SportsTips’ NBA Power Rankings 2021: Playoffs – First Round

SportsTips’ NBA Power Rankings 2021: Playoffs – First Round
Mon 24th May 2021

The opening weekend of the 2021 Playoffs has been and gone, so we have updated our NBA Power Rankings accordingly. We have sorted through the remaining 16 teams based on the first game from their opening round series and how likely they are to advance.

The Sixers have held on to top spot but Utah have fallen after dropping game one. Meanwhile the Blazers, Mavericks and Grizzlies are all on the rise after causing an upset over the weekend!

Here’s where the remaining 16 NBA teams stand after one game of each series in the First Round of the Playoffs for the 2020-21 NBA season:

1. Philadelphia 76ers

NBA Championship Odds: +800
First Round Series: 1-0 (Wizards)
Postseason Seed: 1st – East
Previous Ranking: 1

Philadelphia holds on to the top spot of the rankings thanks to their 125-118 victory over the Wizards in Game 1 on Sunday afternoon. It was far from convincing, but none of the eight games had lopsided outcomes, and there were still plenty of positives for the East-leading Sixers.

Tobias Harris scored 37 points, a playoff career best, while Joel Embiid had 30 points on 9/16 shooting in under 30 minutes of action. With those two leading the way, against lesser opposition, which they will have for this round and the next, it can mask some of Philly’s issues, such as Ben Simmons’ offensive production. 

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2. Brooklyn Nets

NBA Championship Odds: +210
First Round Series: 1-0 (Celtics)
Postseason Seed: 2nd – East
Previous Ranking: 3

The Brooklyn Nets won their first playoff game of ‘The Big Three’ era by 11 points over the Celtics, but it wasn’t what you would expect. After managing just 16 points in the first quarter, the Nets won the game with their defense, restricting Boston to 40 second half points in their 104-93 win. 

All three of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden scored 20+ points, with Durant’s 32 leading the way, but there are still some questions over who the fifth man in the lineup will be, alongside Joe Harris. Blake Griffin started the game but managed just one point in 20 minutes while Jeff Green was fifth in minutes with 26:32, despite scoring just three points. 

3. Phoenix Suns

NBA Championship Odds: +1600
First Round Series: 1-0 (Lakers)
Postseason Seed: 2nd – West
Previous Ranking: 5

With everybody going against them, the Suns silenced the doubters with their 99-90 win over the Lakers. With most of their rotation playing in the playoffs for the first time, along with being pitted against the seventh-seed Lakers, the Suns were the first two seed to be series underdogs in the last 30 years. 

Devin Booker entered the postseason with the most points amongst active players yet to play in a playoff game, but he didn’t look afraid of the moment in his first. A game high 34 points on 50% shooting, along with eight assists, showed that Booker and his squad aren’t here to make up the numbers. 

4. Portland Trail Blazers

NBA Championship Odds: +3200
First Round Series: 1-0 (Nuggets)
Postseason Seed: 6th – West
Previous Ranking: 9

Despite entering the postseason having won 10 of their last 12 games, and beating their opponents, the Nuggets, in their last game, Portland were underdogs for game 1 on Saturday night. We loved the value they presented and happily selected them to win the game and we were rewarded with a 123-109 victory, the biggest margin of any opening weekend game. 

Damian Lillard had 34 points and a playoff career high 13 assists in the game, as Portland won the second half 65-48 to lock up the victory. They are the hottest team in the league at the moment and have now won two straight games against the Nuggets. 

5. Utah Jazz

NBA Championship Odds: +800
First Round Series: 0-1 (Grizzlies)
Postseason Seed: 1st – West
Previous Ranking: 2

The Jazz have stumbled down our NBA Power Rankings thanks to a lacklustre start to their postseason. With Donovan Mitchell being a late scratching due to his ongoing ankle complaint, the Jazz were forced to scramble. Their 24-17 first quarter instilled confidence that they would be able to compete without their two-time All Star, but losing the middle two periods 66-50 set them back too far. 

After last season’s disappointing first round exit, Utah may be experiencing some dejavu after losing 109-112 on their home floor, but the positive is that Mitchell is expected to return in game two and he will be a much needed boost for the team that lost just its sixth home game all season. 

