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The 2018 NBA playoffs are off and running with three teams having stolen home-court advantage already.
The sixth-seeded New Orleans Pelicans and fifth-seeded Indiana Pacers claimed Game 1 victories. The sixth-seeded Miami Heat evened their series with the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 2 behind a vintage 28-point, 11-of-16 shooting performance from Dwyane Wade.
The first round is already waging war against hoops fans’ fingernails, as one contest has gone to overtime and four others have been decided by single digits. As clubs get deeper into their series and have more time to scout the opposition, the competition level could get even closer.
With more action coming on a nightly basis, let’s update the brackets, examine the upcoming schedule, identify key dates and spotlight Tuesday’s three-game slate.
2018 NBA Playoff Bracket
No. 1 Toronto Raptors lead No. 8 Washington Wizards 1-0
No. 2 Boston Celtics lead No. 7 Milwaukee Bucks 1-0
No. 3 Philadelphia 76ers and No. 6 Miami Heat tied 1-1
No. 5 Indiana Pacers lead No. 4 Cleveland Cavaliers 1-0
No. 1 Houston Rockets lead No. 8 Minnesota Timberwolves 1-0
No. 2 Golden State Warriors lead No. 7 San Antonio Spurs 2-0
No. 6 New Orleans Pelicans lead No. 3 Portland Trail Blazers 1-0
No. 4 Oklahoma City Thunder lead No. 5 Utah Jazz 1-0
Remaining First-Round Schedule
Tuesday, April 17
Game 2—Washington Wizards at Toronto Raptors, 7 p.m. ET on NBA TV
Game 2—Milwaukee Bucks at Boston Celtics, 8 p.m. ET on TNT
Game 2—New Orleans Pelicans at Portland Trail Blazers, 10:30 p.m. ET
Wednesday, April 18
Game 2—Indiana Pacers at Cleveland Cavaliers, 7 p.m. ET on TNT
Game 2—Utah Jazz at Oklahoma City Thunder, 8 p.m. ET on NBA TV
Game 2—Minnesota Timberwolves at Houston Rockets, 9:30 p.m. ET on TNT
Thursday, April 19
Game 3—Philadelphia 76ers at Miami Heat, 7 p.m. ET on TNT
Game 3—Portland Trail Blazers at New Orleans Pelicans, 9 p.m. ET
Game 3—Golden State Warriors at San Antonio Spurs, 9:30 p.m. ET
Friday, April 20
Game 3—Cleveland Cavaliers at Indiana Pacers, 7 p.m. ET on ESPN
Game 3—Toronto Raptors at Washington Wizards, 8 p.m. ET on ESPN 2
Game 3—Boston Celtics at Milwaukee Bucks, 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
Saturday, April 21
Game 4—Philadelphia 76ers at Miami Heat, 2:30 p.m. ET on TNT
Game 4—Portland Trail Blazers at New Orleans Pelicans, 5 p.m. ET on TNT
Game 3—Houston Rockets at Minnesota Timberwolves, 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
Game 3—Oklahoma City Thunder at Utah Jazz, 10 p.m. ET on ESPN
Sunday, April 22
Game 4—Boston Celtics at Milwaukee Bucks, 1 p.m. ET on ABC
Game 4—Golden State Warriors at San Antonio Spurs, 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC
Game 4—Toronto Raptors at Washington Wizards, 6 p.m. ET on TNT
Game 4—Cleveland Cavaliers at Indiana Pacers, 8:30 p.m. ET on TNT
Monday, April 23
Game 4—Houston Rockets at Minnesota Timberwolves, 8 p.m. ET on TNT
Game 4—Oklahoma City Thunder at Utah Jazz, 10:30 p.m. ET on TNT
Note: Games 5-7 TBD
Round Start Dates
Conference Quarterfinals—April 14-15
Conference Semifinals—April 30-May 1 (possible move up to April 28-29)
Conference Finals—May 15-16 (possible move up to May 13-14)
NBA Finals—May 31
Washington Wizards at Toronto Raptors
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The Raptors didn’t go wire-to-wire in their 114-106 series-opening win, but they did find themselves on the right side of the scoreboard during three of the four quarters. Toronto also shot a higher percentage from the field (53.2 to 47.7) and outside (53.3 to 38.1), with eight players scoring at least nine points.
