The 2017-18 NBA regular season wrapped up with one last wild Wednesday that saw the West’s final playoff berth determined since the Timberwolves trashed the dreams of the Denver faithful in overtime. Russell Westbrook rebounded his way into history, and all eight first-round playoff series secured in about the effort’s closing day. Following is a fast guide to each first-round series, including records, seeds, and some brief notes on where everyone stands entering the start of Round 1 Saturday.
No. 1 Toronto Raptors (59-23) vs. No. 8 Washington Wizards (43-39)
Prediction Toronto in 5
The results have been fantastic: Toronto’s possessed one of the NBA’s greatest offenses despite All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry each doing slightly less, together with coach Dwane Casey empowering a young, hungry second unit to measure up and prove that they deserve more shots, more chances and more moments. The Raptors have ridden the egalitarian approach to the best record in franchise history and home-court edge throughout the Eastern playoffs; they think they are good enough to win it all, even if the remainder of the world needs some convincing.
To proving it their route will begin from the Wizards, who famously spanned a Toronto club from their first round back in 2015 with a trip. Alas: this time around, Paul Pierce functions for ESPN.
John Wall and Bradley Beal are still about, though, and so long as the Wizards have their All-Star backcourt intact along with frontcourt bully Markieff Morris and do-everything wings Otto Porter Jr. and Kelly Oubre Jr., they have got a puncher’s chance of carrying it to anyone in the East. The problem with the Wizards, however, is that they are also able to look capable of laying an egg from just about anyone in the East. From time to time, they can seem both ways in precisely the exact same night. They’ll require the coin to land on heads more often than not to stand a opportunity to toppling a Toronto team that is favored.
- Game 1 @TOR: 5:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, April 14 (ESPN)
- Game 2 @TOR: 7 p.m. ET, Tuesday, April 17 (NBA)
- Game 3 @WAS: 8 p.m. ET, Friday, April 20 (ESPN2)
- Game 4 @WAS: 6 p.m. ET, Sunday, April 22 (TNT)
- Game 5 @TOR: TBD, Wednesday, April 25 (TBD)*
- Game 6 @WAS: TBD, Friday, April 27 (TBD)*
- Game 7 @TOR: TBD, Sunday, April 29 (TBD)*
No. 2 Boston Celtics (55-27) vs. No. 7 Milwaukee Bucks (44-38)
The Celtics went from Eastern Conference finals contenders to dreamers all in the time it took to declare that All-Star point shield Kyrie Irving will not be suiting up at the postseason. Led by center Al Horford, Boston will nevertheless defend with intensity, accuracy and activity, and has young talent — wings Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, reserve guard Terry Rozier, among others — to produce something unique on any given night. But they have had difficulty scoring on the ground all season long, and these problems figure to increase in the pressurized atmosphere of the postseason.
The question is whether the Bucks can capitalize on what’s arguably the most upset opportunity on the board in Round 1. Giannis Antetokounmpo was incredible an MVP-caliber scorer annually, facilitator and. And yet, the Bucks have felt a little as a team underperforming its ability level a group using a incandescent star on very top, but without those of the roster him around or a plan for maximizing his contributions.
For knocking off a Brad Stevens-led team that is disciplined and well-drilled that does not seem like a recipe. Then although all things might not rather be possible overwhelming a Boston squad that is injured four times in seven games just might.
- Game 1 @BOS: 1 p.m. ET, Sunday, April 15 (TNT)
- Game 2 @BOS: 8 p.m. ET, Tuesday, April 17 (TNT)
- Game 3 @MIL: 9:30 p.m. ET, Friday, April 20 (ESPN)
- Game 4 @MIL: 1 p.m. ET, Sunday, April 22 (ABC)
- Game 5 @BOS: TBD, Tuesday, April 24 (TBD)*
- Game 6 @MIL: TBD, Thursday, April 26 (TBD)*
- Game 7 @BOS: TBD, Saturday, April 28 (TBD)*
No. 3 Philadelphia 76ers (52-30) vs. No. 6 Miami Heat (44-38)
Philadelphia in 6
The Sixers were two years to the hyper-aggressive, sink-to-the-bottom-themed, multi-year rebuilding program of Sam Hinkie, and all they had to show for this were 10 wins. But though … well, if you didn’t get the thought back then, you sure do now.
