2016 NBA Playoff predictions: second-round picks

Computer simulation makes its picks for every second-round matchup.

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WhatIfSports.com’s NBA Playoff predictions are off to a promising start. We correctly picked the Cavaliers, Hawks, Warriors, Thunder, Spurs and Raptors to advance to the second round. Miami overcame a 3-2 series deficit to avoid an upset by the Hornets (and thwart our pick of Charlotte to win the series). Our L.A. over Portland prediction was a misfire as well, with the Clippers unable to overcome injuries to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.

Moving on to Round 2, we simulated each matchup 1,001 times using our NBA simulation engine to determine which team is favored to advance. For the Warriors-Blazers series, we played the two teams with and without Steph Curry in the lineup. Check out the results:

NBA Playoffs: Second-Round Predictions

Matchup Win % Avg. Score
Thunder 49.1 100.9  
Spurs 50.9 101.1 Simulate Game
Hawks 47.5 100.3  
Cavaliers 52.5 101.5 Simulate Game
Heat 45.2 96.7  
Raptors 54.8 97.8 Simulate Game
Trail Blazers 37.7 96.4  
Warriors w/o Curry 62.3 102.4 Simulate Game*
Trail Blazers 22.9 100.0  
Warrors w/ Curry 77.1 111.2 Simulate Game

*To simulate a matchup with Curry sidelined, simply select "Edit Depth Chart" and create your own lineup.

The Spurs and Thunder evenly split four regular-season meetings, with the home team winning each contest. Our NBA simulation engine predicts more of the same in their playoff matchup, with the Spurs winning 50.9 percent of the time by an average score of 101.1-100.9. Prior to the playoffs, the Spurs were given a 27.6 percent chance to win the NBA championship, second only to Golden State. The Thunder had the third-best championship odds, winning 12.4 percent of the time.

An Eastern Conference championship by Cleveland seems like a forgone conclusion, but the Cavaliers will have a difficult time with the Hawks, according to our NBA simulation engine. Cleveland won 52.5 percent of games, outscoring the Hawks by an average of 101.5-100.3. The Cavaliers won all three regular-season matchups between the two teams. At the onset of the playoffs, Cleveland was given a 44.0 percent chance to win the East and a 9.8 percent chance at an NBA championship. Atlanta’s odds for a Finals appearance were 14.2 percent, with a 2.5 percent chance to win the title.

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Toronto and Miami each needed the full seven games to dispatch their first round opponents. Now they’ll square off with a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals on the line. We played the two teams head-to-head 1,001 times and the Raptors were victorious in 54.8 percent of simulations. They outscored the Heat 97.8-96.7. Prior to the start of the playoffs, the Raptors were given a 15.6 percent likelihood to reach the Eastern Conference Finals, compared to just a 5.8 percent chance for Miami.

Whether he dresses for games or not, Curry will be the main storyline of the Warriors-Blazers series. The reigning MVP injured an ankle and a knee against Houston, but could be back as soon as Game 3 against Portland. Our NBA simulation engine thinks he’s not a necessary piece for a Warriors’ victory though. With Curry sidelined, the Warriors beat Portland 62.3 percent of the time. Add a healthy Curry to the lineup and the win percentage jumped to 77.1 percent. While Curry is certainly imperative to Golden State’s title hopes, the team may be able to postpone his return until the Western Conference Finals if they so choose.

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