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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, March 3, 2024

The Coin Toss: It's the final (NBA) countdown!

Welcome to The Coin Toss, where I make some bold, unlikely predictions about some of your favorite professional sports.

Last week, I did some MLB season award predictions. We'll have to wait until the end of the MLB season to see which picks (if any) were correct. Hopefully, I'll still be predicting for you come fall semester!

The NBA playoffs will start this weekend, and all of the match-ups in the Western Conference are set. Shall we make some first-round winner predictions? How about the amount of games each series will last? "Por qué no los dos?" (Why not both?) Let's get to it ...

No. 3 Houston Rockets vs. No. 6 Oklahoma City Thunder

Verdict: Rockets in 5

Russell Westbrook's Thunder certainly has the momentum. "Brodie" is cementing his MVP case and breaking triple-double-related records all over the place. He has his team pumped up going into the postseason. Westbrook's MVP-race rival, James Harden, is on the other side of the court in this first-round matchup. Can the Thunder get the upset over third-seeded Houston? I'm not too sure about that. The numbers are certainly in favor of the Rockets. As a team, Houston scored more points per game this year. They were second in the league (115.5 PPG) to Oklahoma City's 11th-place finish (106.7 PPG). Furthermore, the Rockets have home court advantage. When Houston was at home this season, they scored more points, made more assists, grabbed more rebounds and committed fewer turnovers than they did on the road. Sometimes it's best to go with your gut, but the hard numbers have grabbed my gut and told it "the Rockets are going to win this series!"

No. 4/5 Los Angeles (Clippers) vs. No. 5/4 Utah Jazz

Verdict: Jazz in 6

Here's an intriguing match-up out West: a bonafide contender in the Clippers against a dark horse in the Jazz. The winner will likely face Golden State, but who will win the 4/5 matchup?Home field isn't determined yet, but the series is bound to happen either way. I look at the Clippers and I see a team with a glaring hole on both ends of the floor at small forward. The Jazz has Gordon Hayward, who is perhaps the most underrated star in the league. I see him as the sixth best small forward in the league, behind LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George. Hayward could be a match-up nightmare for the Clippers. The Jazz also has the matchups to stop Blake Griffin (Derrick Favors) and Deandre Jordan (Rudy Gobert) on the defensive side of the ball. The Clippers are the sixth best scoring team in the league with 108.4 PPG. However, the Jazz are the best defensive team in the league by the same statistic, holding their opponents to just 96.7 PPG. Again, we don't know who will be the higher seed in this match-up. However, I think Utah winning this series is an upset even if they move above L.A. in the standings. The Clippers will certainly be hungry, as their consistent success has not gotten them very far in the postseason. I think that streak will continue. The pick is in: Jazz in 6.