Eastern Conference first-round previews, predictions

Prior to the start of a season, team-level futures could include a wager on the minimum number of wins a team will win in that season or whether a team will win its division or conference.

Russell Westbrook and James Harden kept refreshing their records in their own way. One face that Bucks fans might be glad to see is Thon Maker, who was part of the three-way deadline deal that landed Nikola Mirotic in Milwaukee.

San Antonio is in the postseason for a record-tying 22nd consecutive season.

The star guard averaged just under 20 points per game in the series, as the Jazz fell short of advancing to the Western Conference Semifinals. The score remained close between the two teams, but Giannis singlehandedly led the team to victory by scoring 45 points on 22 attempts along with 13 rebounds, six assists and five blocks.

Game 1 in the best-of-seven series is Saturday night at Oracle Arena, where the top-seeded Warriors have home court for the entire postseason - something they didn't have as the Western Conference's No. 2 seed a year ago on the way to a second straight title.

James moved up again. The teams finished 32 attempts beyond the arc for each game. The three-peat was then secured as the Bulls came from 2-0 down in the Conference Finals against the New York Knicks before MVP Charles Barkley and the Phoenix Suns were toppled 4-2 in the Finals, in which Jordan averaged a record 41 points per game.

At the age of 34, James proved that he is still one of the best players on the planet, averaging 27.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 8.3 assists this season.

BEVERLEY'S INFLUENCE: Patrick Beverley missed four games down the stretch and Los Angeles lost all of those. As the top seed, they're clearly the better team, and with three 2019 All-Stars leading the way, this first round will be a disappointment if they aren't able to sweep the LA Clippers. Nearly everyone can agree that there are two front-runners for the award this season: the Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Houston Rockets' James Harden.

Durant came to the Warriors after eight seasons with the Thunder.

The Raptors have a history of choking in the playoffs, but this year seems different.

5 reasons the Milwaukee Bucks can win the National Basketball Association championship: Micah Wimmer over at The Step Back offered up his five reasons for why the Bucks could win it all this season. Everyone has been waiting on them to flip the switch and turn into the contender they're supposed to be. But Beverley takes great pride in being one of the NBA's biggest pests, a super-tough, super-aggressive defender who can, and will, cause problems.

On Sunday, the overall No. 1 seed Bucks face No. 8 Detroit, and No. 4 Boston hosts No. 5 IN in the East.

This season, thanks to the return of Irving and Hayward, Tatum and Hayward had to adjust to different roles and bench stars like Terry Rozier had less opportunity than a year ago.

Many would say that Curry is the better player than Durant, and there's certainly an argument to be made. If Griffin is healthy, he and Drummond are two powerful forces down low. This month's honor marks the fifth time he's won Player of the Month in his career.

This season witnessed the retirement of the jerseys of Chris Bosh and Manu Ginobili.

If Butler wants to set himself apart from the other high-profile free agents this summer, he needs to show that he can carry a team on his back in the playoffs.

24-year-old Antetokounmpo gives even more hope to the city of Milwaukee.

One would be hard-pressed to find anyone that didn't agree Antetokounmpo is an elite player in the National Basketball Association, but he hasn't proven that he's the best - at least not yet. They beat the Pistons four times in the regular season both SU and ATS and now in the playoffs it's going to be a quick series.

Marcus Smart's injury leaves them minus a key defensive cog in the early rounds, but the combative guard should be back if Boston makes it all the way to the NBA Finals.

  • Julie Sanders