At the time of the year where most teams shorten their rotation, Dwane Casey turned to sparingly used third centre Lucas Nogueira early in the fourth quarter of Game 1, making him the 11th different Raptor to see the court. This will be a good tune-up for Cleveland to get their guys figuring out how to play together in time for a second round matchup with the Raptors.
We are a bit overdue for a big playoff upset and the drama of this season could very well translate into many hard-fought series oozing with upset potential.
The Timberwolves outlasted the Denver Nuggets in a thrilling 112-106 overtime victory last Wednesday that determined the eighth seed in the West and earned Minnesota the honor of playing the 65-win Rockets in the first round. Without Irving, Gordon Hayward, and potentially Marcus Smart, there is a chance the Celtics are unable to even make it out of the first round. Still, Terry Rozier has stepped up in the lead guard role.
Superstars are missing, teams are streaking, and the real season is just beginning. All 22 of the experts peg the Rockets to win the series, and a whopping 10 of them think Houston will complete a four-game sweep. I think this actually bodes well for Boston considering what the matchup could've been.
What to watch: The Wizards have some talent, but they have one of the worst net ratings among playoff teams, which measures the offensive and defensive team performance.
Interim coach Joe Prunty would have to lead his team to at least the Conference Finals is he wants to be installed as a permanent head coach.
Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum asserted himself in his playoff debut against the Milwaukee Bucks. Portland may need to make him part of their game plan in Game 2. Or the Greek Freak's supporting cast, arguably better than last year's Bucks that put a scare into Toronto, steps their game up and gives the man some help.
The Sixers crowd roared as Embiid, the self-proclaimed "Phantom of the Process", waved his arms toward the crowd and exhorted them to get louder.
Let me keep this simple, the Pacers have definitely overachieved, winning 6 more games despite the departure of Paul George. I nearly expect them to take a laidback approach to the series, letting some of their banged-up guys get healthy. However, if you were to pick even one game out of Day 2, it more than made up for the lack of competitiveness on Day 1. If Davis isn't on every night, Portland will dispatch New Orleans easily. "Golden State is going to win, because they are simply a super team", Smoldt said. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are both members of the NBA Social Media All-Star team if that existed, and Jusuf Nurkic is just plain nasty in the paint.
Portland has too much firepower especially in the backcourt and with the injury of DeMarcus Cousins, the Trailblazers should emerge the victors in six games. In a victory against the Rockets on January 26, DeMarcus Cousins tore his Achilles tendon, leaving Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday to fend for themselves. Holiday has been especially good.
The regular season ended with a flourish.
But, all that said, someone is inevitably going to win the conference by the end of May, and the amount of uncertainty on every squad will only amp up the level of competition in each series. Would we see "the Warriors" in their full, domineering glory now that the "real season" was starting? I'm as big a fan of Donovan Mitchell as anybody, but don't get in Brodie's way.