6. Milwaukee Bucks

NBA Championship Odds: +750
First Round Series: 1-0 (Heat)
Postseason Seed: 3rd – East
Previous Ranking: 7

There are some serious flaws across the board for Milwaukee, but behind their trio of All Stars, they managed to just hold on for the 109-107 overtime victory on Saturday afternoon. Miami is possibly the worst matchup for the Bucks so to be able to hang on for the game one win is massive. 

Giannis shot just 37% from the field and 6/13 from the line, and the team as a whole shot just 5/31 (16.1%) from deep, but they still managed to pull away for the win. Khris Middleton stepped up massively to score a game high 27 points, but they really should have lost and are lucky to be up 1-0. 

7. Dallas Mavericks

NBA Championship Odds: +2700
First Round Series: 1-0 (Clippers)
Postseason Seed: 5th – West
Previous Ranking: 10

Continuing the theme of revenge for defeats in last season’s playoffs, the Mavericks got the better of the Clippers, in LA, on Saturday afternoon. The Mavs won all four quarters of the game on the way to picking up the 113-103 road win and they exposed some of the Clippers’ main flaws, especially in crunch time.

Their leader in Luka Doncic is just seven games into his playoff career but Saturday’s triple double was already his third in the postseason. His 31 points, 10  rebound and 11 assists were game highs across the board but it wasn’t just Doncic, with Brunson, Hardaway Jr, Finney-Smith and Porzingis all hitting shots when it was their turn to step up.

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8. New York Knicks

NBA Championship Odds: +1300
First Round Series: 0-1 (Hawks)
Postseason Seed: 4th – East
Previous Ranking: 6

After such an exciting season and built up hype surrounding the team, the Knicks fell to the Hawks by two points in front of a sell out Madison Square Garden crowd. After averaging 24.1 points on 45.6% shooting during the regular season, Julius Randle managed just 15 points on 6/23 (26.1%) from the field in his first postseason game for New York. 

Offense was clearly the issue for the Knicks on Sunday night, managing just 11 points in the first 10 minutes of the game, finding themselves facing an 11 point deficit in the early stages. Alec Burks’ 27 points off the bench kept them afloat but there was too much damage already done. 

9. Los Angeles Clippers

NBA Championship Odds: +750
First Round Series: 0-1 (Mavericks)
Postseason Seed: 4th – West
Previous Ranking: 4

The crunch time struggles continued for the Clippers, giving up a 3-18 run on the way to a 103-113 home loss. After defeating the Mavs in six games last postseason, many expected that the experienced LA side would be able to easily overcome the same opponents but Saturday showed that this series will be a lot harder than that.

Kawhi Leonard and Paul George gave their all for the Clippers, scoring 26 and 23 points respectively whilst both dishing out five assists, but neither shot over 45% and they combined for just three made triples. It will be interesting to see if they persist with Marcus Morris Sr and Ivica Zubac in the starting lineup after the pair combined for only 12 points and five rebounds. 

10. Atlanta Hawks

NBA Championship Odds: +6500
First Round Series: 1-0 (Knicks)
Postseason Seed: 5th – East
Previous Ranking: 11

Trae Young, in his first postseason game, and the Atlanta Hawks weren’t scared of their moment on the biggest stage of them all. With the Knicks hosting their 4 v 5 series, many of the young Hawks players had their first taste of the playoffs at Madison Square Garden. 

While their lead dwindled late and it was a tough fought battle in the second half, the Hawks jumped to an early 22-11 lead and that set the tone for the night. Young finished with 32 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds, the best playoff debut since Derrick Rose back in 2009. 

11. Miami Heat

NBA Championship Odds: +3300
First Round Series: 0-1 (Bucks)
Postseason Seed: 6th – East
Previous Ranking: 12

The Heat were seriously unlucky to not steal game one in Milwaukee on Saturday afternoon, losing 107-109 in overtime. Duncan Robinson and Goran Dragic combined for 49 points and 12 threes, with the Heat making 15 more from deep for the entire game, but the offensive struggles of their two leaders was too much to overcome.

Bam Adebayo managed just nine points on 4/15 shooting while Jimmy Butler, despite making the game tying shot to send the game to overtime, had 17 points and made just four of 22 field goal attempts. We are very unlikely to see shooting like that from either of these guys moving forward which can only bode well for the Heat. 

