Everything You Need to Know About this Weekend of NBA Playoff Hoops

We have 8 games this weekend, and only 2 of the series look like they have been decided already. Get your popcorn ready. Games have been chippy. Fans have been rowdy. This is what playoff basketball is all about!

 

Will the Bucks complete their sweep of the Heat today?


Can Denver take a commanding 3-1 lead over Portland?


Will Philadelphia take a 3-0 lead on the road in Washington?


Are the Jazz legit contenders now that Donovan Mitchell is back? Or can Ja Morant and the Grizzlies take a 2-1 lead after stealing game 1 in Utah?


Are the "underdog" Lakers back to being the Western Conference favorites if they win game 4 in LA?


Is all of Trae Young's trash talking to the Knicks going to be worth it if they can take a 3-1 lead over the Knicks?


Boston won game 3 at home behind 50 points from Jayson Tatum, can he repeat that and even the series with the Nets?


Will the Clippers steal both home games from the Mavs and even it at 2-2 in the most entertaining series of the first round? Or will Luka make some more magic to take a 3-1 lead?

 

If you want to see our A.I.'s picks for these games click here. We have a $24.99 deal for the rest of the playoffs!

 

Saturday's Games (for full stats, videos, and more visit https://www.espn.com/nba/)


Bucks @ Heat (3-0 MIL)


This one is all but wrapped up. Miami just didn't have it this year. Unless some miraculous switch is flipped and they win game 4 today, they will still have to attempt to be the first team ever to come back from a 3-0 deficit. They have the talent to do it but against Giannis and co. it will be a daunting task. Milwaukee's addition of Jrue Holiday looks to have really changed the playoff mindset of their team. Donta DiVincenzo looks like he is going to miss some time with injury which may hurt them in the later rounds. Expect Milwaukee to finish this one up today after winning game 3 113-84.


Nuggets @ Blazers (2-1 DEN)



This series is so fascinating. Damian Lillard and Nikola Jokic are both putting their teams on their back. With Jamal Murray hurt you would have assumed that Portland would have the edge in supporting cast, but it seems to be the other way around. Nuggets players are stepping up, like Austin Rivers in game 3. Other than Carmelo Anthony the Blazers role players have been pretty average. They are going to need to help Dame out if they want to even the series today. Portland has decided to limit Jokic's passing skills and make him more of a scorer, but it doesn't seem to have been effective. Look for them to possibly change their defensive strategy in a must-win game.


76ers @ Wizards (2-0 PHI)


After a tight game 1, Philadelphia's stars got to rest up in game 2 where they won by 25 points. Embiid and Simmons both played less than 30 minutes the other night, which should have them well rested for game 3. The Wizards need to give Bradley Beal some help. Westbrook does what he does but he is questionable for tonight's game. If Russ is out it is hard to see Washington even coming close to a victory. This is their first home playoff game in awhile, so hopefully Westbrook can play and they can use that home-court advantage. Will it be enough to overpower the 1-seed 76ers? They will need a hell of a performance.


Jazz @ Grizzlies (1-1)


What Ja Morant did in game 2 was one of the most impressive performances we have seen from a point guard in the playoffs. He finished with 47 points on 15-26 shooting and 7 assists. But the Grizzlies lost and were never really in the game after being down 20 at halftime. The only difference in game 1 and 2 for Utah was the return of Donovan Mitchell. He had 25 points in his return from injury in game 2, leading the Jazz to victory. Memphis will have to adjust to Mitchell being back, and with one of the best home crowds in the NBA behind them, they might be able to win one of these home games. The beauty of this Grizzlies team is they aren't afraid of anyone. If they can win game 3 the pressure will be transferred over to Utah, who doesn't want to be upset in the first round as a 1-seed.

 

Sunday's Games


Knicks @ Hawks (2-1 ATL)


Probably the second-most entertaining series going on in round 1 is between New York and Atlanta. 2 teams with opposite play styles, and opposite stars. It can't get much more different than Julius Randle and Trae Young. Young has been playing great basketball and he has been letting everyone hear about it. Draymond Green tweeted this the other night after Young's game winner in game 1:

Julius Randle is going to need to pick up his play if the Knicks are going to even the series at 2. Derrick Rose has picked up his slack on the offensive end, attacking Trae Young whenever he can. If Atlanta can shoot the 3-ball as well as they did in game 3 there isn't much the Knicks can do.


Suns @ Lakers (2-1 LAL)


Every year we have the some storyline. Chris Paul gets hurt in the playoffs and Lebron looks like he is on his way to another NBA Finals. If not for Paul getting injured the Lakers might be more worried. But not having to deal with one of the best point guards of all time is a big game changer. Lebron and Anthony Davis are getting back into their playoff form of last year, which is scary for the rest of the league. Are we just on the inevitable track to seeing the Lakers and Nets in the Finals? Or will Devin Booker be able to put together a special performance and upset the reigning champs? He will need to have the games of his life for Phoenix to win this series without CP3 at full strength.


Nets @ Celtics (2-1 BKN)


No one thought the Celtics had a chance in this series. After losing the first 2 games by double digits Boston bounced back with a 125-119 victory in game 3. Kyrie finally made his return to Boston and only scored 16 points in the loss. Jayson Tatum went nuclear scoring 50 points again, it seems like he does this often now? As a team Boston shot over 50% from the field and over 40% from 3. That might not be sustainable for an entire series, but the Nets better figure out how to stop Tatum.


Clippers @ Mavericks (2-1 DAL)


This has been the best series of the first round. A rematch from last year's playoffs when Dallas was without Kristaps Porzingis and still took the Clippers to 6 games. The Clippers took game 3 in Dallas after losing the first 2 games at home. In a game where they were down 30-11 early they found a way to chip away and come all the way back. The only issue was even in their win, they could not stop Luka Doncic. The kid is arguably the best player in the NBA right now, and that might sound crazy but look at the film and the numbers. These are his stat lines from the 3 games this series, going against 2 of the best wing defenders in the NBA in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George: 31/11/10, 39/7/7, 44/9/9. If the Clippers want to win this series they are going to have to do something about Luka. They can't hope that Porzingis, Hardaway Jr., and Finney-Smith are going to shoot a combined 10-34 from the field. If they even shot 40% combined the Mavs win that game. It will be exciting to see adjustments made on each side. But this series has had flagrants, technicals, posters, ankle-breakers, it has been so fun. If you're only going to watch one game this weekend it has to be this one.


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