Ben Simmons is a sin, a skyscraper of a point guard who virtually whatever the defense gives him guards four positions expertly stuffs the box and scores. Dario Saric is as Brett Brown needs him to be. Markelle Fultz is outside of the wilderness and submitting triple-doubles. The Sixers, shockingly, have barely missed a beat without All-Star center Joel Embiid, and input the playoffs owning an NBA-best 16-game winning series. They lock down, they search 3s in transition, so they push at the pace and they function you until you break. They’re the genuine article, and they were worth the wait.
At the other corner: a Miami side built primarily at the opposite end of the lottery, at the second round and during free-agent signings which, be fair, directed one to cock an eyebrow or two since you imagined what precisely Pat Riley believed he had been constructing down in South Beach. The Heat are a tough out that beats you with grinding shield the playmaking of Goran Dragic, occasional dominance from Hassan Whiteside and more James Johnson than you realized you wanted or needed. They don’t have the top-end talent Philly will unleash Embiid and Simmons, but the club of Erik Spoelstra will not conquer itself, and will take.
In that respect, the Heat are an ideal opening evaluation a kind of expert proving ground, for Brett Brown team. If Philly can calmly manage its business here and get Embiid back in time for Round two … well, let’s just say things could become horribly scary from the Eastern bracket. However I think we see the 76ers go from boys to men.
- Game 1 @PHI: 8 p.m. ET, Saturday, April 14 (ESPN)
- Game 2 @PHI: 8 p.m. ET, Monday, April 16 (TNT)
- Game 3 @MIA: 7 p.m. ET, Thursday, April 19 (TNT)
- Game 4 @MIA: 2:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, April 21 (TNT)
- Game 5 @PHI: TBD, Tuesday, April 24 (TBD)*
- Game 6 @MIA: TBD, Thursday, April 26 (TBD)*
- Game 7 @PHI: TBD, Saturday, April 28 (TBD)*
No. 4 Cleveland Cavaliers (50-32) vs. No. 5 Indiana Pacers (48-34)
Cleveland in 4
It has been a chaotic time for the Cavs, it’s felt like three or four seasons, actually if we are being honest. But as most Lebron led units it’s ended in a comfortable location. LeBron James is going to begin a playoff series considering a bracket full of groups that he does not think will stop him enough times and plotting a course. The path there might be a bit bumpier than it has been in years past. A spate of late-season injuries have kept Cleveland from obtaining a look at how all of the bits fit together. But there’s no one in the basketball world better equipped at that particular act of on-the-fly difficulty than James, who is creating at an unprecedented level for a participant in his 15th expert season, who ended the season on a rampage, and that looks poised to offer his yearly late-spring/early-summer reminder that each of us who’d seriously consider other people to become that league’s most valuable player would be, on some level, kidding ourselves.
Standing in James’ way: a Pacers team that if they traded away franchise player Paul George on the eve of agency, nobody anticipated to be part of the East eight. But then, we did not understand that Victor Oladipo was about to make the quantum leap from “pretty good player who has not actually put it all together yet” into “deserving All-Star, legitimate No. 1 scoring option and top perimeter defender, clutch monster and possible All-NBA guard.” (If we had known, we probably could have made a lot of money on this extremely specific future bet.)
The Pacers do not play dynamic and don’t bomb away from behind the arc, and they do not have a lot of gamers most fans can pick out of a lineup. What they do have are pieces which fit guys who move without the ball, get hands in passing lanes, get out in transition, and make you earn it. They are among the finest tales of the league, and also best-kept secrets, all year long, if you don’t take them and they’re capable of ruining your day. Unfortunately for them, LeBron does not tend to eliminate focus too often this time of year.
