NBA Playoffs: First-Round Schedule, Preview and Picks
Looking ahead at the First-round of the NBA Playoffs. Picks, Preview and Schedule.
The first round of the playoffs is almost here and we are beyond excited to get started. Here is a brief preview of each series, all the important scheduling information and our pick to win.
(1) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (8) Detroit Pistons
This looks very one-sided on paper. The Bucks, with Giannis Antetokounmpo, have been dynamic, destructive and arguably one of the most enjoyable teams to watch all year.
Here they'll meet a Pistons outfit who have two great big men in Blake Griffin and Andrew Drummond. Detroit narrowly managed to squeeze into playoffs and they'll have to play vastly better than they have in the majority of the season if they aim to beat Milwaukee.
The Bucks, with their tight defence and MVP front-runner, should be able to see off the Pistons fairly quickly. For Milwaukee, it feels like a matter of getting by and keeping people fit for the later stages.
Verdict: Bucks in 5
Game 1: Monday, April 15 Detroit at Milwaukee
Game 2: Thursday, April 18 Detroit at Milwaukee
Game 3: Sunday, April 21 Milwaukee at Detroit
Game 4: Tuesday, April 23 Milwaukee at Detroit
*Game 5: Thursday, April 25 Detroit at Milwaukee
*Game 6: Fri, April 27 Milwaukee at Detroit,
*Game 7: Sun, April 28 Detroit at Milwaukee
(2) Toronto Raptors vs. (7) Orlando Magic
The Magic ended the regular season in strong fashion, going 22-9 since the end of January. They're going to have a tough job against the Raptors though, who've been confident in their playoff spot for what feels like an eternity.
The addition of Kawhi Leonard has given Toronto defensive steel, and the late trade for Marc Gasol has only added to a versatile team, which should be set for a deep playoff run.
Verdict: Raptors in 5
Game 1: Sunday, April 14 Orlando at Toronto
Game 2: Wednesday, April 17 Orlando at Toronto
Game 3: Saturday, April 20 Toronto at Orlando
Game 4: Monday, April 22 Toronto at Orlando
*Game 5: Tue, April 23 Orlando at Toronto
*Game 6: Thu, April 25 Toronto at Orlando
*Game 7: Sat, April 27 Orlando at Toronto
(3) Philadelphia 76ers vs. (6) Brooklyn Nets
We've come a long way in only a couple of years. The Process is drawing its conclusion in Philadelphia and the Nets have become a legitimately talented team.
The Nets have had a good season, causing Philly troubles along the way, splitting their divisional series.
The 76ers are the better team, and they could have a very deep run. The addition of Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler has added real quality and they have one of the best starting lineups in the league. A lot will depend on the fitness of Joel Embiid, if they can get the Cameroonian fit and firing, then he'll create mismatches. Ben Simmons too will be looking to perform this postseason, given how he went missing against the Celtics in 2018.
I think the 76ers will win out, narrowly, before performing better in the second-round.
Verdict: 76ers in 7
Game 1: Sunday, April 14 Brooklyn at Philadelphia
Game 2: Tuesday, April 16 Brooklyn at Philadelphia
Game 3: Friday, April 19 Philadelphia at Brooklyn
Game 4: Sunday, April 21 Philadelphia at Brooklyn
*Game 5: Wednesday, April 24 Brooklyn at Philadelphia
*Game 6: Friday, April 26 Philadelphia at Brooklyn
*Game 7: Sunday, April 28 Brooklyn at Philadelphia
(4) Boston Celtics vs. (5) Indiana Pacers
If Victor Oladipo hadn't been lost in January then there is every chance Indiana could cause a real shock here.
There's still a strong chance given both team's form in the regular season. The Pacers have played tight, cohesive basketball whilst the Celtics have underachieved spectacularly. We all, myself included, thought the Celtics would win the East but they've struggled.
Kyrie Irving has tried to develop himself as a leader but it's not worked, especially given his recent non-committal answers regarding a move in the offseason. Jason Taytum has shown glimpses of last year's form but he's not been at his best.
The Celtics are ripe for the taking here but they should have enough.
Verdict: Celtics in 7
Game 1: Monday, April 15 Indiana at Boston
Game 2: Thursday, April 18 Indiana at Boston
Game 3: Saturday, April 20 Boston at Indiana
Game 4: Monday, April 22 Boston at Indiana
*Game 5: Thursday, April 25 Indiana at Boston
*Game 6: Saturday, April 27 Boston at Indiana
*Game 7: Monday, April 29 Indiana at Boston
(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (8) LA Clippers
I'm not sure many of us expecting the Clippers to be LA's sole representative in this year's playoff but that's where we are. Despite traded Tobias Harris to the Sixers they're still here, although that surely won't be for long.
