NBA Playoff Preview

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Western Conference

#1 Rockets vs #8 Timberwolves


James Harden and Chris Paul carried the Rockets to a #1 seed in the Western Conference. The Rockets have dominated this season and finished with a record of 65-17. They swept the Timberwolves in a four game series this season and with the way they have been playing, it will be hard for any team to knock them out of the playoffs.

(Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)


In a battle for the last playoff spot in the West, the Timberwolves defeated the Nuggets in overtime on the last day of the regular season. This team has the pieces to be one of the top teams in this league, but they struggled to win games this year. The Rockets offense and bench might be too much for the Timberwolves to handle. The only way the Timberwolves can win this series is if they can keep up with the Rockets on offense, because no team in the league is able to slow them down on defense.


#2 Warriors vs #7 Spurs


Although they are a #2 seed in the West, the Warriors did not live up to expectations this year, due to injuries to Steph Curry and Kevin Durant. Curry will likely miss this series, so the Warriors will rely on Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. They are facing a Spurs team without Kawhi Leonard, which will be a huge advantage for the Warriors, and if they make it past the Spurs and Curry returns, this team could win another championship.


This is a tough matchup for the Spurs.  Without Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge had to take control of the team. In four games against the Warriors this year, Aldridge has put up great numbers, despite losing three out of the four games. He averaged 26.8 points and 11 rebounds per game, while shooting 52% from the field. If the Spurs want any chance at winning this series, they will need Aldridge to be the best player on the court, offensively and defensively.


#3 Trailblazers vs #6 Pelicans


After ending the season losing four out for their last five games, the Trailblazers, were able to hold on to the #3 seed in the West. They face a DeMarcus Cousin-less Pelicans team that is being carried by Anthony Davis. Even though these teams split a four game series, three of those games featured DeMarcus Cousins, but that will not be the case here. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are two of the best scorers in the game, but their scoring will not be enough in this series. They will need to find a way to slow down Anthony Davis if they want to move on to the next round.


Anthony Davis has been completely dominant since DeMarcus Cousins went down with an injury. There are not many teams in this league that can slow him down, so the Pelicans should feed him the ball and let him do what he does best. If Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday can limit Lillard and McCollum with their defense and the rest of the team helps Davis out offensively, the Pelicans have a good chance at winning this series.


#4 Thunder vs #5 Jazz


For the second straight year, Russell Westbrook ended the season averaging a triple-double. Even though his numbers took a slight step back from last year, he put up unbelievable stats. He averaged 25 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists per game. The Thunder have been underwhelming this year, even with the additions of Carmelo Anthony and Paul George, but if these three play like the superstars they are, they could surprise some teams in the Western Conference.


The Jazz will be relying on Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert in this series. Mitchell has been one of the top rookies this year and will be in discussion for the Rookie of the Year Award, and Gobert is one of the best defensive players in the league. If the Jazz want to win this series, they need to limit Westbrook from dominating the game, force him to turn the ball over (Westbrook averages 4.8 turnovers per game) and make him take bad shots. Overall, the Jazz are a very good defensive team and will be a tough challenge for Westbrook and the Thunder.


Eastern Conference

#1 Raptors vs #8 Wizards


This series features two of the best backcourt duos in the league. Demar Derozan and Kyle Lowry going up against Bradley Beal and John Wall. Each team won two games in a four game series this year. Since the beginning of February, the Raptors have been 25-8. They have been one of the most consistent teams all season and earned themselves a #1 seed in the East. If Derozan and Lowry keep playing like the All-Star’s they are, and the bench continues to play well, the Raptors can win this series.

(Vaughn Ridley/Getty)


This season has been a disappointment for the Wizards, mainly due to John Wall only playing in half of the team’s regular season games because of an injury. This is a tough matchup for the Wizards, but with a healthy John Wall, this team has the talent to upset the #1 seed in the East. Ultimately, this series will come down to which duo can perform better in the playoffs.


#2 Celtics vs #7 Bucks


After finishing 55-27 this season, the Celtics have lost four of their last six games, and most importantly, they lost Kyrie Irving for the playoffs. The Celtics had high hopes coming into this season with the additions of Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving, but after both All-Star’s went down with season ending injuries, the Celtics will face an extremely athletic Milwaukee Bucks team, led by Giannis Antetokounmpo.


The Celtics and Bucks split a four game series this year. However, the Bucks won the only game they played since Irving’s injury. Antetokounmpo has been one of the best players this season. He made his second All-Star appearance while averaging 26.9 points per game, 10 rebounds per game and just under 5 assists. The Bucks need to take advantage of a weak Celtic’s team, and the way to do that is by playing through Giannis Antetokounmpo.


#3 76ers vs #6 Heat


The Philadelphia 76ers are the hottest team in the NBA. They have won 16 straight games heading into the playoffs, including eight games without Joel Embiid. Embiid received a broken bone around his left eye in a game against the Knicks on March 28. Embiid will likely miss the first game of the series while recovering from the injury, but is expected to be back soon. Everything is clicking for the 76ers at the right time. Ben Simmons has looked like an MVP candidate down the stretch and with Embiid coming back soon, the 76ers are one of the scariest teams in the East.


The Heat play at one of the slowest paces in the NBA while the 76ers play at one of the fastest. If the Heat can slow the game down and force the 76ers to play at their pace, the Heat could cause some trouble for the 76ers and ruin any momentum they had coming into the playoffs. This will be a tough challenge for the Heat, but if they can limit Simmons and Embiid from dominating the game and steal a game or two on the road, they could win this series.


#4 Cavaliers vs #5 Pacers


This series features two teams who have completely shocked the NBA this season. The Cavaliers, after making the NBA Finals the last three seasons, have been extremely inconsistent this year. They also have one of the worst defensive teams in the league, ranking 29th in defensive efficiency. However, LeBron James has been playing as good as ever, even with the complete roster overhaul at the trade deadline. Even though they traded for younger players with little to no playoff experience, this team has the pieces to make it to the NBA Finals once again.


Victor Oladipo has been one of the biggest surprises of the NBA this season, as he scored 23 points per game and was named an All-Star for the first time in his career. The Pacers have won three of the four meetings with the Cavaliers this season, and if they can continue their success against the Cavaliers weak defense, they have a good chance at taking out the Cavaliers in the opening round of the playoffs