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Clippings: ESPN projects the NBA playoffs as a three-horse race

No other team received any votes to win the title in the 34-person panel.

69th NBA All-Star Game Photo by Lampson Yip - Clicks Images/Getty Images

Back in March, before the NBA went on hiatus, when ESPN polled its forecast panel for playoff picks and title favorites, only three teams were deemed worthy of winning the 2020 championship: the Clippers, the Lakers, and the Bucks.

Three months later, with an entirely new posteason set-up awaiting teams in Orlando, the same three teams are the only ones projected to win a title, but the odds have changed. The Clippers were the favorites of only 10.5% of voters in March but earned 23.5% of the votes this time around. They were tabbed to get to the Finals by 38.2% of voters, or 13 of the 34 analysts. The Lakers are currently betting favorites, despite Milwaukee topping 60.5% of ballots in March.

The Clippers have barely played any games since the last time this poll was conducted. Two routs against the Rockets and the Warriors and a loss to the Lakers separate these votes, but the pandemic changed everything.

A Clippers team that had difficulty staying healthy all season and played a handful of games with its complete roster has had months to rest and recuperate for the final postseason push. Furthermore, playing at a neutral site erases the homecourt advantage that the Lakers would have had in a theoretical Western Conference Finals. Before getting to that point, though, the Clippers might actually miss their home games more than the panel realizes; they had the best home record (25-7) in the Western Conference.

What do you think of ESPN’s prediction that the West will come down to the Battle for Los Angeles? Did they give the Lakers too much credit for beating the Clippers once? Are they underrating Milwaukee and the rest of the Eastern Conference? Let us know.

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