That’s the thing with the three-star model. When it works, it’s a seemingly insurmountable advantage. As The Oklahoman ‘s Berry Tramel put it: “Brooklyn has become Golden State East. The team everyone loves to hate, but mostly unbeatable.”
A fun matchup for the second round will be Thibodeau’s defensive mind against Philly’s combination of size and skill. Look for the Knicks to throw everything available in Embiid’s direction while sparing just enough to make Ben Simmons’ life miserable in the half court.
No. 3 Denver Nuggets vs. No. 6 Portland Trail Blazers
No. 4 Los Angeles Clippers vs. No. 5 Dallas Mavericks
The Clippers do present matchup issues for the Nets, having the ability to throw size, length and strength at each one of their stars. But no matter the opposing defense, Brooklyn can basically bank on getting 75-plus points from its talented trio.
Nearly five years have passed since James named Leonard as the player who defends him best. If James expanded to a five-player list, George would probably make the cut too.
Even if the Nets stars simply take turns running offense, that might be impossible to stop, as Durant, Irving and Harden all ranked in the 87th percentile or higher on isolation plays.
Utah has the NBA’s premier paint protector in Rudy Gobert, but L.A. is built to pull opposing bigs away from the basket.
The Clippers had two cracks at the Nets during the regular season. Both times they fell short, and in each contest, their stars were outscored by their counterparts.
NBA Playoff Bracket nba predictions 2020 bracket 2021 Round
The Jazz can score, but Donovan Mitchell and insert-second-scorer-here won’t match the firepower of Leonard and George. It’s also easier to match L.A.’s stoppers with Utah’s top scorers than the other way around. The Jazz will keep it close, but the Clippers advance.
In that outing, Durant, Harden and Irving combined for 90 points on 64.7 percent shooting, while Leonard and George totaled 59 on 47.9 percent. In the other, Harden and Irving edged Leonard and George 65-63, while Brooklyn’s scoring depth made the difference.
This could be a great series, but our crystal ball has the Nets wrapping it up without needing to go the distance.
The Heat remain a thorn-in-the-side matchup for the Bucks, but Jrue Holiday will become the difference-maker in this series like they hoped he would. The Heat will go all out to stop Giannis Antetokounmpo, but that will leave them vulnerable to big games from Holiday and Khris Middleton. When Miami then shows more attention to Milwaukee’s support players, Giannis will go off as the Bucks exorcise their playoff demons.
This looks like a coin flip, but the Clippers’ superior shooting will be what settles this series.
“I don’t know if this year is gonna be different. I’m not gonna lie to you,” Antetokounmpo told reporters . “It might be the same. Who knows.”
The Suns must have infuriated the basketball gods at some point because a first-round date with LeBron James , Anthony Davis and the defending champion Lakers is downright cruel. Tack on Phoenix’s lack of big-game experience—this will be the playoff debut for the young nucleus—and there are too much factors working against it.
No. 1 Philadelphia 76ers vs. No. 8 Washington Wizards
The Clippers can make a reasonable argument as the Association’s best shooting team. They finished second in true shooting percentage and fifth in field-goal percentage despite attempting the third-fewest shots in the restricted area . They instead buttered their bread with league-leading shooting rates from three and the foul line .
Want to turn the Western Conference playoffs into an absolute cash cow? Start with Chef Curry and King James locking horns in the play-in tournament and finish with the Battle of L.A. crowning a champion.
While Brooklyn’s Big Three barely broke a sweat together , those glimpses were telling. The Nets scored at an astronomic rate of 119.6 points per 100 possessions.
No. 2 Phoenix Suns vs. No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers
The Knicks will fight—Thibs’ teams always do—but Philly went 35-7 with an plus-15.5 net rating when Embiid and Simmons played together. New York doesn’t have an answer for this level of star power.
In three regular-season meetings—all Philly wins—Joel Embiid averaged 30 points on 60.4 percent shooting. He’ll again be the difference here, as Washington has no hope for even containing him. The Wizards will get a game when Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal go off, but otherwise the Sixers won’t really sweat.
Reversing that trend would mean stopping the skid against what Celtics head coach Brad Stevens called “probably the most talented team that’s been assembled since I’ve been in the NBA,” per NESN’s Sean T. McGuire . Antetokounmpo admitted history might repeat itself.
When these teams tangled in last year’s playoffs, the eighth-seeded Blazers had people liking their upset chances against the top-seeded Lakers. A lot of the hype was bubble-based, as Portland had sprinted through the seeding games and won the play-in game, while L.A. sleepwalked through the seeding round.
The Blazers then made those prognosticators seem prescient by winning Game 1 despite a masterful 23-point, 17-rebound, 16-assist triple-double by James. But that was apparently enough to awaken L.A., which went on to win the next four games by at least eight points .
Some might worry Brooklyn didn’t have time to create much chemistry, but those concerns aren’t shared within the locker room.
Back then, the Blazers had no answers for James and Davis, who both averaged more than 27 points on 57-plus percent shooting in the series. One year later, Portland remains without viable solutions.
