First round of National Basketball Association playoffs begins Saturday

The Rockets won 105-99.

Eastern Conference matchups Toronto Raptors (1) vs Washington Wizards (8) - The Raptors have all sorts of pressure on them this postseason, but they couldn't have done much better than facing the fledgling Wizards at the start. After asking a couple of National Basketball Association fans to give their thoughts on a possible 4th match-up, one replied, "I think it will be frightful because it's bad for the National Basketball Association". The Sixers bench is deeper and more talented than Milwaukee's, and if Embiid can get back in the groove in time, it will be tough to guard a Ben Simmons/Embiid pick and roll. They will beat the Bucks 4-2.

Also in the east, Boston's Marcus Morris (2009-11) will have the No. 2-seed Celtics taking on No. 7 Milwaukee.

Finally, in a matchup receiving little attention.

Simmons refusal to even attempt three-pointers consistently is part of what makes him such an intriguing player to watch this postseason. With all the fluctuations in Cleveland's roster.

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"I was amazed that they found a way to remain the joy engine they were for the previous three years of the run". But can the Blazers match up with Pelicans center Anthony Davis? Portland, which had the league's ninth-best defensive rating this season, will have all it can handle with the way Pelicans star Anthony Davis has been playing (a league-leading 30.2 points, 11.9 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game since DeMarcus Cousins' season-ending Achilles injury January 26).

Story line: After rolling to the best record in the league, the Rockets get started toward what they hope could be the first championship for Mike D'Antoni, James Harden and Chris Paul. After the Minnesota Timberwolves escaped a late push by the Denver Nuggets, that forced overtime, the 16-team field was set. This will be Houston's hardest series.

France and Australia lead the way in worldwide representation in these playoffs, with seven players from each nation making it to the second season. The future Hall of Famer posted his highest scoring average (27.5) since 2009-'10 while setting career highs in assists (9.1) and rebounds (8.6); all while leading the league in minutes played. Will this fatigue lead to breakdowns in crunch time? Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Jimmy Butler, who's coming back from an injury, are lights out when they each get hot. This will allow the Rockets to win in 6. However, the first round against the fast-gunning guard combo of the Portland Trail Blazers could prove to be a bit much for a team relying on Rajon Rondo and E'Twaun Moore, among others. Houston will have a tough time with Damian Lillard and Rip City, as they are nearly a poor man's version of the Rockets, but will win in 6 or 7.

The only real surprise here, according to former Cavaliers general manager David Griffin, is that the Warriors dodged such a malaise for as long as they did. This is not good news. The Cavaliers superstar is looking to guide his team to an eighth consecutive NBA Finals, a total no player has approached aside from the mainstays of the Boston Celtics" 1950s and "60s dynasty.

If the Warriors are able to make it past the Spurs without much of a problem, the Warriors would face the victor of the Blazers-Pelicans series in the second round. "We're ready to go". It won't be an easy road to the title, especially against Houston in the Conference Finals, a seven-game classic, but the smart money is on the Warriors busting out of their funk once the stakes are raised. The supporting cast of this Pelicans team has also been better than expected this season.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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