The victory gave Toronto its first playoff-opening triumph in its last 11 tries.
“It’s out of the way now,” DeMar DeRozan said, per Ian Harrison of the Associated Press (via NBA.com). “Worry about Game 2.”
Getting Game 2 might require getting more from DeRozan and his All-Star backcourt mate, Kyle Lowry. The pair tallied just 28 points on 26 shots in the opener, more than 11 points off their season average (39.2) on nearly the same volume (29.8 shots).
But part of the Raptors’ new approach is lessening the load on its stars by involving the supporting cast more. Consider Game 1 a massive win on that front. Toronto’s reserves totaled 42 points, more than double the 19 they had in last year’s first-round opener.
The Wizards will be looking for more from their own leaders, too. While John Wall and Bradley Beal combined for 42 points, they needed 37 shots to get there. And Washington got next to nothing from its bench, beyond Mike Scott’s 14 points. Take Scott out of the picture, and Wizards reserves managed only seven points in 32 minutes.
Milwaukee Bucks at Boston Celtics
The first iteration of Bucks-Celtics produced the wildest sequence so far.
Regulation finished with a flurry. Malcolm Brogdon, Terry Rozier and Khris Middleton all connected from long distance in the final 11.1 seconds to force the extra session.
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Boston took overtime 14-8 to pick up a 113-107 victory. Al Horford was everywhere (24 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and three blocks). Before fouling out late, so was Giannis Antetokounmpo (35 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and three blocks).
As Basketball-Reference observed, Antetokounmpo’s numbers are seldom seen on this stage by a player this young.
Basketball Reference @bball_ref
Giannis Antetokounmpo is the third player in the last 15 years to have more than 30 points, more than 10 rebounds, and more than 5 assists in a playoff game at age-23 or under.
The problem is Antetokounmpo alone can’t take down the Celtics, even with Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward both out of the action. The hobbled Shamrocks had five different players score at least 19 points, while the Bucks only got that many from Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton.
“I feel like they had some great shots, great opportunities for the most part [Sunday] night,” Middleton said of the supporting cast, per Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Some shots just didn’t go down. … We’ve got great confidence in those guys. We need them.”
Milwaukee desperately needs to get Jabari Parker on track. The former No. 2 pick finished with two points on 1-of-5 shooting and registered a minus-14 in his 15 minutes. Parker, who missed the first half of this season rehabbing his second ACL tear, owns career marks of 17.9 points per 36 minutes and 49 percent field-goal shooting.
New Orleans Pelicans at Portland Trail Blazers
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Anthony Davis had his fingerprints all over his first career playoff victory. The single-browed superstar tallied 35 points, 14 rebounds, four blocks and two steals in the Pelicans’ 97-95 win on Saturday night.
Often a one-man show without the injured DeMarcus Cousins, Davis received just enough support from his starting backcourt. Jrue Holiday had 21 points, and Rajon Rondo added 17 assists and eight rebounds. But it was their defense on Portland’s high-powered backcourt combo of Damian Lillard (18 points on 6-of-23 shooting) and C.J. McCollum (19 on 7-of-18) that had the biggest impact.
“Holiday, as well as Rajon Rondo, Ian Clark, and E’Twaun Moore, put the clamps on Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum on Saturday by disrupting their rhythm and steering them into Anthony Davis, who ate up their shot attempts like he was Kirby,” Kevin O’Connor wrote for The Ringer.
Portland can’t survive another dud from Lillard or McCollum. Portland averaged 105.6 points in the regular season; Lillard and McCollum scored nearly half (48.3). Getting those two going is easily the first order of business for the Blazers.
Second is finding some way to make Davis uncomfortable. He’s going to get his numbers—he was this season’s second-best scorer and seventh-best rebounder—but the key is to make him work. Any dry spells he endures will typically trickle down to the team, since this offense runs through him.
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April 17, 2018 at 07:00AM