As 16 teams fight to lift the Larry O'Brien Trophy, I will break down who will survive - until the second round, at least.
BOSTON (AP) - Al Horford had 24 points and 12 rebounds and Boston overcame Khris Middleton's long 3 that beat the fourth-quarter buzzer to top Milwaukee in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference series.
But the most intriguing should be the Golden State-San Antonio matchup - because once again, just like a year ago, the Spurs will nearly certainly be without Leonard.
Another hard prediction: the banged-up Celtics versus the return of playoff-Giannis Antetokounmpo. This may be a quick round.
The Warriors' Game 1 performance was both commonplace and incredible. The Miami Heat received a limited contribution from their own big man Hassan Whiteside while reserve player Kelly Olynyk scored 26 points and grabbed seven boards. They earned the top seed in the East, and their reward is a second-round matchup against the Cavs after a tough first-round opponent in Washington. Miami Heat since the trade deadline when the receive their star player Dwayne Wade back went on a roll to return to playoffs themselves. This has opened the door wide open for the likely 4-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers.
Cleveland had won 14 straight first-round games, last losing on April 22, 2010, the last season of James' first stint with the Cavs. They'll look to do more of the same in Game 2 as they await the return of Embiid to the court for a strong run in their return to the playoffs. Thibs went seven deep against the Rockets Sunday in what was the first game of an uphill battle for the Timberwolves. Casey has done a good job building this team and Derozan has definitely become a franchise player. When at their best, they're dominating their opposition but can also shrink right before our very eyes, which makes their first-round matchup against the Utah Jazz fascinating because we don't know which Thunder team is going to show up. The Bucks, on the other hand, are getting healthier as they enter the postseason, with Jabari Parker finding his legs and Malcolm Brogdon playing in the final two regular season games after being out since February. All of those naysayers Green alluded to - real or not - can't come back Monday morning with the same hot take, because on Saturday, the Warriors left perhaps the greatest coach in National Basketball Association history gobsmacked and, save for a small stretch in the second quarter, did whatever they wanted to the Spurs at Oracle Arena.
The Trail Blazers managed to go 2-1 against the Warriors this year, thanks mostly to 131 combined points by C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard in the two wins.
"I think they already confiscated Nick's phone", he said.
Start with the East pairings: Lowry and the top-seeded Raptors play No. 8 Washington, No. 2 Boston faces No. 7 Milwaukee, No. 3 Philadelphia gets No. 6 Miami and No. 4 Cleveland - with LeBron James bidding for an eighth consecutive appearance in The Finals - opening against No. 5 in, a surprise team at the start of the season and one that isn't a surprise anymore. Even the most recent League MVP has not been able to click together.
With those three on the floor they have lost only a handful of games.
As I have listed my matchups and results, however I have described to you the difficulty of this round to do the team matchups that are featured.
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