The Warriors are the most interesting team in the playoffs. It feels like this could be one last hurrah for one of the best teams in the history of the sport.
It looks likely that Kevin Durant may be off in the summer, and they'll have to pay Klay Thompson the max if they want him to stay.
The Warriors have flitted between and looking disinterested this season but don't let that fool you. That was the regular season and now we're reaching the business end I expect we'll see a whitewash.
Verdict: Warriors in 4
Game 1: Sunday, April 14 LA at Golden State
Game 2: Tuesday, April 16 LA at Golden State
Game 3: Friday, April 19 Golden State at LA
Game 4: Monday, April 22 Golden State at LA
*Game 5: Thursday, April 25 LA at Golden State
*Game 6: Saturday, April 27 Golden State at LA
*Game 7: Monday, April 29 LA at Golden State
(2) Denver Nuggets vs. (7) San Antonio Spurs
Denver, or more specifically Nikola Jovic have been a joy to behold this season. The Joker has played lights-out ball and the center is the hipsters choice to win the MVP.
Jovic has a score to settle given the Nuggets only missed playoffs last year on the final day. Denver is always a hard place to go and the Spurs will struggle.
San Antonio don't look like they have in previous years but with DeMar DeRozan they stand a chance and he's another player looking to make up for previous playoff heartbreak, albeit of a different kind.
Denver have exceded expectations everytime they've hit the court this year so I imagine they'll find a way to progress.
Verdict: Nuggets in 6
Game 1: Sunday, April 14 San Antonio at Denver
Game 2: Wednesday, April 17 San Antonio at Denver
Game 3: Friday, April 19 Denver at San Antonio
Game 4: Sunday, April 21 Denver at San Antonio
*Game 5: Wednesday, April 24 San Antonio at Denver
*Game 6: Friday, April 26 Denver at San Antonio
*Game 7: Sunday, April 28 San Antonio at Denver
(3) Portland Trail Blazers vs. (6) Oklahoma City Thunder
You're looking for an upset right? Well this is where it happens. The Trail Blazers are without Jusuf Nurkic after his hideous injury. The center's abscence will create a mismatch which OKC big Steve Adams will expose.
It would be naive to rule out a team featuring Damian Lillard but I can't see him beating Russell Westbrook here.
The Thunder are 4-0 against Portland this season and Westbrook has had the most selfless season in his career as he's given Paul George the platform on which to build an MVP-caliber season.
When all is said and done I think we'll be talking about an exceptional series from Russ and his team. This will be a lot of fun.
Verdict: Thunder in 5
Game 1: Monday, April 15 Oklahoma City at Portland
Game 2: Wednesday, April 17 Oklahoma City at Portland
Game 3: Saturday, April 20 Portland at Oklahoma City
Game 4: Monday, April 22 Portland at Oklahoma City
*Game 5: Wednesday, April 24 Oklahoma City at Portland
*Game 6: Friday, April 26 Portland at Oklahoma City
*Game 7: Sunday, April 28 Oklahoma City at Portland
(4) Houston Rockets vs. (5) Utah Jazz
It may have finished 2-2 in the regular season but I can't see Houston not showing up now we're in the postseason. They have a date with Steph Curry and co, to look forward to.
Utah's defence hasn't looked as dominant as last season, even if they are statistically the best defensive unit in the Western Conference.
The Rockets for their part are surely one of the best #4 seeds in recent years. Having made a mess of the chance to take the second seed over the last few weeks of the regular season.
Oh, and they have James Harden. The reigning MVP looks like he may retain his prize and he's put up some huge numbers throughout the year. If 'The Beard' takes the team upon his shoulders, as he has at times during the Rockets' injury-ravaged season, then they'll dispatch Utah.
Verdict: Rockets in 5
Game 1: Monday, April 15 Utah at Houston
Game 2: Thursday, April 18 Utah at Houston
Game 3: Sunday, April 21 Houston at Utah
Game 4: Tuesday, April 23 Houston at Utah
*Game 5: Thursday, April 25 Utah at Houston
*Game 6: Saturday, April 27 Houston at Utah
*Game 7: Monday, April 29 Utah at Houston