- Game 1 @CLE: 3:30 p.m. ET, Sunday, April 15 (ABC)
- Game 2 @CLE: 7 p.m. ET, Wednesday, April 18 (TNT)
- Game 3 @IND: 7 p.m. ET, Friday, April 20 (ESPN)
- Game 4 @IND: 8:30 p.m. ET, Sunday, April 22 (TNT)
- Game 5 @CLE: TBD, Wednesday, April 25 (TBD)*
- Game 6 @IND: TBD, Friday, April 27 (TBD)*
- Game 7 @CLE: TBD, Sunday, April 29 (TBD)*
No. 1 Houston Rockets (65-17) vs. No. 8 Minnesota Timberwolves (47-35)
Prediction Rockets 4-1
The Rockets have been the NBA’s best team from the starting gun this year, shooting the winner Warriors down in Oracle Arena on opening night rather than looking back. Daryl Morey’s enormous summertime swing to make a two-headed point-guard monster has worked brilliantly, with James Harden turning in a dominant season that’s very likely to earn him the first Most Valuable Player trophy of his profession and Chris Paul playing about as well as ever both alongside him in his stead, ensuring that there is always an All-NBA pilot at the controls of Mike D’Antoni’s crime.
Houston boasts the NBA’s No. 1 offense and a sixth-ranked defense, headed by shot-swatting Swiss center Clint Capela plus some nasty defenders on the wing. They just lost an important one, veteran Luc Mbah a Moutebut they’re still a favorite to advance to the conference semis for the third time in four years.
While Houston had its postseason ticket punched ages ago, the natives had to work on the final night of the regular season to knock the Denver Nuggets and make their spot in the top eight. But the majority of that drama that was iffy came with All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler sidelined following surgery to repair a torn meniscus suffered in the Wolves’ affair.
Butler’s back now, turning into three consecutive strong games to help push Minnesota within the finish line; when he has been on the court this year, based on our data, the Wolves have produced the sort of point differential you’d expect from a 62-win team. All-Star centre Karl-Anthony Towns can wreak havoc inside and out against Capela and company, and if Butler’s prepared to serve as that type of rising tide, Minnesota may have the ability to trade baskets with all the Rockets for some time. Whether a maddeningly somehow-bottom-10-ranked defense will have the ability to get stops remains to be seen.
- Game 1 @HOU: 9 p.m. ET, Sunday, April 15 (TNT)
- Game 2 @HOU: 9:30 p.m. ET, Wednesday, April 18 (TNT)
- Game 3 @MIN: 7:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, April 21 (ESPN)
- Game 4 @MIN: 8 p.m. ET, Monday, April 23 (TNT)
- Game 5 @HOU: TBD, Wednesday, April 25 (TBD)*
- Game 6 @MIN: TBD, Friday, April 27 (TBD)*
- Game 7 @HOU: TBD, Sunday, April 29 (TBD)*
No. 2 Golden State Warriors (58-24) vs. No. 7 San Antonio Spurs (47-35)
It seems strange to say a champ that features four All-Stars and won 58 games feels rickety, but this year stumbled their way. Golden State dropped six of its final 10, capped by a 40-point pasting in Utah; the overdue March/early April swoon came despite the existence of both Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green brings credence to the belief, however much ability that the Warriors accrue, what Golden State remains revolves round Stephen Curry.
Unfortunately at full advantage, things are not functioning for San Antonio. The Spurs have operated without their very best player Defensive Player of the Year and MVP caliber Kawhi Leonard, who has been coping with quadriceps issues since preseason . With almost any trickery that would be a super-long-con, although cleared to return from injury is not expected t aortic[ate in the playoffs.
The Spurs have kept on keeping on, although it has been making magical. Gregg Popovich’s club has at the conclusion of its 18-year 50-win season series by extending its 21-year playoff series behind enormous play from all star LaMarcus Aldridge, a defense which has stayed in the top five in points allowed per possession annually despite lacking its very best perimeter stopper, a knack for taking good care of home court that has seen them move 33-8 in AT&T Center, and timely gifts from a deep seat directed by 40-year-old legend Manu Ginobili and expert scorer Rudy Gay. Their reward for that perseverance? A date with Draymond, Klay and KD.
