Well ladies and gentlemen, the post-season is well underway, and it is time for those playoff games that NBA fans love so much. But it looks like Cavs v. Warriors 4.0 may not be the top headline this year.
The current match-ups are as follows:
#1 Toronto Raptors (59-32) V. #8 Washington Wizards (43-39)
Game 1: Sat, April 14 Raptors 130 – Wizards 106
Game 2: Tue, April 17 Raptors 130 – Wizards 119
Game 3: Fri, April 20 Wizards 122 – Raptors 103
Next Game: Sun, April 22 1 P.M. (ET) Capitol One Arena Washington, D.C.
The Raptors (2-0) have redefined their playing style scoring 3-point shots over twice as much as last season. With offensive All-Stars Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, and Jonas Valanciunas, this team has managed to make the No. 1 seed and a 2-0 series lead while breaking franchise league records left and right. However, they struggled against the Wizards’ surprising offense in Game 3.
For the Wizards (0-2), this situation is familiar after being down 0-2 last year in the playoffs against Boston. However, they have won the past six playoff games at home in the Capitol One Arena. They used that home advantage in the last game to gain their first win of the series. Guards John Wall and Bradley Beal dominated the backcourt in Game 3 while each scoring 28 points. But the Wizards will have to remain consistent and be careful to avoid racking up fouls like their last heated show-down against the Raptors.
#2 Boston Celtics (55-27) V. #7 Milwaukee Bucks (44-38)
Game 1: Sun, April 15 Celtics 113 – Bucks 107 (OT)
Game 2: Tue, April 17 Celtics 120 – Bucks 106
Game 3: Fri, April 20 Bucks 116 – Celtics 92
Next Game: Sun, April 22 6:00 P.M. (ET) Bradley Center Milwaukee, WI
The Celtics (2-1) have had an injury-filled season with players Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward out with season-ending injuries. But rising star Jaylen Brown has held down the post-season fort, scoring 30 points to lead the Celtics to victory in Game 2. Despite their previous success, their offense fell apart in the last game against the Bucks. They will have to start off with a much better first quarter in the next game to avoid being dominated again.
Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton have given their top performance this series, together averaging 55 points in the last game. The Celtics strong defense has proved an issue for the Bucks (1-2) in the past but they seemed to have adjusted in Game 3 after establishing the lead early on. If they can keep this momentum in the next game they may have a comeback in sight.
#3 Philadelphia 76ers (52-30) V. #6 Miami Heat (44-38)
Game 1: Sat, April 14 76ers 130 – Heat 103
Game 2: Mon, April 16 Heat 113 – 76ers 103
Game 3: Thurs, April 19 76ers 128 – Heat 108
Next Game: Sat, April 21 2:30 P.M. (ET) American Airlines Arena Miami, FL
Philadelphia 76ers (2-1) finished the season with a 16-game winning streak and are still going strong in this year’s series games. The return of center Joel Embiid, who is back after an orbital fracture and concussion, paired with guard Ben Simmons completes one of the strongest duos. In Game 4 they will have to maintain a strong offense to hold up against the Heats veteran team.
Miami Heat (1-2) goes into this series with veteran Dwayne Wade, who showed his experience in Game 2 boasting 28 points and seven rebounds in just 26 minutes. Gorgon Dragic and Justice Winslow have also been strong assets. The Sixers will need to keep the ball away from them to avoid another loss. This series, the Heat has shown lack of stamina and 3-point shots which have cost them two games so far. They need to seize the home advantage for their next match in Miami.
#4 Cleveland Cavaliers (50-32) V. #5 Indiana Pacers (48-34)
Game 1: Sun, April 15 Pacers 98 – Cavaliers 80
Game 2: Wed, April 18 Cavaliers 100 – Pacers 97
Game 3: Fri, April 20 Pacers 92 – Cavaliers 90
Next Game: Sun, April 22 8:30 P.M. (ET) Bankers Life Fieldhouse Indianapolis, IN
The Pacers (1-2) pulled out a win in the last quarter against the Cavs in Game 3. Bojoan Bogdonavic sank seven 3-point shots, reaching the league record held by Reggie Miller, Paul George and Chuck Person, and led the team with 30 points. Along with guard Victor Oladipo, the Pacers are giving their All-Star opponents a hard time. But the Cavs can be expected to adjust their strategy and come back with an aggressive plan for Sunday’s game. The Pacers will have to plan to counteract this to keep their current lead.
Cleveland is home to arguably one of the best players in the league, if not the most famous, LeBron James. But for the first time since 2008, James is 2-1 this post-season following Game 3 after another loss to the Pacers. They held the lead during the first half of the game but had trouble against the Pacers defense later in the second half. In the past the Cavs (2-1) have been criticized for being a one-man team. James will need help on the offense and a new strategy to win this Sunday.
