What You Need to Know for the 2018 NBA Playoffs
Oh me, oh my, the NBA playoffs are back after one of the best seasons of basketball in years.
Now the playoffs are set and teams will battle it out starting this Saturday, with title hopes on the line.
Here's a breakdown of each first round matchup and what to expect from each series:
Toronto (1) vs. Washington (8)
Both these teams had disappointing last stretches to the regular season and both have a lot to prove if they want to be known as elite. DeMar DeRozen and Kyle Lowry will have a lot to prove in this series if they hope to go far.
Washington has struggled as of late, losing seven of their last 10 games. Getting back John Wall and the recent strong performances of Otto Porter Jr. will help the Wizards down the stretch.
Who wins? Toronto in six. The Raptors are by far the better team, but Washington takes two at home with some scrappy defense and a nothing-to-lose mentality.
Boston (2) vs. Milwaukee (7)
An injury-plagued Boston team that lost Kyrie Irving will rely on young rising stars to carry them down the stretch. However, it won't be easy, especially taking on a tough Milwaukee team.
Terry Rozier, Jason Tatum and Jalen Brown are among the youngest players in the playoffs, but easily have the most potential. Brad Stevens will need to coach lights-out and show why he should be the Coach of the Year in this postseason.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the most exciting players to watch in the East, but he's going to need some major help from the likes of Jabari Parker, who has had an inconsistent year, Eric Bledsoe and Malcolm Brogdon.
Who wins? Boston in six, but a close six. The Celtics are a better coached team and will expose the Bucks, who have been inconsistent all season.
Philadelphia (3) vs. Miami (6)
Maybe the Cavs lucked out on playing a tough six seed in the Heat. Then again, if there was one team I wouldn't want to face in the playoffs, it would be Philadelphia.
The 76ers are riding a 16-game win streak and it's hard not to trust the process. With Joel Emiid returning back to the court and Ben Simmons playing red-hot, this team is playing fantastic basketball.
Hassan Whiteside will be playing his first healthy playoff series with the Heat and will have a lot to prove against a young 76ers team. Miami is easily the most aggressive, scrappy teams to play, with 19 games decided by one possession and nine games go into overtime.
Who wins? 76ers sweep. This series becomes scary for Boston in the second round of the playoffs. Philadelphia stomps on Miami, with two games being close and the others being out of reach.
Cleveland (4) vs. Indiana (5)
Before we get into Cleveland versus Indiana, I want to preference the Cavs run with this: if LeBron James gets this sorry, disappointing, drama-filled and utterly terrible team that Cleveland has, he is the greatest player of all-time without a doubt.
While Cleveland has been a disappointment all year, James has been outstanding. He leads the NBA in just about every single stat, holding an MVP-caliber season.
But can they beat the likes of Victor Oladipo and Indiana? Myles Turner will need to play outstanding basketball against Kevin Love and the Pacers also went 3-1 against Cleveland this year.
Who wins? Playoff Bron in five. Bottom line is it's playoff time, and even though Oladipo, the soon-to-be Most Improved Player of the Year, played great all season, Indiana needs one more piece to their team before they are in contention with the best from the East.
Houston (1) vs. Minnesota (8)
Will this be the year that a team from the West (Houston) finally dethrones Golden State? Short answer: maybe. The problem is Houston has a tough run to the Western Conference Finals.
Harden and Chris Paul have a lot to prove this post-season. Most thought these two couldn't coexist at the start of the year, but they've been phenomenal together.
Minnesota isn't a tough out, however. Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Jimmy Butler, who's coming back from an injury, are lights out when they each get hot. The spark of the Timberwolves making their first playoff appearance in 14 seasons will also add some spunk to the squad down the stretch.
Who wins? Rockets in six... yes six. Towns and Butler don't want to lose to Harden and Paul, so they'll do whatever it takes to scrap out two wins.
Golden State (2) vs. San Antonio (7)
Just a week ago San Antonio was competing for the fourth spot in the standings. Since then they fell to seventh and they're figuratively knocking on Kawhi Leonard's door for this series.
Even though the Warriors won't have Steph Curry in the first round, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are looking to lead this team over San Antonio in the first round.
If the Spurs compete and stand any chance at miraculously winning the series, it might just be the greatest playoff series win the Spurs may have ever had, considering what they went through this year and the absence of Leonard.
Who wins? It pains me to say this, but Golden State sweeps the Spurs. This is just the start of the Warriors trip for excellence in the playoffs.
Portland (3) vs. New Orleans (6)
At the start of March, Portland looked like the team that would give all the big-wig teams in the West a tough series. But as of late they've been up-and-down. Luckily for them, however, so have the Pelicans.
Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum will have to prove this playoffs that they're more than just a regular season team. Lillard has had arguably the fourth-best season this year, behind James, Harden and Anthony Davis, respectively.
Speaking of the unibrow man, Davis alone makes this series fun to watch. New Orleans has battled hard after losing DeMarcus Cousins to an injury.
Who wins? Portland in seven. Ah, there it is, the first seven-game series matchup. New Orleans isn't an easy out, especially with Davis playing as efficient as any in the league. This is only Davis' second trip to the playoffs and he wants to prove just how elite he is.
Oklahoma City (4) vs. Utah (5)
Just how did OKC slither their way into the fourth seed of the West? Just last week, the Thunder was worried whether or not they would make the playoffs. Nonetheless, crunch-time Russell Westbrook came out to play and this team has spurts of looking like they could run with the Warriors.
But if you would've told me Utah would be a five seed, let alone make the playoffs at the start of the season, I would've called you crazy. Rookie standout Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert are exceptional players for this squad and have the talent to hang with the likes of Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony.
Who wins? Utah in seven. Even though Westbrook is the best player in this battle, Utah is playing with nothing to lose. Mitchell wants to be regarded as the league's best rookie, so what better way to do it than beating a highly regarded OKC team?