AI predicts remainder of 2024 NBA playoffs, picks surprising champion

The 2024 NBA playoffs are underway, and the Boston Celtics (+130) and Denver Nuggets (+240) are currently the betting favorites to win the title on FanDuel Sportsbook.

Fans and analysts love to debate who will win the NBA championship, but can artificial intelligence project the remainder of the postseason better?

Meta AI struggled to provide unique reasoning for the series winners after Round 1, but gave insightful summaries of each first-round matchup. Once provided the current series scores and major injuries (such as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Damian Lillard, Jimmy Butler, etc.), here’s what the AI came up with:

Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat: Celtics win 4-2

Without veteran star Jimmy Butler, Miami’s hopes are frail. The Game 2 victory came behind an impressive effort from guard Tyler Herro, who recorded 24 points and 14 assists.

AI reasoning: “The Celtics’ ability to adapt and adjust their defense to counter the Heat’s versatile offense will prove decisive, while their own offense will find ways to exploit Miami’s weaknesses. In the end, Boston’s championship experience and depth will secure a hard-fought series victory.”

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Orlando Magic: Cavaliers win 4-2

The AI was not made aware of which teams were picking up steam, with the Magic at the forefront of that group. Orlando has won two consecutive games by a combined margin of 61 points. Forward Franz Wagner thrived in the latest matchup, finishing with 34 points and 13 rebounds on 76% shooting.

AI reasoning: “The Cavaliers’ potent backcourt duo will consistently outproduce the Magic’s young guards, and Cleveland’s improved defense will limit Orlando’s scoring opportunities. As the series wears on, the Cavaliers’ superior talent and cohesion will prove too much for the Magic to overcome.”

Milwaukee Bucks vs. Indiana Pacers: Pacers win 4-1

In the absence of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard, it’s hard to imagine the Bucks having a chance at advancing. Antetokounmpo has yet to appear in the series, and Lillard recently suffered a strained Achilles, with his status in serious doubt for Game 4, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania.

AI reasoning: “Without their two best players, the Bucks will struggle to match the Pacers’ energy and intensity, and Indiana’s strong bench will capitalize on Milwaukee’s depleted roster. The Pacers’ stingy defense will stifle the Bucks’ offense, leading to a surprisingly decisive series victory.”

New York Knicks vs. Philadelphia 76ers: Knicks win 4-1

There’s no doubt that the Sixers are much better than the No. 7 seed, but a combination of unfortunate events could be their demise. Reigning MVP Joel Embiid is being hit with a wave of injuries, along with the officiating not being favorable. 

AI reasoning: “The Knicks’ dominant rebounding and interior defense will neutralize the 76ers’ strengths, while their own offense will find ways to exploit Philadelphia’s porous defense. As the series progresses, the Knicks’ superior athleticism and depth will wear down the 76ers, securing a series win.”

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. New Orleans Pelicans: Thunder win 4-0

One of the youngest and most entertaining rosters should not struggle to escape the first round, especially with the Pelicans missing their top player, Zion Williamson. The Thunder have a chance to close out the series on May 1.

AI reasoning: “The Thunder’s blistering pace will overwhelm the Pelicans from the outset, and Oklahoma City’s deep bench will ensure they maintain their intensity throughout the series. The Pelicans’ lack of playoff experience will show as they struggle to keep up with the Thunder’s frenetic pace.”

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Dallas Mavericks: Mavericks win 4-2

Los Angeles has few answers for Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, but there’s no doubt the Clippers will put up a fight. Their stars’ extensive playoff experience, at the very least, can push the series to six games.

AI reasoning: “The Mavericks’ star-studded backcourt will outduel the Clippers’ own dynamic duo, and Dallas’s supporting cast will make enough plays to secure a series victory. The Clippers’ inconsistent defense will prove their undoing, as the Mavericks will find ways to exploit their weaknesses.”

Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Phoenix Suns: Timberwolves win 4-0

The Timberwolves have controlled this series thus far, and the AI predicts a sweep. 

AI reasoning: “The Timberwolves’ dominant interior duo will control the paint and shut down the Suns’ offense, while their guards will make enough plays to secure a series sweep. The Suns’ lack of depth and playoff experience will show as they struggle to keep up with the Timberwolves’ physicality and intensity.”

Denver Nuggets vs. Los Angeles Lakers: Denver wins 4-1

A rematch of last year’s Western Conference Finals is headed down a similar route, with the Nuggets looking to cruise to the next round. Guard D’Angelo Russell has been struggling from the field, hurting the Lakers’ chances at victory.

AI reasoning: “The Nuggets’ well-oiled machine will continue to roll, with Nikola Jokic leading the way and their supporting cast making enough plays to overwhelm the Lakers. Denver’s stingy defense will limit the Lakers’ scoring opportunities, securing a decisive series victory.”

Conference Semifinals Matchups

Celtics vs. Cavaliers: Celtics win 4-2

Knicks vs. Pacers: Knicks win 4-3

Thunder vs. Mavericks: Thunder win 4-1

Nuggets vs. Timberwolves: Nuggets win 4-2

Conference Finals Matchups

Celtics vs. Knicks: Celtics win 4-3

Thunder vs. Nuggets: Thunder win 4-3

NBA Finals Matchup

Celtics vs. Thunder: Thunder win 4-3

The battle of the No. 1 seeds is an understandable prediction for the NBA Finals, but OKC’s lack of experience on the biggest stage has fans doubting them. It’s hard to imagine the Thunder finding an answer for two-time MVP Nikola Jokic, but rising star Chet Holmgren could at least slow him down. 

AI reasoning: “The Thunder’s explosive offense, led by their dynamic duo of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey, would prove too much for the Celtics to handle in the NBA Finals. Oklahoma City’s pace and athleticism would allow them to push the tempo and exploit Boston’s slower footspeed, leading to numerous transition opportunities and easy baskets. Additionally, the Thunder’s suffocating defense, which has been among the league’s best all season, would stifle the Celtics’ offense, limiting their scoring opportunities and forcing them into difficult shots. As the series wears on, the Thunder’s depth and bench production become a significant factor, wearing down the Celtics and allowing Oklahoma City to pull away in the later games. Ultimately, the Thunder’s combination of offense, defense, and athleticism would prove too much for the Celtics, leading to a thrilling and hard-fought series victory.”

AI clearly still has a long way to go, but it will be interesting to track these predictions and see how it fares.


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