We have had a exciting and eventful 2018-19 NBA regular season that has lead us to even more thrilling run for the 2019 NBA Championship crown. Boston has been everything but consistent during the regular season and lack defensive tenacity without Smart. Before they begin what hopes to be a thrilling finals run, one must take the time to appreciate the transformation this team had to go through to make this possible.
The Bucks, the top seed of the Eastern Conference, went head-to-head against the third-seeded 76ers last week. Denver's rotation guys - other than Paul Millsap - aren't swimming in postseason experience, and the question becomes how equipped they are to handle this stage. By no means is that his fault, but the fact of the matter is Boston doesn't have time to wait for Hayward to be fully healthy.
The Warriors may need to get by scoring champion James Harden and the Rockets, who took them to a seventh game previous year in the conference finals, just to get back to that round this time.
Even the Pacers seem just scrappy enough to fight their way to the final series despite losing their best player, Victor Oladipo. James and the Los Angeles Lakers failed to make the playoffs after an injury stricken and disappointing season.
That series turns out to be the Los Angeles Clippers against the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors, with ABC showcasing that series with a Saturday night telecast of Game 1 and a Sunday afternoon (April 21) showcase of Game 4.
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Story line: Both teams started slowly, then found their best stride - Houston was 11-14 and went 42-15 from there, Utah was 18-20 and went 32-12 from there.
"We've got nothing to lose", Clippers guard Patrick Beverley said. The Pistons' only chance to win one of the first two games in Milwaukee is to get Antetokounmpo into foul trouble by pounding the ball down low with Griffin. That didn't happen past year because of an injury, but Irving will get his chance prove himself this time around. They swept the season series with Detroit 4-0.
Pascal Siakam and D'Angelo are in a two-man race for Most Improved Player. It's safe to say he'll be motivated to prove that he's a legitimate player in the postseason, so we'll see if he can deliver. He scored 50 or more points on nine separate occasions and topped 60 twice as well. Big men Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner averaged 9.3 rebounds and 7.2 rebounds each, helping the Pacers succeed on the defensive end. But too often Embiid has had to sit out games due to injury. No. 2 Toronto draws No. 7 Orlando, with the Magic in the postseason for the first time since 2012. The Sixers are a favorite to claim the East title, but it will be hard to accomplish that feat without their biggest star. However, the Spurs aren't necessarily the right matchup to pull off the upset. Ultimately, the Pacers will need better spacing to complement their paint-dominated style, while the Celtics need to find consistent outside shooting to win. Butler has had a down year statistically, but he can boost his stock with a strong showing in the playoffs. (Time for VSiN's standard disclaimer that you'll usually be better off betting your choice at series prices round-by-round in a "rollover parlay" rather than betting them on the futures board). At the same time, Harden has elevated the Rockets to fourth place in the Western Conference.
But Rivers does have one of the best defensive guards in the National Basketball Association at his disposal in Patrick Beverley, who will likely draw the defensive assignment on Curry. Additionally, 11 of the 16 teams who made the playoffs a year ago have returned for seconds to try and dethrone the Warriors. He's become the most dominant player in the East and will likely win the regular season MVP award after being the best player on the best team.
Golden State are the heavy favourites to lift the Larry O'Brien Trophy again this season, with only two teams having achieved a three-peat in the modern era.