No. 4 Los Angeles Clippers (51-31) vs. No. 5 Utah Jazz (51-31)
The Clips began a deteriorate with a peppery 14-2 start that helped stoke hopes that this unequivocally would be a year they’d put it all together and plea for a title. They’d cold over a holidays, though, pang several convincing defeats between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve to settle into a core of a Western Conference pack. Injuries to stars Blake Griffin and Chris Paul kept L.A. from fielding a full patrol from Christmas by a All-Star break, yet Doc Rivers’ maestro organisation has started to strike a walk of late. The Clippers owned a league’s fifth-best record over a final month of a season, outscored opponents by scarcely 9 points per 100 security — usually Golden State boasted a softened net rating — and finished off a 3-1 win in their deteriorate array with a Jazz.
Picked by many over a summer as a organisation many approaching to arise in a West, Utah managed to perform those preseason expectations notwithstanding fielding a full approaching starting 5 for fewer than 15 games. All-Star playmaker Gordon Hayward, energy brazen Derrick Favors, well-spoken swingman Rodney Hood and offseason merger George Hill all missed chunks of time due to injury, yet a Jazz stayed afloat, interjection mostly to a soaring defensive participation (and significantly softened descent game) of 7-foot-2 core Rudy Gobert in a core of what has ranked all deteriorate prolonged as one of a NBA’s 3 best defenses.
General manager Dennis Lindsey built a deep, versatile register chock full of long-limbed, jaunty and learned players means of doing mixed assignments, and conduct manager Quin Snyder has juggled his revolution beautifully all deteriorate prolonged to get Utah to this point. Now, with all of his tip guns healthy and prepared to go, we’ll find out usually how many sound a full-strength Jazz are means of making.
• Game 1 @LAC: 10:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, Apr 15 (ESPN)
• Game 2 @LAC: 10:30 p.m. ET, Tuesday, Apr 18 (TNT)
• Game 3 @UTA: 10 p.m. ET, Friday, Apr 21 (ESPN2)
• Game 4 @UTA: 9 p.m. ET, Sunday, Apr 23 (TNT)
• Game 5 @LAC: TBD, Tuesday, Apr 25 (TBD)*
• Game 6 @UTA: TBD, Friday, Apr 28 (TBD)*
• Game 7 @LAC: TBD, Sunday, Apr 30 (TBD)*
No. 3 Houston Rockets (55-27) vs. No. 6 Oklahoma City Thunder (47-35)
Two of a many means and widespread playmakers in a NBA will block off in a opening round, as former Thunder teammates and Most Valuable Player favorites James Harden and Russell Westbrook lead their teams into conflict in maybe a opening round’s many rarely expected matchup.
The Rockets rebounded from a unsatisfactory 2015-16 debate to spin one of this season’s best stories, led by Harden’s swell to ancestral levels of scoring and facilitating prolongation as a full-time indicate ensure of new conduct manager Mike D’Antoni’s pedal-to-the-metal widespread pick-and-roll attack. The Thunder rebounded from their possess flattering poignant beating — losing longtime authorization centerpiece Durant to a Warriors in giveaway organisation — by perfect force of Westbrook, who became a NBA’s answer to must-see TV en track to apropos a initial actor in 55 years to normal a triple-double over a march of a full deteriorate … while also heading a NBA in scoring for a second time in 3 years.
Houston’s had a better, deeper, some-more consistently bomb organisation all deteriorate long. Oklahoma City has Westbrook. If you’re carrying a tough time determining that approach to bet, I’m guessing you’re not alone.
• Game 1 @HOU: 9 p.m. ET, Sunday, Apr 16 (TNT)
• Game 2 @HOU: 8 p.m ET, Wednesday, Apr 19 (TNT)
• Game 3 @OKC: 9:30 p.m. ET, Friday, Apr 21 (ESPN)
• Game 4 @OKC: 3:30 p.m. ET, Sunday, Apr 23 (ABC)
• Game 5 @HOU: TBD, Tuesday, Apr 25 (TBD)*
• Game 6 @OKC: TBD, Thursday, Apr 27 (TBD)*
• Game 7 @HOU: TBD, Saturday, Apr 29 (TBD)*
No. 2 San Antonio Spurs (61-21) vs. No. 7 Memphis Grizzlies (43-39)
Even yet a mythological Tim Duncan, a sight usually kept rolling in San Antonio, as a organisation led by MVP and Defensive Player of a Year claimant Kawhi Leonard won 60 games for a third time in 4 seasons, won 50-plus for a 18th true year, and done a postseason for a conspicuous 20th uninterrupted campaign. They were a second-best organisation in a NBA all deteriorate long, yet after dual true exits before a Western Conference finals, a Spurs enter this postseason with their sights set on a lapse to personification suggestive games in late May and Jun for a initial time given their 2014 championship run.