- Game 1 @GS: 3 p.m. ET, Saturday, April 14 (ABC)
- Game 2 @GS: 10:30 p.m. ET, Monday, April 16 (TNT)
- Game 3 @SA: 10:30 p.m. ET, Thursday, April 19 (TNT)
- Game 4 @SA: 3:30 p.m. ET, Sunday, April 22 (ABC)
- Game 5 @GS: TBD, Tuesday, April 24 (TBD)*
- Game 6 @SA: TBD, Thursday, April 26 (TBD)*
- Game 7 @GS: TBD, Saturday, April 28 (TBD)*
No. 3 Portland Trail Blazers (49-33) vs. No. 6 New Orleans Pelicans (48-34)
Prediction Blazers 4-2
Damian Lillard’s been just about as good as it gets at the guard position this season, bombing away and dishing and controlling the match at a degree that is career-best to propel the Blazers to the peak of their powers. A Portland club which has relied on its own offense to outscore opponents packs a defense which may clamp down, ranking in defensive efficiency in the top 10 during the season. If C.J. McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic and Terry Stotts’ military of fascinating pros can hold up their end of the bargain and keep things near, the Blazers feel horribly confident they will come out on top when the game reaches Dame Time.
A Pelicans group intended to be built around towers has wound up relying on a lone celebrity man and to direct them, has Anthony Davis ever delivered in the absence of wounded partner DeMarcus Cousins.
The Brow averaged nearly 31 points, 12 rebounds and five joint blocks and steals over the last 30 games of the season, utterly dominating opposing defenses from every portion of the court, raining down terror from above the rim and helping gas New Orleans’ rise to a top-five defensive efficiency mark after the All-Star break. He has had help of the healthy Jrue Holiday who continues to be fantastic, as has Nikola Mirotic and veteran point guard Rajon Rondo. But they will need it if he is going to not only make the first playoff success of his career, but push New Orleans from Round 1 for the first time in a decade. To be fair the Brow needs some post season results if he’s considered to be one of the NBA’s elite. On that alone I give them a chance.
- Game 1 @POR: 10:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, April 14 (ESPN)
- Game 2 @POR: 10:30 p.m. ET, Tuesday, April 17 (TNT)
- Game 3 @NO: 9 p.m. ET, Thursday, April 19 (NBA)
- Game 4 @NO: 5 p.m. ET, Saturday, April 21 (TNT)
- Game 5 @POR: TBD, Tuesday, April 24 (TBD)*
- Game 6 @NO: TBD, Thursday, April 26 (TBD)*
- Game 7 @POR: TBD, Saturday, April 28 (TBD)*
No. 4 Oklahoma City Thunder (48-34) vs. No. 5 Utah Jazz (48-34)
The Jazz are among the year’s best stories, a group that seemed dead in the water several times this season — including before it, after losing All-Star forward Gordon Hayward and starting point guard George Hill in free agency — just to go on a complete tear after getting Defensive Player of the Year candidate Rudy Gobert back from a knee injury. Utah’s been one of the hottest teams in the NBA for three solid months, riding the league’s stingiest defense along with the shot production of all the Year hopeful Donovan Mitchell all the way from a possible lottery bid to the middle of the Western playoff pack.
Though the Jazz are rolling the Thunder have been a group operating in fits and bits all year. On their nights, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, Russell Westbrook, Steven Adams and company can lay waste. On their weekends that are worse they can look like a team without a clear sense of what it needs to do and who it wants to be, struggling even against some of the league’s lesser lights.
George bounced back from an ice-cold shooting stretch boasting a 40-point burst at the season finale, during which Westbrook rebounded his way to averaging a triple-double for the 2nd straight season. Both have shown the capability to take even at the playoffs, and Adams is the form of bruiser who’ll enjoy going toe-to-toe using Gobert inside. What type of influence Anthony, who’s largely struggled to make his presence felt has a lower-tier choice, could make on the event could go a long way toward determining the Thunder’s chances of progressing. If they click and the hunger is there, they have the cast and crew to make some noise.
- Game 1 @OKC: 6:30 p.m. ET, Sunday, April 15 (TNT)
- Game 2 @OKC: 8 p.m. ET, Wednesday, April 18 (NBA)
- Game 3 @UTH: 10 p.m. ET, Saturday, April 21 (ESPN)
- Game 4 @UTH: 10:30 p.m. ET, Monday, April 23 (TNT)
- Game 5 @OKC: TBD, Wednesday, April 25 (TBD)*
- Game 6 @UTH: TBD, Friday, April 27 (TBD)*
- Game 7 @OKC: TBD, Sunday, April 29 (TBD)*
NBA Championship Winner
|Golden State Warriors|
|Oklahoma City Thunder|
|San Antonio Spurs|
|New Orleans Pelicans|