The NBA playoff is set and will begin on Saturday as first round games tip off. The first round is filled with interesting storylines. Here is a preview of each series and some storylines to pay attention to.
(1) Houston Rockets vs. (8) Minnesota Timberwolves
The Rockets have secured the top spot in the Western Conference and will look to turn around their postseason woes as MVP candidate, James Harden attempts to show that he can be the same player in the playoffs that he is in the regular season. The Timberwolves are trying to spoil the Rockets fantastic season during their first playoff appearance since 2004. The Rockets have a chance to handle the Timberwolves with ease, but one can expect the Timberwolves to play with a bit of an edge at home with a fan base behind them that is excited to see their team in postseason play.
(2) Golden State Warriors vs. (7) San Antonio Spurs
Warriors will not be at full strength this series as Steph Curry will miss the first round of the playoffs, but neither will the Spurs as they are expected to be without their star, Kawhi Leonard. The Spurs are hoping that LaMarcus Aldridge can step up this postseason and help them make a run. The Warriors are the defending NBA champs and will be a tough out for the Spurs, even without Curry.
(3) Portland Trailblazers vs. (6) New Orleans Pelicans
These teams split their regular season series with each team winning two games. All of the games were very tight. This series has game seven written all over it with a little sprinkle of excitement with athletic players like Damien Lillard, Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis on the court. This is easily one of the best first-round matchups.
(4) Oklahoma City VS (5) Utah Jazz
Everyone that loves hard, tough and grimy basketball needs to bring their popcorn for this one. These are two of the better defensive teams in the league. This could be the most intriguing matchup in the first round as Westbrook attempts to show he can lead a team to the promise land, Carmelo Anthony makes another appearance in the playoff after some time away, The Thunder is trying to show Paul George he can win a title in Oklahoma City and the Jazz are bringing some heavy hitters as well. This should be a good one.
(1)Toronto Raptors vs. (8) Washington Wizards
The Raptors have had a great season and will look to make a deep run into the playoffs, but should expect some competition from the Wizards. Washington is healthy and is looking to avenge their performance in last year’s playoff which ended in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. This series could ultimately come down to if the Raptors can show up and be the team they have been all season.
(2) Boston Celtics vs. (7) Milwaukee Bucks
What a series this could have been if Kyrie Irving had been on the court to battle it out against the Greek freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Both teams are pretty evenly matched now that the Celtics are without Irving, but this could be one of the better matchups in the first round.
(3) Philadelphia 76ers vs. (6) Miami Heat
The Philadelphia 76ers will have to lean on two guys who have no playoff experience in Ben Simmons and Joel Embid. They are playing a very experienced Heat team that hopes that their experience can help them get around the young guns, but this will not be an easy task. Embid is expected to be out for game 1 and the window is wide open for the Heat to get a win in game 1 on the 76ers home courts.
(4) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (5) Indiana Pacers
There seems to be no bigger storyline in the NBA these days than Lebron James. James is arguably the best player on the planet, but has had some ups and down this seasons. The Cavaliers had to deal with the departure of Kyrie Irving this season and a mid-season reboot as they made some big changes. The Cavs have been to the NBA finals the last three seasons, but the Pacers will try to make it difficult for them in the first round. The Pacers have the odds stack against them with James on the other side but could make some noise this series.