The Lakers don’t have that luxury. They’ll probably need James to check Leonard or George, and then they’ll hope a combination of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Wesley Matthews and Kyle Kuzma can handle the other. That’s a tough ask, tougher than the Clippers utilizing Morris, Ibaka and Ivica Zubac to help contain Davis.
No. 3 Milwaukee Bucks vs. No. 6 Miami Heat
For now, nba predictions 2020 bracket it seems like a half-dozen or more title hopefuls could realistically get this done. Once the postseason spotlight shines on these clubs, though, it could reveal fatal flaws.
No. 2 Brooklyn Nets vs. No. 7 Boston Celtics
The Hawks seem like the sensible pick. They have more depth and a higher-powered offense, which matters a lot in the modern NBA. But there’s something about these Knicks that make you want to believe.
“I think our experiences with Team USA definitely helped,” Durant told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols . “When you’re in that environment … you really have to check your ego and figure out when you need to use it. You might have to take a step back in order for the team to be good. And I think we all understand that.”
That final point might seem obvious, since Brooklyn has three stars to L.A.’s two, but the Nets were only full-strength for one matchup.
This is an early favorite for the most compelling matchup of the second round. The Bucks were the NBA’s best regular-season team in each of the past two years, but they have failed to translate that to major postseason success.
Julius Randle could shine like in the regular season, when he averaged 37.3 points and 12.3 rebounds per game against Atlanta. Head coach Tom Thibodeau can scheme the ball out of Trae Young’s hands, and Madison Square Garden will be absolutely rocking when New York squeaks out a Game 7 win.
But Brooklyn formed its roster around the idea that no opposing attack will outscore its collection of point-producers four times in seven games. If any offense is up to that task, it probably isn’t the Sixers’ 13th-ranked group.
While there’s more to stopping the Lakers than slowing down James, that’s where a series victory starts for the Clips. Even better, they can squeeze some of those high-intensity defensive minutes out of Morris and Nicolas Batum, keeping their stars fresh to wreak havoc on offense.
No. 4 New York Knicks vs. No. 5 Atlanta Hawks
Embiid will admittedly run wild. He did during the regular season, averaging 31.4 points and 11.3 rebounds across three contests. If Simmons can get downhill, he might find free paths to the basket. Harris could go on a bucket binge at any moment.
The Grizzlies lived to fight another day by knocking off Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors in overtime 117-112 on Friday at Chase Center and now get to face a Jazz team that won 14 more regular-season games, including all three of their head-to-head matchups. Bake in one huge game for Ja Morant, but otherwise, Utah will come out of this series relatively comfortably.
Only a crystal ball knows which teams are built for playoff basketball. Luckily, we have one at our disposal.
That could give an advantage to the Clippers’ stars, but if they just break even with their counterparts, their supporting cast could be the difference. The Clippers have far more shooters, making them less likely to encounter the half-court turbulence that often awaits the Lakers when they can’t attack in transition.
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The Bucks match up reasonably well with the Nets on paper. Holiday can check Irving, Middleton can guard Harden and Antetokounmpo can deal with Durant.
The Lakers, who had this season’s No. 1 defense , have the size and strength to wear out Lillard and McCollum, and between Davis, Andre Drummond, Montrezl Harrell and Marc Gasol , they can come at Nurkic in waves.
The ratings would be through the roof, and the basketball would be even better.
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OK, so it’s really just a series of educated guesses forged from a season’s worth of statistics and film, but that’s enough to break down everything with a round-by-round prediction of the championship race.
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The Nets’ 22nd-ranked defense will be repeatedly run over. Jayson Tatum will average 30-plus points for the series, and Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier will combine for another 40 per night. But none of it will matter, as James Harden , top-ranked offense will make quick work of this Jaylen Brown-less Boston team.
Unstoppable force, meet immovable object.
Even if George and Leonard get to 60-plus, the supporting cast can’t cover the distance. Not when Harris, Green, Griffin and Landry Shamet are helping spin the scoreboard too.
Leonard, George and Marcus Morris Sr. are all lethal from long range and comfortable pulling up from mid-range, so Gobert can’t hang back to meet them at the rim. He also won’t want to leave Serge Ibaka , a career 35.9 percent three-point shooter, unattended away from the basket. Get Gobert out of the paint, and you’ve gone a long way toward minimizing Utah’s greatest strength.
But how on earth can New York’s 22nd-ranked offense deal with Philly’s second-ranked defense ? The Sixers can give Randle all kinds of defensive looks, including Embiid, Tobias Harris and Simmons. The faster the Knicks are forced to counterpunch, the sooner it will be obvious RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley aren’t quite ready to solve postseason puzzles against an elite defense.
The Suns have no answer for James or Davis. They might pick up a victory or two if Chris Paul , Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton time their hot nights just right, and they could win the whole thing if James and Davis aren’t physically right. But you can’t pick against L.A.’s stars this early.
All stats courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted.
That third star also offers protection against injury. The Nets are obviously best at full-strength, but they wouldn’t be doomed by losing one-third of their three-headed monster. The Clippers, along with every other two-starred squad, couldn’t survive with one.
The Nuggets will hide Jamal Murray’s absence as well as they can, is nba live on pc