While maestro large organisation LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol offer shooting, scoring and resilient help, authorization legends Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili still keep a trains using on time while providing sparks of playmaking, and guards Danny Green and Patty Mills light it adult from a perimeter, this is now really clearly Leonard’s team. The Spurs will usually go as distant as he will lift them; it is a Grizzlies’ charge to accurate a bruise of strength from a San Antonio star along a way.
Grizzlies fans substantially aren’t too anxious to be observant San Antonio in a postseason again. The Spurs have finished Memphis’ deteriorate twice in a final 4 years, including in a initial spin of a 2016 playoffs. Unlike final year, though, this Grizzlies organisation doesn’t enter a array as a collection of a walking wounded.
First-year conduct manager David Fizdale’s conflict will underline a healthy core organisation built around a inside-out talents of Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, who can control games for a Grizzlies on both ends of a floor. San Antonio’s bent toward personification large competence meant chances for longtime Memphis linchpin Zach Randolph to stay on a justice and eat, Tony Allen’s going to be around to sustain disharmony and wreak defensive havoc, and a Grizz separate their four-game deteriorate array with a Spurs. Memphis will be a complicated loser in this series, yet a Grizzlies have faced down those kind of contingency before and come out on top. Could story repeat itself here?
• Game 1 @SA: 8 p.m. ET, Saturday, Apr 15 (ESPN)
• Game 2 @SA: 9:30 p.m. ET, Monday, Apr 17 (TNT)
• Game 3 @MEM: 9:30 p.m. ET, Thursday, Apr 20 (TNT)
• Game 4 @MEM: 8 p.m. ET, Saturday, Apr 22 (ESPN)
• Game 5 @SA: TBD, Tuesday, Apr 25 (TBD)*
• Game 6 @MEM: TBD, Thursday, Apr 27 (TBD)*
• Game 7 @SA: TBD, Saturday, Apr 29 (TBD)*
No. 1 Boston Celtics (53-29) vs. No. 8 Chicago Bulls (41-41)
Just 4 years after trade Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to a Brooklyn Nets to symbol a finish of their New Big Three championship era, a Celtics are once again behind on tip of a East, clinching a No. 1 altogether seed on a final night of a season. Boston’s one of a many offset squads in a league, one of usually 5 teams — alongside Golden State, San Antonio, Toronto and Utah — to finish in a tip 12 in a NBA in both descent and defensive efficiency. They’re deep, versatile, means of personification both large and tiny lineups, and they’ve got a dynamite closer in All-Star indicate ensure Isaiah Thomas, whose late-game exploits this deteriorate warranted him a “Game of Thrones”-inspired nickname “The King in a Fourth.” The wish in Boston, obviously, will be that a C’s will be means to hoop a often-sputtering Bulls good adequate in a early going that IT will need to arise from his throne.
Chicago clinched a seed on a final night of a season, too, floating out a Brooklyn Nets to discharge a Miami Heat and close in a No. 8 spot. As our Kelly Dwyer wrote final month, these Bulls have been flattering underwhelming all season, and skated into a playoffs due in partial to a softest shutting report in a NBA and in partial to a luminosity of All-Star tiny brazen Jimmy Butler, who cemented himself as one of a many finish game-changers in a joining in carrying Chicago over a finish line. Their prize: a date with a East’s tip seed, opposite whom they separate their 4 meetings this season, many recently holding a 20-point detriment in March.
