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Which staff has the very best probability to tug off a first-round upset?
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Steve Aschburner: I do know, I do know, it’s tempting to look West to the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder, Utah Jazz or LA Clippers for this. In spite of everything, the untested Denver Nuggets — postseason-wise, anyway — can be going through an opponent that finishes nicely above .500. However I’m questioning if Miami may be a fair higher underdog decide in opposition to Milwaukee in the event that they meet within the East’s No. 1-vs-No. eight slot. The Warmth are a tricky out in my view based mostly on their tempo and their protection, particularly opponents’ field-goal share (No. 2 within the NBA). The Bucks are dealing with some accidents now, with Malcolm Brogdon potential to overlook the primary spherical and Nikola Mirotic hurting a hand Tuesday vs. the Lakers. If Giannis Antetokounmpo has to deal with an excessive amount of of the heavy lifting and his perimeter shooters clang by way of a recreation or two, Milwaukee – which has gotten out of the primary spherical simply as soon as in 30 years – would possibly see its marvelous season finish prematurely. You don’t assume Dwyane Wade, Marquette’s best-ever professional, wish to stir the echoes in Milwaukee earlier than he’s performed?
Which staff may make a Cinderella run by way of the 2019 playoffs?
Shaun Powell: We’ve not typically seen the phrases “San Antonio Spurs” and “upset candidate” in the identical sentence for over 20 years, however this yr might qualify. They will most likely end excessive sufficient within the standings to keep away from the Golden State Warriors and maybe get the Denver Nuggets or Houston Rockets, both of whom can be a extra reasonable upset goal. I would not put it previous a staff that may gradual the tempo behind two All-Stars and an all-time nice coach pulling off the sudden.
John Schuhmann: A tricky schedule going ahead might hold the Thunder within the backside half of the West playoff image. However by way of Tuesday, Oklahoma Metropolis has the very best file (14-10) and is tied with Golden State for essentially the most street wins (six) in video games performed between the eight West playoff groups. It could be robust to select the Spurs, as a result of they have been so horrible on the street, the place they’re 1-9 (having allowed greater than 120 factors per 100 possessions) in opposition to the opposite seven playoff groups, with the one win having come in opposition to the eighth-place Clippers. After all, with a comparatively straightforward remaining schedule, the Spurs may transfer as much as fourth and have home-court benefit in a No. Four-vs.-No. 5 matchup. Actually, seven of the eight playoff groups (all besides the Warriors) may lose within the first spherical and 6 of them (all besides the Clippers and Spurs) may attain the convention finals.
Sekou Smith: Primarily based on the place they sit at present, the Utah Jazz are a staff that will trigger the next seed some sleepless playoff nights. They’ve a few of my must-have elements for a playoff-upset candidate: sturdy protection, a game-changing participant on each ends (Rudy Gobert on protection, Donovan Mitchell on offense), a gunslinger able to a depraved playoff run or two (Joe Ingles) and a few high quality postseason expertise (gained within the 2018 run). The Jazz would be an intriguing matchup in opposition to the Nuggets, who nonetheless must show themselves within the playoffs. A decent sequence early would add stress for each side, however particularly for Denver, which flirted with the West’s No. 1 seed at instances in 2018-19. That is speculated to be concerning the staff that might spring the upset, and the Jazz match the invoice for me.