12. Memphis Grizzlies

NBA Championship Odds: +13000
First Round Series: 1-0 (Jazz)
Postseason Seed: 8th – West
Previous Ranking: 16

The dream run continues on for Memphis, carrying momentum from their Play-In wins over the Spurs and Warriors into Sunday night’s 112-109 win over the Jazz. Memphis, the eighth seed in the West, was the only seven or eight seed across both conferences to pull off an upset win in the first game of each series, highlighting how good the entire team is playing right now. 

Dillon Brooks, especially in the third quarter, seemed to be hitting every shot he attempted, scoring a game-high 31 points. Ja Morant continued his incredible form, scoring 10 of his 26 points in the decisive fourth quarter, including two clutch layups in the final two minutes to hold the Jazz off. 

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13. Denver Nuggets

NBA Championship Odds: +5500
First Round Series: 0-1 (Trail Blazers)
Postseason Seed: 3rd – West
Previous Ranking: 8

The absence of Jamal Murray is glaringly obvious and beginning to catch up with the Denver Nuggets. Nikola Jokic scored 34 points while Michael Porter Jr was a good second fiddle with 25 points, but the starting backcourt of Austin Rivers and Facundo Campazzo managed just 14 points between them. 

Denver as a whole could only muster 109 points against the second worst defense from during the regular season. After losing to the Blazers on the last day of the regular season, the Nuggets have now dropped two straight games to their opponents and will need to turn things around as soon as possible. 

14. Los Angeles Lakers

NBA Championship Odds: +550
First Round Series: 0-1 (Suns)
Postseason Seed: 7th – West
Previous Ranking: 14

The Lakers entered the playoffs on the back of an impressive second half comeback against the Warriors in the Play-In game and were favored to beat the two-seed Suns in this opening round series. It is the first time that a seven-seed has been the series favorite in the last 30 years, but beating the Warriors doesn’t look as good now, given they were eliminated two nights later. 

The Lakers have plenty of issues, but Anthony Davis, their second best player and a perennial All Star, can’t score only 13 points while shooting 31.2% from the field. Not only that but Kyle Kuzma was held scoreless in his 19 minutes and they shot just 7/26 from deep for the game. That isn’t the way that the defending Champs should be playing, especially with LeBron James leading the way.

15. Washington Wizards

NBA Championship Odds: +25000
First Round Series: 0-1 (76ers)
Postseason Seed: 8th – East
Previous Ranking: 15

The Wizards gave Philly a scare, and even covered the spread as eight point underdogs, but weren’t able to finish the job to cause the upset. Bradley Beal scored a team high 33 points on 56.5% shooting while Russell Westbrook had 16 points and 14 assists, but it was the same old story of Washington’s defense letting them down. 

They allowed the Sixers to score 125 points, the most points scored across the entire weekend, and won’t win many games against the one-seeded Sixers if they continue that sort of effort. It was always going to be tough for the Wizards as they lost all three games to Philly in the regular season and their dynamic back-court duo needs to be at the top of their game if an upset were to occur. 

16. Boston Celtics

NBA Championship Odds: +13000
First Round Series: 0-1 (Nets)
Postseason Seed: 7th – East
Previous Ranking: 17

Potentially the most disappointing performance of the Playoffs’ opening weekend was the Boston Celtics. After dominating the Wizards to secure the seven-seed, Boston managed just 93 points against a Brooklyn defense that gave up nearly 114 per game during the regular season. 

Across the weekend, the Celtics scored the second lowest score and suffered the second largest defeat. Four nights after dropping 50 on Washington, Jayson Tatum could only manage 22 points on 6/20 (30%) shooting. That sort of effort won’t win the Celtics many games, let alone against Brooklyn and their Big Three. 

*Odds correct at time of publication, courtesy of FanDuel.

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Tim is a keen follower of all American sports, in particular the NBA and NFL. He has followed both sports for over a decade and would happily sit down and watch every game, regardless of who is playing! No matter the sport, whether it be NFL and NBA or even MLB, NHL, UFC and all sports, Tim covers it from every angle, staying in the loop to bring you the most up-to-date information and the best picks and predictions on the market.