Playoff time: National Basketball Association sets first-round pairings


Season series: Split, 2-2.

Last year's National Basketball Association finals match up between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers was the most watched finals since 1998. Boston isn't the same team that went 55-27 and earned the East's No.2 seed. The Raptors had their best regular season ever, but they were last seen in the postseason getting stomped in four consecutive by James and the Cavs previous year in the second round. With John Wall, the Wizards will win one game but not more than that. At this point, it sounds like it is up to Leonard to determine when he comes back, if he will at all this postseason.

For pretty much the NBA's entire history, there's been little reason to tune in for the playoffs until they got to the finals.

Almost all of the teams are now locked in, but there could be some last-minute shuffling as far as placement after Wednesday, the last day of the regular season.

The Sixers have been a revelation, finishing the regular season with 16 straight victories after riding their talented and dynamic duo of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons to the three seed just two years after going 10-72.

Add in the playoff experience of JJ Redick and Amir Johnson and, with last year's top seeds the Celtics without superstar point guard Kyrie Irving, Brett Brown's team looks well-equipped to pull off further surprises. Along with a sneaky good second-unit that features, Jae Crowder, Royce O'Neale, and Dante Exum, one must like the Jazz's chance of beating the Thunder. They needed overtime to beat the Nuggets and get into the postseason. Oklahoma City won three of four against Utah in the regular season.

The Jazz's popular City Edition court and jerseys will also return for the first playoff home game while red, orange and yellow "Take Note" t-shirts will be distributed to fans in a colorful kaleidoscope on each chair.

Key Matchup: Harden vs. Jimmy Butler.

The Warriors still boast the same core of outstanding players that went all the way to the championship past year, making them the favourites to go back to back this season. And both were right on the cusp of ending their droughts this year; Casspi was waived by Golden State because it needed a roster spot once he hurt his ankle, and Cousins tore his Achilles' to end his season with New Orleans. Even without Kawhi Leonard for majority of the season, the Spurs finished with the fourth best defensive rating in the league and with Curry likely out until the second round of the playoffs, the opportunity for Durant to silence the critics has arrived.

The Manila Times had followed the games through the wonders of electronics media since the season started and prepared a comprehensive study on the playoff matchup-outlook and who's playing who in the East and West that might interest its readers. Antetokounmpo was in the MVP conversation at times this season after setting career highs in points (26.9) and rebounds (8.0) per game.

Yahoo Sports' NBA experts offer their series-by-series predictions for the 2018 NBA playoffs. Rookie of the Year candidate Donovan Mitchell is a big-time scorer, and the Thunder's defense has been unimpressive since Andre Roberson went down for the year with an injury.