The NBA playoffs are about to tip off and we’re happy to give you the low-down on each match-up. Although the regular season is quite entertaining, it’s always great to see the intensity ratcheted up another level as players vie for the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Of course, there are some familiar playoff faces out there like LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Dwyane Wade. But we are seeing a field of newcomers too. Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Donovan Mitchell are all experiencing their first taste of playoff action. The Play Your Way Network is here to give you a schedule and preview of each match up you can hop right in on the action.
No. 1 Toronto Raptors (59-23) vs. No. 8 Washington Wizards (43-39)
Toronto has to be most under the radar #1 seed in recent memory. They’ve been dominant during the regular season but have maintained a focus on making it to the finals. They play a Wizards team that is far better than their 8 seed would lead you to believe. They just got John Wall back from injury two weeks ago and are still in the midst of trying to find their chemistry. The series is likely to go six, even seven, games and don’t be surprised by an ‘upset’.
No. 2 Boston Celtics (55-27) vs. No. 7 Milwaukee Bucks (44-38)
Both teams have issues that may be too much to overcome. The Celtics lost both Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving for the season and have to rely on Jalen Brown and spares to be competitive. The Bucks had a promising start to the season marred by the firing of Jason Kidd, which left the team in a tailspin for a large chunk of the season. Giannis Antetokounmpo has been a force to be reckoned with, but it remains to be seen if Milwaukee will have enough bench depth to stay in the fight.
No. 3 Philadelphia 76ers (52-30) vs. No. 6 Miami Heat (44-38)
Philadelphia comes in riding on a high. They had a 16 game win streak to finish the season are living the #TrustTheProcess life to its fullest. Miami Heat recently acquired prodigal son Dwyane Wade to give them some veteran leadership going into the playoffs. However, this year’s number one pick, Markelle Fultz, returned to the team in March following a quirky shoulder injury that caused him to have to relearn his jump shot. He could be the X-factor that pushes the team all the way to The Finals.
No. 4 Cleveland Cavaliers (50-32) vs. No. 5 Indiana Pacers (48-34)
For the last eight years LeBron has been the star of the Eastern Conference Playoffs and has been in the Conference Finals every year since 2011. He has virtually seen it all and will be near-unstoppable force this postseason. The Pacers have their own star in Victor Oladipo, who is nursing a foot injury. If he can maintain his mid-season form, the Pacers can give the Cavs a run for their money. However, there’s no reason, barring a serious injury to James, that the Cavs can’t get this done in six games.
No. 1 Houston Rockets (65-17) vs. No. 8 Minnesota Timberwolves (47-35)
The Minnesota Timberwolves are the new kids in school. Untested and unproven, they go up against the big man on campus in Houston. The Rockets have probable-MVP James Harden and a high powered offense that is sure to outmatch the tepid Timberwolves’ defense. It’s highly unlikely the new kid gets more than a few shots in before getting knocked out.
No. 2 Golden State Warriors (58-24) vs. No. 7 San Antonio Spurs(47-35)
One of the more intriguing storylines is can San Antonio take advantage of a Stephen Curry’s knee injury? The Warriors star isn’t expected to see any first round action, leaving the work to Kevin Durant and Co. The Spurs are also dealing with an injury to a major star in Kawhi Leonard’s quadricep injury. The major difference is the the Warriors have more depth behind their fallen stars and are likely to get into the next round in less than 6 games.
No. 3 Portland Trail Blazers (49-33) vs. No. 6 New Orleans Pelicans(48-34)
This battle is a bit tougher to handicap. If New Orleans hadn’t lost DeMarcus Cousins to a season-ending Achilles injury, they probably would have been a lock to win the series. However, Damian Lillard and the Trailblazers are capable of staving of an upset if they can muster enough defense to keep Anthony Davis in check.
No. 4 Oklahoma City Thunder (48-34) vs. No. 5 Utah Jazz (48-34)
With the addition of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to last year’s MVP, Russell Westbrook, the Oklahoma City Thunder seem built for the playoffs. The tandem of big man Rudy Gobert and Rookie of the Year candidate Donovan Mitchell have the Utah Jazz playing good enough to be considered the dark horse in this race to the finals. The Jazz have a strong enough defense to stay in any game, the question will be what kind of offense can they produce beyond Mitchell. If he gets support we may see the start of a magical run.