James-led teams have won an wonderful seven straight Eastern Conference titles. The only player the Timberwolves drafted in the year of their last playoff run was Blake Stepp, who never made the National Basketball Association but played at least three times in the World Series of Poker.
"Individually you have great players who haven't had the great fortune of winning championships", he said, "but by and large I don't think it's unfair to put that pressure on winning championships because that is the name of the game: to win championships".
The East No. 1 Toronto Raptors, likely looking at a second-round matchup with the Cavaliers, are +155 to win the first conference title in franchise history. Assuming Embiid plays in this series, it will not be that close. If shooting guard DeMar DeRozan and point guard Kyle Lowry start to heat up and get on a roll, defense could be very hard for the opposing squad.
Should the Heat cause an upset in the first round, their second-round matchup may be less of a challenge, a Celtics team besieged by injury or a Milwaukee Bucks team that doesn't look all that cohesive.
What to watch: Without Irving and Hayward, Boston will lean on veteran forward Al Horford to provide the playoff mentality young stars like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown need to develop. They will be going up against playoff LeBron James though, which nearly certainly spells defeat. That means Milwaukee has the best player on the court by far in Giannis Antetokounmpo. This may be a quick round. Look for both teams to crack triple figures in every game of the series, which Houston will win in five.
Then there is the No.3 Philadelphia 76ers playing against No. 6 seed Miami Heat. Combining his Cleveland and Miami years, James' teams have won 46 of their last 51 first-round games. But because they beat the Jazz three out of four times during the regular season, they should prevail in six games. Cleveland swept IN in the first round past year, and Boston needed seven games to oust Washington IN a thrilling East semifinal series.
Anderson halts Mets win streak on Saturday
With five of their seven wins coming in their final at-bat, Milwaukee has channeled the 1989 Packers with their cardiac nature. The Mets' batters have been led by second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera and third baseman Todd Frazier .
Cleveland had won 14 straight first-round games, last losing on April 22, 2010, the last season of James' first stint with the Cavs.
Nick Kerr works for the San Antonio Spurs - the Warriors' opponent in a Western Conference first round series. The last of those belongs to the 46-36 Denver Nuggets, who missed out on a place in the playoffs after an overtime loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves in a shoot-out for the eighth seed.
The NBA has been stressing better relationships between referees and players for months, and teams do provide some of the feedback that goes into the evaluation process for choosing which officials make the playoffs. But he has piled up the games played and the minutes, and he will run out of gas against this team.
The matchup: This is the Portland team we thought we'd see past year, when they disappointed and missed the playoffs.
And given the way they played on Saturday, they might have sandbagged the entire league. The Portland Trail Blazers have impressed everyone and have been a surprise to many as they have earned the 3-seed. I think the guards will take over this one.
Start with the East pairings: Lowry and the top-seeded Raptors play No. 8 Washington, No. 2 Boston faces No. 7 Milwaukee, No. 3 Philadelphia gets No. 6 Miami and No. 4 Cleveland - with LeBron James bidding for an eighth consecutive appearance in The Finals - opening against No. 5 in, a surprise team at the start of the season and one that isn't a surprise anymore.