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National Basketball Association playoffs preview: Cavaliers Rockets come up short

14 Апреля 2018

The Warriors may not even be the best team in the West. Houston looked to be the superior team throughout the regular season as its revamped roster clicked while Golden State battled with injuries.

"I like Houston and Golden State, pending their health, as being my top two favorites", five-time victor Kobe Bryant said during a conference call to promote his new basketball analysis show "Detail" that will run on ESPN during the postseason. With Joel Embiid out for at least Game 1 - which gives the Heat a chance to steal a game in Philly - the legit feud between Embiid and Hassan Whiteside that figures to explode at some point once Embiid gets back and the suddenly enormous pressure on the Sixers to live up to the expectations they've created for themselves, we have all the makings for a dramatic series. In 2017, the Warriors defeated the Cavaliers in five games.

The Raptors held off the Boston Celtics to clinch the number one seed and their reward is a series against the Wizards.

Antetokounmpo will face great opposition this postseason because the Bucks lack shooters to give him enough space to comfortably work with, and there's really no secondary star on the team who can take some of the burden off of him. By winning on the season's final night to ensure each finished alone in third in their respective conferences, the Trail Blazers and 76ers picked up another $64,842 from the NBA's record $20 million playoff pool this season. Game 3s start Thursday, and all Game 7s - if necessary - would be on April 28 and 29.

The league also said it had set all-time records for total attendance (22,124,559), average attendance (17,987) and sellouts (741) during the 2017-18 season. The future Hall of Famer posted his highest scoring average (27.5) since 2009-'10 while setting career highs in assists (9.1) and rebounds (8.6); all while leading the league in minutes played. While finals duels between the Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are always entertaining, fans of the league often prefer following player's Instagram accounts or pre-game outfits during the regular season, and then only tune in for LeBron James' yearly championship cameo. Harden has yet to prove he can elevate his game in the postseason, but perhaps his special season will continue and break that trend.

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The 76ers routed Milwaukee 130-95 on Wednesday night to wrap up the No. 3 seed on the East bracket, and that meant No. 4 Cleveland will face No. 5 IN when the playoffs open this weekend. This is such a flawless matchup between the up-and-coming Sixers led by two elite rookies, and the veteran-laden but star-hungry Heat.

The Bucks (+7,000) couldn't have drawn a better first-round opponent than the Celtics, at least in one critical area. The league decides its postseason crews based on a process that included everything from study of analytics, ratings filed by teams and coaches, the assessments of retired veteran referees and much more. The latter will have a far bigger impact on the series. When at their best, they're dominating their opposition but can also shrink right before our very eyes, which makes their first-round matchup against the Utah Jazz fascinating because we don't know which Thunder team is going to show up. These two teams are evenly matched and played four closely contested games in the regular season. At the bottom of the list, the Minnesota Timberwolves sit at 8th place, and the Denver Nuggets come in at 9th. Home court advantage in any round does not necessarily belong to the higher-seeded team, but instead to the team with the better regular season record. Bet both props confidently.

Toronto's history of coming up short in the playoffs shouldn't be much of a concern against Washington. Diallo will be making his first National Basketball Association playoff appearance.

The Trail Blazers (+4,000) will need to be at their offensive best to keep up with a New Orleans Pelicans team that averaged almost 112 points per game - and to do so, the Blazers have to fix some truly terrible fourth-quarter, long-range shooting woes.

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National Basketball Association playoffs preview: Cavaliers Rockets come up short