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The 2021 NBA Playoffs tipped off Saturday with four games including two rematches from last year’s playoffs. The Miami Heat face off against Milwaukee Bucks, and the Dallas Mavericks are going head to head with the Los Angeles Clippers. These matchups are only two of eight intriguing round one series. As the playoffs approach, here are two bold takes for the Eastern and Western conferences.

Eastern Conference

  1. The Miami Heat will defeat the Milwaukee Bucks, again.

Last year we saw Miami handle the Bucks, beating them in five games. The Heat were able to build a wall on Giannis and play exceptional two-way basketball. However, the Bucks are different this year. With Jrue Holiday and Bobby Portis, the Bucks will look to take revenge, but will it be enough? I don’t believe it will, and I see Miami for the second straight year sending Milwaukee home early.

  1. The Philadelphia 76ers will make the NBA Finals.

The Philadelphia Sixers have been arguably the Eastern Conference’s best team, grabbing the number one seed in the East at 49-23 for the first time since 2001. This record is also good enough for the third best in the entire league. Led by MVP candidate Joel Embiid and Defensive Player of the Year candidate Ben Simmons, the Sixers look to take advantage of their relatively easy path to the Eastern Conference Finals by beating the Wizards and then the winner of the Knicks/Hawks series.

The Eastern Conference Finals will be the real test for these Sixers, but it is a real possibility they beat the Nets, Bucks, or Heat and advance to the NBA Finals.

Western Conference

  1. The Mavericks will bounce the Clippers in round one.

Last year we saw the Mavericks and Clippers face off in the first round, and it went to six games with Luka Doncic battling an ankle injury and Kristaps Porzingis battling his own knee injury. This year the Mavericks are healthy and ready to enact revenge against the Los Angeles Clippers, who the last time we saw in the playoffs, blew a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets.

This series might very well go to seven games, but in the end, I see the Dallas Mavericks stunning the Clippers, and maybe leaving Kawhi Leonard with an interesting decision as he comes upon his player option.

  1. The Warriors make it out of the first round, sending the Jazz home early

Stephen Curry has been on a tear recently, furthering his MVP campaign and looking to continue it in a likely first round matchup between his Golden State Warriors and the Utah Jazz. The Jazz have been the most consistent team in the league when fully healthy, however, Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley have been battling injuries of their own, but are both set to return for game one.

If Utah’s all star backcourt is not fully healthy come playoff time, the Jazz might be in danger against the Curry and Draymond Green led Warriors. While this may not happen, we have learned not to be surprised by anything Stephen Curry does.

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher / USA Today Sports