WhatIfSports.com simulated every second round NBA Playoff matchup 1,001 times to determine the favorites to advance to the Conference Finals. See the computer’s pick for Boston vs. Washington, Cleveland vs. Toronto, Golden State vs. Utah and San Antonio vs. Houston.
Boston Celtics vs. Washington Wizards
Boston and Washington split four games during the regular season, with the home team coming out on top in every contest. Their second round playoff series is already one game in the books, a 123-111 Celtics victory. Despite the early deficit, we’re going with the Wizards in seven games. Washington won 57.8 percent of our simulated contests and averaged 109.7 points, compared to Boston’s 106.4. The Celtics have looked vulnerable this postseason, trailing Chicago 0-2 before the Bulls’ Rajon Rondo was injured.
The Pick: Wizards over Celtics
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Toronto Raptors
In WhatIfSports.com’s simulation of the entire postseason, the Raptors got the better of Cleveland, advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals in 44.8 percent of simulations while the Cavaliers moved on 40.5 percent of the time. However, in a head-to-head simulation, Cleveland has a slight edge. The Cavs won 54.4 percent of simulations over the Raptors, with an average score of 109.2-108.0.
While there is nothing particularly bold about picking Cleveland to advance, the narrow margin is surprising. The Cavs were 3-1 this year against Toronto, with the lone loss coming in the final game of the regular season, when all of Cleveland's stars were resting.
The Pick: Cavaliers over Raptors
Golden State Warriors vs. Utah Jazz
The Warriors cruised through a first round series against Portland, winning in four games despite limited appearances from Kevin Durant. Steph Curry picked up the slack by averaging 29.8 points with 4.8 made threes per game. A healthy Durant, plus probable returns from Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes, will make the Warriors a tough out in Round 2.
Utah, which overcame the Clippers in seven games, is faced with the tall task of knocking off Golden State. Is an upset possible? Our NBA simulation engine doesn’t see it as too likely. The Warriors won 77.4 percent of head-to-head simulations, scoring an average of 10.2 more points per game than the Jazz. The most common outcome was a Warriors win in five games.
The Pick: Warriors over Jazz
San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets
Kawhi Leonard kicked his play into overdrive against the Memphis Grizzlies, averaging 31.2 points on 54.8 percent shooting from the field and 48.3 percent from deep as San Antonio won in six games. Houston, meanwhile, only needed five games to finish off Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder. James Harden (33.2 points per game) paced five double-digit scorers for the Rockets.
The Spurs were 3-1 against Houston during the regular season, but those games were decided by a total of 12 points. Take away a six-point Spurs “blowout” in November and every meeting was a two-point decision.
The WhatIfSports NBA simulation engine likes the Spurs to take the series. San Antonio won 60.9 percent of simulations and outscored Houston by an average of 110.2-106.0. The most common series outcome was a Spurs victory in seven games.