National Basketball Association playoffs preview: Who's playing who in the East and West


Think back to the 1998 NBA (National Basketball Association) playoffs when Micheal Jordan made the game-winning mid-range jumper versus the Utah Jazz in the Finals.

The playoffs is the postseason tournament of the world's oldest and biggest professional league. The broadcast network's coverage was up a strong 17 percent, besting TNT (up 13 percent), ESPN (up 4 percent) and NBA TV (relatively steady, improved 1 percent). Their first rivals, the Toronto Raptors, seem to be too much for them, although playoff clashes in the past have proved to be quite close between these two teams.

The Warriors-Spurs game will be followed Saturday by three other openers - Washington-Toronto, Miami-Philadelphia and New Orleans-Portland. The system being proposed would eliminate seeds being fixed to face corresponding seeds. As stated above, all rounds, including the NBA Finals, are in a 2-2-1-1-1 format.

Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum will have to prove this playoffs that they're more than just a regular season team.

With that historical trend as a cutoff, here's a look at the six teams with any conference title hopes. John Wall has played in just four games since January 27, and the Wizards have oddly looked better without the star point guard. That's in line with Cleveland's 5-30 record this season when James has a negative net rating. Season head-to-head, 2-2. Just last week, the Thunder was anxious whether or not they would make the playoffs.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the most exciting players to watch in the East, but he's going to need some major help from the likes of Jabari Parker, who has had an inconsistent year, Eric Bledsoe and Malcolm Brogdon.

At perhaps no other time in the league's history have so many teams gone into the postseason with a real shot at hoisting the trophy at the end of this two-month grind. In 2017, the Warriors defeated the Cavaliers in five games.

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Since Curry's knee injury, the Warriors have lost 10 of their last 16 games without Curry, including a 40-point blow-out loss to the Utah Jazz to end the regular season. With coach Nate McMillan and All-Star guard Victor Oladipo leading the way, the Pacers were a wonderful surprise this season. How insane would a Cav-Warriors second-round matchup be?

For the fourth straight season, overall league attendance broke an all-time record and hit the 22 million mark for the first time. We can pretty much chalk this up to a more competitive regular season after the previous three years saw both the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors dominate the NBA's landscape. San Antonio can't be that team if Leonard isn't on the court, and there's no indication he'll be returning anytime soon. And there would be no better way to do it than with a clean sweep of the Spurs. This figure broke the record of 17,884 that was set past year.

The Trail Blazers (+4,000) will need to be at their offensive best to keep up with a New Orleans Pelicans team that averaged almost 112 points per game - and to do so, the Blazers have to fix some truly terrible fourth-quarter, long-range shooting woes.

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Since Kevin Durant chose to team up with the Golden State Warriors to create the ultimate super team, his character and competitive sprint have both come into question.

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Combine that with the weapons they have on offense; which the likes of Derrick Favors, Joe Ingles, Donovan Mitchell and Ricky Rubio.