#1 Houston Rockets (65-17) V. #8 Minnesota Timberwolves (47-35)
Game 1: Sun, April 15 Rockets 104 – Timberwolves 101
Game 2: Wed, April 18 Rockets 102 – Timberwolves 82
Next Game: Sat, April 21 7:30 P.M. (ET) Target Center Minneapolis, MN
The Houston Rockets (2-0) have been strong contenders all the way through the regular season and now into the post-season. Possible MVP James Harden and shooting guard Gerald Green both accomplished playoff career-highs in the last game. But the Rockets haven’t showed their best game in terms of shooting. They went 16 for 52 in Game 2 and 16 for 23 in Game 1. The Rockets do have several All-Star assets, including point guard Chris Paul to carry them to their next win if they continue their winning performances.
The Wolves (0-2) have struggled with their defense all year. Now the Wolves’ top two scorers, Jimmy Butler and Karl Anthony-Towns, didn’t even lead in points in their last game. The Minnesota team isn’t known for taking 3-point shots and that has been a big factor in their post-season losses. However, if Butler can successfully shut down Harden ad Towns can hold down the offense there may be a chance for the Wolves to turn this series around.
#2 Golden State Warriors (58-24) V. #7 San Antonio Spurs (47-35)
Game 1: Sat, April 14 Warriors 113 – Spurs 92
Game 2: Mon, April 16 Warriors 116 – Spurs 101
Game 3: Thurs, April 19 Warriors 110 – Spurs 97
Next Game: Sun, April 22 3:30 P.M. (ET) AT&T Center San Antonio, TX
These defending champs have not disappointed this series, even without All-Star Stephen Curry. That’s not to say the Warriors (3-0) have played their best offensively but they still have the benefit of experienced talent like Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. If they can close the series on Sunday, then they’ll have to tighten up to hang on in the semi-finals.
The Spurs (0-3) are having a tough time without head coach Gregg Popovich, who recently lost his wife, and forward Kawhi Leonard. They continue to miss open 3-point shots and their faulty offense has been no match for their talented opponents. The Spurs put up a fight during the first half of all three games, but they haven’t been able overcome the Warriors defense. Game 4 in at home is their last chance to stay in the series.
#3 Portland Trail Blazers (49-33) V. #6 New Orleans Pelicans (48-34)
Game 1: Sat, April 14 Pelicans 97 – Trail Blazers 95
Game 2: Tue, April 17 Pelicans 111 – Trail Blazers 102
Game 3: Thurs, April 19 Pelicans 119 – Trail Blazers 102
Next Game: Sat, April 21 5 P.M. (ET) Smoothie King Center New Orleans, LA
This is the Pelicans (3-0) first playoffs appearance since 2015 where they lost to the Warriors in a 4-game sweep. Now Anthony Davis has been unstoppable, leading the offense with Nikola Mirotic, who joined the team after the loss of Demarcus Cousins. Their defense is solid too, headed by Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo. The Pelicans aggressiveness has overwhelmed the Blazers and if they win Game 4, they will take home the first-round upset for 2018.
The Trail Blazers (0-3) are looking to be the first team in series history to come back from three losses in a best-of-seven playoff series. Damian Lillard is being suffocated by Pelican’s defense and center Jusuf Nurkic can’t match the Davis/Mirotic duo. The Pelicans will need some plan of action to counteract the pressure from their opponents in the elimination game this weekend.
#4 Oklahoma City Thunder (48-34) V. #5 Utah Jazz (48-34)
Game 1: Sun, April 15 Thunder 116 – Jazz 108
Game 2: Wed, April 18 Jazz 102 – Thunder 95
Next Game: Sat, April 21 10 P.M. (ET) Vivant Smart Home Arena Salt Lake City, UT
The Jazz (1-1) effectively improved their strategy after their first loss of the series. Center Rudy Gobert showed his skill in the paint, scoring 13 points and 15 rebounds. Rookie Donovan Mitchell played an aggressive offense last game with help from Derrick Favors and Ricky Rubio. But the star could be out due to bruised foot from Wednesday, and without him scoring won’t be easy. Turnovers are still a weak spot for the Jazz and even with their turnaround game, they’ll need consistency to pull ahead in Game 3.
The Oklahoma City Thunder (1-1) is usually an offensive powerhouse but the notorious ” Big Three” – Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George – shot 0 to 14 in the fourth quarter of Game 2. They’ll also have to work on their defensive strategy, focusing on their rebounds and transitions in the next game. OKC does have the advantage of experience. Steven Adams is a great counterpart to Westbrook. If he can hit his stride in the next game he’ll be trouble for Gobert. Overall, they can be expected to adjust their intensity for better execution the upcoming away game.
Round 1 began on April 14 and the Conference Semi Finals will take place April 30 – May 1, with the possibility of being moved up to April 28 – 29. Conference Finals are currently set for May 15 – 16, with the possibility of being moved to up to May 13 – 14, while NBA finals begin May 31.