The Bucks will host the Pistons, the Raptors will have home court advantage over the Magic, the 76ers will face off against the emerging Nets and the Celtics will host the Pacers. We rank the leading contenders to potentially dethrone the National Basketball Association champions. If Griffin is healthy, he and Drummond are two powerful forces down low.
But the Toronto Raptors shouldn't be taken lightly.
Besides Harden's offense, he averaged 2.1 steals this season, ranked No. 2 among all the players.
Sure, the Celtics had their problems during the regular season, but the postseason offers them a fresh start.
There are some banged-up contenders in the East, which will not have LeBron James leading a team to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010. Maker, who averaged 5.5 points in 29 games since the trade, will certainly be looking to make his imprint on the series against his old team. "Unfortunately, I rightly predicted we'd lose by 50, I think we lost by 40 that game, I don't know how much".
No. 3 76ers vs.
It could be Philadelphia, with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons anchoring perhaps the most talented starting five outside of the Bay Area. Philadelphia has struggled all season against quick, scoring point guards like D'Angelo Russell.
In each of the last seven seasons, and nine of the last 10, the No. 5 team in the West has beaten the No. 4 team in the first round. This is the fourth Player of the Month honor for Antetokounmpo this season after he won the award for the months of February, December and October/November. Now Boston hopes to begin showing it can still be the team it was expected to be. Neither team is particularly potent so needs to rely on being solid defensively.
On the other hand, Harden's record-breaking season has many National Basketball Association viewers convinced that he deserves to eclipse Antetokounmpo's rise to stardom.
That series turns out to be the Los Angeles Clippers against the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors, with ABC showcasing that series with a Saturday night telecast of Game 1 and a Sunday afternoon (April 21) showcase of Game 4.
The NBA playoffs consist of eight teams from the Eastern Conference and eight teams from the Western Conference to make 16 in total.
After another terrific season, Lillard might be among the league's most underrated stars. Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson for Golden State. Look, Beverley isn't going to "win" this matchup in a statistical sense.
Who are biggest threats for the Warriors to lift their third consecutive championship?
Curry knows he can't let Beverley get under his skin.
This will be fun to watch as the series is advertised as the #4 vs the #5 seed, but really each team had the quality of players to be a #2 seed in the West. All-Star center Nikola Vucevic and forward Aaron Gordon helped power the Magic to the playoffs for the first time since 2011-12. Denver's rotation guys - other than Paul Millsap - aren't swimming in postseason experience, and the question becomes how equipped they are to handle this stage. He may erupt to win one or two games, but the Thunder, who were undefeated in four regular season games against Portland, will win this series and extend the Blazers' postseason misery. In the end, this series will go to the Thunder in six games.
And on the other end, I don't see how Enes Kanter will be able to stay on the floor. The nights were about Wade and Nowitzki, both All-Stars this season.
Story line: Both teams started slowly, then found their best stride - Houston was 11-14 and went 42-15 from there, Utah was 18-20 and went 32-12 from there. His version of the Bucks have averaged more points and more attempts from beyond the arc than any other team - and that includes the shot-happy Warriors. The Jazz gave up the second-fewest 3s this season.
The teams are meeting in the first round again. Not to mention Donovan Mitchell has been on another level.
We saw this matchup in the second round last season, and the Rockets won in 5.
Prediction: Rockets in 7.
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