From the top seeds in Houston and Toronto, to the old stalwarts in Golden State and Cleveland, to the brash up-and-comers in Philadelphia and Minnesota, there are potential storylines galore and no real way to predict how it all may shake out. Unless the Warriors decide to lay an egg along the way and get sloppy or go ice-cold for a game, don't be surprised if this one ends in a sweep. The Golden State Warriors will be without Steph Curry early on, Cleveland's mid-season capitulation, Boston's injuries, Toronto's composure in the playoffs and Houston's James Harden can not have a meltdown as he did last post-season. They've gone to great lengths, and had quite a bit of success, changing their style of play and expanding their bench in the a year ago. Facing LeBron James in the playoffs is always a bleak prospect. Even though the Raptors had one of the best season in franchise history and a really a good year from Demar Derozan and Kyle Lowry. Let's now take a look at the 16 teams left in the running for the much coveted Larry O'Brien trophy.
The Cavaliers have had more drama than an episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians.
"The playoffs are about moments, and you just want a chance to have those moments", Miami guard Dwyane Wade said.
With both players leading their teams into the playoffs, it's going to be interesting to see who lead their team to the second round. The recent additions of Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova have supplied depth in perimeter shooting, while number one draft pick Markelle Fultz is finding form at just the right time, having become the youngest player to record a triple-double in the National Basketball Association this week.
Saavedra: I'm interested to see how the Philadelphia 76ers do against the Miami Heat. They've won 11 of their last 13 games but their defence has been pathetic, finishing 29th in defensive rating.
James has been to the finals seven years in a row - four times with the Heat, three more since returning to Cleveland. Starting with the 2019 draft, the three teams with the worst records will share a 14 percent chance of getting the No. 1 overall pick. JJ Redick, Marco Belinelli and Dario Saric combined for 73 points. "You're 6'9". But seriously, how much of an offensive burden will he have to take on if Joel Embiid can't get out there in the first round?
The Celtics are sure to pose a threat next season, as they locked up the second seed without their two best players.
The matchup: After intentionally taking for most of the past decade, Philly finally amassed enough healthy quality players to make a playoff run, and they're scary. That showed in Game 1. And who isn't fascinated by the Sixers as the Truth the Process crew break its postseason virginity with home-court advantage versus Dwyane Wade and the Heat?
Despite his best efforts, the Thunder need to be more than just Russell Westbrook plus four and the Paul George who averaged in excess of 20 points per game in his final four could prove key in this one. In the West, the Utah Jazz, New Orleans Pelicans, San Antonio Spurs and Minnesota Timberwolves are probably out of luck. They could bomb in the first round or go on a legitimate championship run and folks would still simply nod their heads and think, "This makes sense". Then, on the ensuing inbound pass, to go for a basket cut for two again? Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are both members of the NBA Social Media All-Star team if that existed, and Jusuf Nurkic is just plain nasty in the paint.
Now, aside from that, the Pelicans deserved to win this game. The latter will have a far bigger impact on the series.
Nagging injuries are a concern with arguably their two best players in Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside coming back from injuries to suit up in round one.