Indiana Pacers at Cleveland Cavaliers: The Pacers and Cavaliers will meet in Cleveland for game one of this first round playoff series. LeBron James looks to lead the defending champion Cavaliers back to the NBA Finals. This would be LeBron’s seventh straight trip to the NBA Finals. The Indiana Pacers aren’t as good as they’ve been in past seasons, but they still have superstar Paul George leading the way. George is starting to look like the pre-injury Paul George again, which could give the Cavaliers trouble. LeBron’s teams have beaten the Pacers in multiple playoff series in the past, and shouldn’t have any problems beating this weaker Pacers team. The Cavaliers struggled towards the end of the regular season, so they’ll have to find their rhythm if they want to repeat as champions. This should make for an exciting series.
Milwaukee Bucks at Toronto Raptors: The Bucks and Raptors will meet in Toronto for game one of this first round playoff series. The Raptors are at full strength since the return of Kyle Lowry from his wrist injury. This Raptors team is more dangerous since the additions of Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker at the trade deadline. The Raptors traded for these players to help them during the postseason, so now we’ll see if these moves pay off. The Bucks have been a much better team since the return of Khris Middleton, even though Jabari Parker tore his ACL in the game Middleton returned. With Giannis Antetokounmpo leading the way, the Bucks have enough firepower to challenge any team in the Eastern Conference. Toronto is the favorites in the series, but Milwaukee has enough talent to pull off the upset.
Memphis Grizzlies at San Antonio Spurs: The Grizzlies and Spurs will meet in San Antonio for game one of this first round playoff series. The Grizzlies will likely be without Tony “first team all defense” Allen for the playoffs, so this might be a lopsided series. The Grizzlies still have a lot of playoff experience with Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, and Zach Randolph on the roster, even though their coach David Fizdale doesn’t have any playoff experience. This could be an issue going up against the great Gregg Popovich. The Spurs have a ton of playoff experience too, led by superstar MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard. Both of these teams play a slower style of basketball, which could limit the number of possessions each team gets while keeping the games close. The Spurs are heavy favorites in this series, but they better not underestimate the Grizzlies with all of their playoff experience.
Utah Jazz at Los Angeles Clippers: The Jazz and Clippers will meet in Los Angeles for game one of this first round playoff series. The Jazz and Clippers both underachieved this season largely due to the injuries both teams sustained. Now that both teams are relatively healthy, they should both be playing their best basketball at the most important time. The Jazz are one of the deepest teams in the NBA, but depth isn’t extremely important in the playoffs because starters usually get the bulk of the minutes. But the Jazz had to play a lot of their bench players in crucial minutes during the regular season because of the plethora of injuries their starters sustained. They received valuable experience that should help them during this playoff run. The Clippers also had to overcome a lot of injuries during the season. They were one of the hottest teams in the NBA during the first month of the season and then started to cool off when star players got injured. Now that Blake Griffin and Chris Paul are both healthy, the Clippers have enough firepower to beat any team in the Western Conference. This may be the most exciting and competitive first round series, so winning game one will be crucial for both teams.