• Game 1 @BOS: 6:30 p.m. ET, Sunday, Apr 16 (TNT)
• Game 2 @BOS: 8 p.m. ET, Tuesday, Apr 18 (TNT)
• Game 3 @CHI: 7 p.m. ET, Friday, Apr 21 (ESPN)
• Game 4 @CHI: 6:30 p.m. ET, Sunday, Apr 23 (TNT)
• Game 5 @BOS: TBD, Wednesday, Apr 26 (TBD)*
• Game 6 @CHI: TBD, Friday, Apr 28 (TBD)*
• Game 7 @BOS: TBD, Sunday, Apr 30 (TBD)*
No. 4 Washington Wizards (49-33) vs. No. 5 Atlanta Hawks (43-39)
Washington’s initial deteriorate underneath new conduct manager Scott Brooks offering usually about all Wizards fans could have hoped it would. John Wall and Bradley Beal stayed healthy via and valid that, when entirely operational, they still deserved care among a NBA’s best backcourts. Otto Porter Jr. had a dermatitis year, Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris valid a ominous frontcourt pairing, and haven swingman Kelly Oubre Jr. came into his possess as a pivotal two-way haven as a Wiz incited in a franchise’s initial multiplication championship given 1979. Their dais abyss is sketchy, yet their starting five’s one of a best in a business, and in a postseason that tends to see rotations digest and mins ratcheted adult for teams’ tip guns, a Wizards patrol led by border MVP claimant Wall and near-All-Star Beal could have a genuine shot during creation a Eastern Conference finals.
After rebooting a authorization in a summer by observant goodbye to Al Horford and Jeff Teague, a Hawks alternated success and onslaught in their initial year led by a bookend pairing of core Dwight Howard and indicate ensure Dennis Schröder. Atlanta struggled to measure all deteriorate long, finishing in a bottom 5 in a joining in points scored per possession, yet stopped a antithesis during an chosen level, ranking in a tip 5 in defensive efficiency. All-Star Paul Millsap stays one of a league’s many sensitively overwhelming and effective players, and Kent Bazemore, Tim Hardaway Jr., Thabo Sefolosha and Taurean Prince make for an engaging organisation on a wing. But conduct manager Mike Budenholzer has his work cut out for him reckoning out how to both stop Washington’s high-powered conflict and beget consistently good looks with close spacing opposite a Wizards starting lineup that has clamped down during a top-five spin this season.
• Game 1 @WAS: 1 p.m. ET, Sunday, Apr 16 (TNT)
• Game 2 @WAS: 7 p.m. ET, Wednesday, Apr 19 (NBA TV)
• Game 3 @ATL: 5:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, Apr 22 (TNT)
• Game 4 @ATL: 8 p.m. ET, Monday, Apr 24 (TNT)
• Game 5 @WAS: TBD, Wednesday, Apr 26 (TBD)*
• Game 6 @ATL: TBD, Friday, Apr 28 (TBD)*
• Game 7 @WAS: TBD, Sunday, Apr 30 (TBD)*
No. 3 Toronto Raptors (51-31) vs. No. 6 Milwaukee Bucks (42-40)
The Raptors won 5 fewer games this year than they did during their franchise-best 2015-16 campaign, yet they competence be usually as good positioned for another run to a discussion finals — if not softened versed this time around. Toronto’s All-Star backcourt is behind in full force, with triggerman Kyle Lowry returning before a finish of a unchanging deteriorate to span with midrange privateer DeMar DeRozan in one of a league’s many energetic ensure pairings. While a Raptors’ offense cooled a bit over a march of a deteriorate after a historically manly start, a before flagging invulnerability has grown many some-more challenging of late, interjection in partial to a trade-deadline additions of shot-swatting widen energy brazen Serge Ibaka and pitbull swingman P.J. Tucker, dual veterans who have helped put a snarl into a Toronto invulnerability that has ranked fourth in a NBA in points authorised per possession given a All-Star break.
The charge confronting that revamped and reloaded Raptors defense? Figure out how to delayed down Milwaukee’s evolutionary monster, “The Greek Freak,” Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The 6-foot-11 do-everything destroyer did all from using indicate to safeguarding a corner for a Bucks this season, apropos a first actor in NBA history to finish in a league’s tip 20 in sum points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals. Still usually 22 years old, Antetokounmpo emerged as one of a league’s premier matchup nightmares this season, and got some assistance down a widen from returning swingman Khris Middleton and Rookie of a Year claimant Malcolm Brogdon to assistance spin Milwaukee’s deteriorate around in a whirlwind Mar that done a Bucks a organisation nobody wanted to play in a initial round. If Giannis plays to his intensity — read: if he’s clearly a best actor on a building in this array — a Bucks could have a possibility to lift a dissapoint and strech Round 2 for a initial time given 2001.
