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National Basketball Association playoffs preview: Storylines and predictions

14 April, 2018, 13:55 | Author: Joan Malone
  • Minnesota Timberwolves' Jimmy Butler top gets off a pass as Memphis Grizzlies' Dillon Brooks defends

But the lure of facing Whiteside - they simply don't like each other - should get him back out there as soon as possible.

Miami have been steady this term with domineering center Hassan Whiteside the focal point of their starting unit, while veteran former champion Dwyane Wade provides invaluable experience.

The NBA Finals are set to begin on May 31. They will be tested from the outset by an IN team that many thought would be rebuilding this season.

James and the Cavs play IN in the first round this season. A couple of first-round series are expected to be one-sided, but there are only a handful of matchups in which only one team seemingly has a real chance to advance to the conference semifinals. That marks the sport's most-watched regular season since 2013-14, boding well for the Finals. We can pretty much chalk this up to a more competitive regular season after the previous three years saw both the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors dominate the NBA's landscape.

Story line: After rolling to the best record in the league, the Rockets get started toward what they hope could be the first championship for Mike D'Antoni, James Harden and Chris Paul.

The postseason opens Saturday and it's far from a guarantee it ends with a record fourth straight NBA Finals matchup between the Warriors and Cavaliers. And with Jimmy Butler this season, the Wolves have a better offensive rating, defensive rating, more steals per game, convert more points off turnovers, and have a much better overall record.

Since the 1983-84 season, winners of Game 1 have gone on to win the series 79 percent of the time.

The Trail Blazers hit a lull entering the playoffs, losing four of their six games in April, though they rounded off the regular season with a victory against the Utah Jazz.

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Season series: Split, 2-2. However, led by two superstars who are infamously bad in playoff situations, there is no real assurance that Houston will even be able to handle this Minnesota team.

National Basketball Association fans in France and Australia will have more reason to follow the postseason than others with seven players from each country on squad lists, followed by Canada and Spain with four.

Key matchup: Lillard and CJ McCollum vs. Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday. In just his first year in the league, he has drawn comparisons to the likes of James and Magic Johnson, and is sure to be one of the league's premier talents for years to come.

"There was quite a bit at stake", Ellis said of his selection.

Depending on how long Cleveland's postseason lasts, James also has a shot at passing Ray Allen (385) for career postseason 3-pointers; he's 55 shy of taking over the No. 1 spot there.

Second-placed Boston Celtics will take on seventh-placed Milwaukee Bucks without star player Kyrie Irving, the first game of the series at Boston.

Combine that with the weapons they have on offense; which the likes of Derrick Favors, Joe Ingles, Donovan Mitchell and Ricky Rubio. There has been no shortage of drama this year, and that drama will carry right on over into the playoffs.

Prediction: Thunder in 6.

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