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Cards in the National Basketball Association: 2018 Playoffs are Here

Cards in the National Basketball Association: 2018 Playoffs are Here

It's fair to say the East is still Lebron's conference but this might be the year where the Toronto Raptors surprise everyone and prevent Lebron from making his eighth straight final appearance. The 87-game schedule marks the most games ESPN has ever aired during the regular season.

Western conference matchups Houston Rockets (1) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (8) - The Rockets dominated the season series against the Timberwolves, but only one of those games (a 126-108 win on February 13) included Minnesota's Jimmy Butler from beginning to end.

A selected group of reporters went to the NBA Philippines office here to get a first-hand look at the said game.

Indiana Pacers - One of those teams no one expected to be here, but Victor Oladipo has turned out into an NBA All-Star when he's not in depressing Orlando or next the consuming Russell Westbrook. History repeats itself, and LeBron is going to dominate this series and will elevate the play of his mediocre supporting cast. I love how hard the Heat play and I firmly believe they can win two games in the series but not four.

Finally, we can't forget that the Sixers don't have to play the Cleveland Cavaliers or the Toronto Raptors in the first two rounds this year. Much like the Eastern Conference, at the end of the day the Warriors are going to end up right back in the finals and ultimately will take care of the Rockets without any issues. It also makes the playoffs much more interesting and strategic.

With Kyrie Irving out, Antetokounmpo is by far the best player in the series and as great as the Celtics are defensively, he should be able to take advantage of mismatches and advance the Bucks to the second round.

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Can the Sixers really carry this hot streak into the playoffs? 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. That seemed to douse any notion that coach Brett Brown would be looking at Fultz as a key rotation player in the postseason. Plus Embiid should be back and ready. New Orleans Pelicans (6) - The Trail Blazers lost seven of their last 12 games, but the regular season finale win over Utah was enough to earn them the No. 3 seed. Mitchell wants to be regarded as the league's best rookie, so what better way to do it than beating a highly regarded OKC team?

They'll play Miami, after the Heat rallied for an overtime win against Toronto. The Rockets two best players, Harden and Paul, have also had notable postseason struggles throughout their careers. The different predictions also keep everyone excited, one reason being a 4th match-up between the Warriors and The Cavaliers. This Rockets team is just that good, despite their flaws. I do think the Thunder could cause some matchup trouble for the Jazz.

The Thunder might be the best-possible draw for the Jazz since it allows defensive stalwart Rudy Gobert to be matched up with a traditional center in Steve Adams rather than a more athletic player who would drag him away from the rim and closer to the perimeter. The Jazz won last year's No.4 vs. No.5 matchup in seven games, and they could have a repeat performance this season. Oklahoma City led the entire league in both points off turnovers (18.7 per game) and second-chance points (14.9); the Thunder also paced the National Basketball Association in offensive rebounding (12.5) and steals (5.0). It won't be easy, but I feel confident their younger players will improve, mature and grow as the series moves on and play effectively.

Maybe the Golden State Warriors, opening the postseason without Stephen Curry or any momentum, won't be the best of the West, where there's a Houston team that can run and gun as well as they do. And unless Kawhi Leonard comes back from the dead to haunt Golden State in round one, Steph Curry is coming back healthy.

The Warriors still boast the same core of outstanding players that went all the way to the championship previous year, making them the favourites to go back to back this season. All eyes will be on Damian Lillard and Anthony Davis, both of whom could finish in the top-five in MVP voting.

Portland can be an extremely deadly on the offensive side of the ball and the Pelicans obviously aren't at full strength due to DeMarcus Cousins's season-ending Achilles injury. Guys like Mirotic, Rondo, and Holiday will be very impactful on this series.

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