• Game 1 @TOR: 5:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, Apr 15 (ESPN)
• Game 2 @TOR: 7 p.m. ET, Tuesday, Apr 18 (NBA TV)
• Game 3 @MIL: 8 p.m. ET, Thursday, Apr 20 (NBA TV)
• Game 4 @MIL: 3 p.m. ET, Saturday, Apr 22 (TNT)
• Game 5 @TOR: 7 p.m. ET, Monday, Apr 24 (NBA TV)*
• Game 6 @MIL: TBD, Thursday, Apr 27 (TBD)*
• Game 7 @TOR: TBD, Saturday, Apr 29 (TBD)*
No. 2 Cleveland Cavaliers (51-31) vs. No. 7 Indiana Pacers (42-40)
After heading a East for many of a season, a fortifying NBA champions slid down a stretch. Cleveland went 12-15 after a All-Star mangle and mislaid a final 4 games — a final dual of that came with superstars LeBron James and Kyrie Irving resting — to dump from a tip line in a Eastern joint to a No. 2 spot.
The Cavs clearly feel assured that they can go into anybody’s gym and win in a postseason; lest we forget, this is a organisation that has left 11-3 on a highway in a Eastern Conference playoffs over a past dual postseasons, and that won dual games during Oracle Arena in a 2016 Finals, including Game 7. And we can know that, deliberation they still have LeBron freakin’ James. Still, given how many Cleveland has struggled to stop anybody of late — usually a Los Angeles Lakers authorised some-more points per possession after a All-Star mangle — we consternation either they’re personification with glow by adopting a rather good-for-nothing poise entering a playoffs and banking on flipping a switch when a splendid lights come on.
Their initial competition in a playoff spotlight will be a multiplication opposition Pacers, who surged to a finish line with 5 true wins and clinched their playoff berth on a final night of a season. Paul George finished a debate on an comprehensive tear, averaging 29.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.2 steals per diversion over his final 15 outings, sharpened 51.4 percent from a margin and 43 percent from 3-point operation to lead a Indiana offense. After a unsatisfactory spell late in a season, a Pacers found a stroke and a hint after bringing behind excessive ensure Lance Stephenson, who has combined defensive toughness and extra playmaking off a dais and helped an Indy patrol that had seemed rather swaggerless for many of a deteriorate to rediscover a corner that had once propelled a Pacers to uninterrupted Eastern Conference finals.
Both of those discussion finals trips finished during a hands of LeBron’s Heat. The Pacers will enter this array as complicated underdogs, yet George sounds fervent for some payback:
Paul George: “I’m assured we can get to another spin (in a playoffs).”
— Nate Taylor (@ByNateTaylor) April 13, 2017
Paul George pronounced he wanted a playoff matchup with a Cavaliers.
— Nate Taylor (@ByNateTaylor) April 13, 2017
Paul George on a 5-game winning strain forward of a playoffs: “We’re prepared for this. We’re personification good basketball right now.”
— Nate Taylor (@ByNateTaylor) April 13, 2017
Paul George: “It’ll be good going adult opposite LeBron again. He’s been unusual … You’ve got to outthink him.”
— Nate Taylor (@ByNateTaylor) April 13, 2017
Yeah, I’ll take all of that you’ve got, thanks.
• Game 1 @CLE: 3 p.m. ET, Saturday, Apr 15 (ABC)
• Game 2 @CLE: 7 p.m. ET, Monday, Apr 17 (TNT)
• Game 3 @IND: 7 p.m. ET, Thursday, Apr 20 (TNT)
• Game 4 @IND: 1 p.m. ET, Sunday, Apr 23 (ABC)
• Game 5 @CLE: TBD, Tuesday, Apr 25 (TBD)*
• Game 6 @IND: TBD, Thursday, Apr 27 (TBD)*
• Game 7 @CLE: TBD, Saturday, Apr 29 (TBD)*
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