake Fischer: Nuggets in 7. Minnesota will likely pose the greatest, biggest and most daunting playoff challenge that Denver has seen dating back to last year’s run to the championship. The Timberwolves have the size to combat the Nuggets’ own length. Minnesota is a defensive juggernaut. Anthony Edwards is ascending, but the tie goes to the reigning champs.

Check out our Nuggets-Wolves series preview.

Can Jalen Brunson carry the Knicks to the Eastern Conference finals? (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)

Fischer: New York in 5. Maybe the Knicks will prove too battered and bruised after a six-game slugfest with Joel Embiid and Philadelphia. But three days off before New York welcomes Indiana to Madison Square Garden should be plenty for Tom Thibodeau’s 40-minute marathoners to regroup and take care of Tyrese Haliburton and Co.

Devine: Knicks in 7. The Pacers, the NBA’s No. 2 offense with All-Star facilitator Tyrese Haliburton at the controls, are built to play beautifully. These Knicks, though, are built to destroy something beautiful.

Rohrbach: Knicks in 6. Madison Square Garden is going to be an absolute animal — one this edition of Indiana has never seen before — and the Knicks are tough enough to travel. Reggie Miller is not walking through that door. Jalen Brunson and the 'Nova Knicks are, and they are a wildcat.

Goodwill: Knicks in 6. I’m not sure how well the Flying Brunsons are playing, or if they’re just playing hard and doing that excellently. The Brunson-Haliburton matchup will be fun, and there will be some recall to the rivalry of the '90s, but I don’t see the Pacers having enough to give the Knicks more than a little scare at MSG.

Rohrbach: Thunder in 6. As talented as Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving are, and they are remarkable, Oklahoma City is just as impressive — and deeper — as a team. People will learn a lot about Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jalen Williams and Chet Holmgren, who all play beyond their years.

Goodwill: Mavericks in 7. Calling for the upset! Not because Dallas is better — Oklahoma City is, and more dynamic. Will the Thunder be desperate enough to match what Luka and Kyrie bring? They do have Lu Dort and Williams to defend those two, and Shai’s length on the wings, and Chet at the rim. Wait, why am I calling for the upset? Only because Dallas will recognize the desperate moments of truth and Dončić will be the best player on the floor late. But I’m not confident about this pick.

Fischer: Thunder in 7. They were as ready as advertised in the first round, sweeping New Orleans without Zion Williamson standing in their way. OKC has a much more daunting task with rivaling an All-Star playmaking combination of Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving that Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum hoped to be. The Thunder, though, simply know what pros want, despite their youth and inexperience.

Devine: Thunder in 7. In what promises to be an absolute war, I think I trust Oklahoma City’s cadre of perimeter defenders to at least make Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving work for everything more than I trust their Dallas counterparts to tamp down on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jalen Williams. That, plus OKC having home-court advantage, nudges me over to the side of youth being served.

Goodwill: Cavaliers. Who remembers what I originally picked? I don’t think it matters because this series has had a lot of unexpected twists and turns, even if we’ve arrived at a predictable Game 7. How healthy is Donovan Mitchell? Because if he delivers another onslaught, this time at home, Orlando can’t handle that. I think Orlando is better, but it doesn’t mean they’ll win the series. Not yet. Home team in 7.

Devine: Magic. I picked Orlando before the series, and I’m sticking with it. Even in its wins, Cleveland has looked shaky; and a Game 6 that saw Cavs not named Donovan Mitchell shoot just 6-for-19 after halftime, and go scoreless in the fourth quarter, didn’t exactly inspire confidence. Orlando finishes the job and sends Cleveland into a very, very interesting offseason.

Rohrbach: Cavaliers. It should come as no surprise that the home team has won every game in this series, given the playoff inexperience on both sides (beyond Donovan Mitchell). Role players perform better at home, the old cliché goes, and the Magic are relying on too many of them.

Fischer: Magic. Orlando had the worst regular-season road record (18-23) of any playoff team, but the Magic clearly have what it takes to win in Cleveland. They were Evan Mobley’s fingertips away from taking care of business in Game 5. Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner are ready for this moment. And Orlando was built with a motto that its defense will travel. It’s time to buck the trend.

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