Kevin C. Cox / Associated Press
NBA play-offs are scheduled to start within four days, and 15 of the 16 field teams have been settled.
The final point will go to the Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers and Phoenix Suns, who will be taking part in a play-in tournament to place the eighth and final seed of the Western Conference. Memphis will play Portland if the Trail Blazers beat the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday or Phoenix if they lose the Trail Blazers.
The winner of the play-off tournament will face four-time NBA MVP LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, who own the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
The reign of the NBA MVP (and likely to back the MVP) Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milks Bucks lead the East. They are one point ahead of defending NBA champion Toronto Raptors, who finished second despite losing the top scorer and reigning in the NBA MVP Kawhi Leonard final at the Los Angeles Clippers in free agency.
Speaking of Leonard Clips, they sit in second place in the West and could create a battle in Los Angeles for the right to advance to the NBA Finals.
At this point, however, it is far away. A play-in tournament and several rounds after the season should take place in advance.
Here’s a look at what we know about the NBA playoff schedule so far, along with quick previews and selections for the league’s top team from record win-loss at the Bucks and defending champions at the Raps.
NBA playoff schedule dates
August 15: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Phoenix Suns or Portland Trail Blazers, 2:30 pm ET on ABC
August 16: Memphis vs. Grizzlies Phoenix Suns or Blazers Portland Trail, 4:30 pm ET on ESPN (if required)
August 17: First round beginning
August 31: Targeted start date of the conference semifinals
September 15: Conclusion of the Conference target start date
September 30: NBA Finals target start date
October 13: NBA Finals Game 7 (if required)
Eastern Conference matches
1. Milwaukee Bucks vs 8. Orlando Magic
2. Toronto Raptors vs 7. Brooklyn Nets
3. Boston Celtics vs 6. Philadelphia 76ers
4 or 5. Miami Heat vs. 4 or 5. Indiana Pacers
Western Conference Matches
1. Los Angeles Lakers vs 8. Portland Trail Blazers / Phoenix Suns / Memphis Grizzlies
2. Los Angeles Clippers vs 7. Dallas Mavericks
3. Denver Nuggets vs 6. Utah Jazz
4 or 5. Rockets Houston vs 4 or 5. Oklahoma City Thunder
First Round Program
The Quartet will take place on Monday and Tuesday, with games taking place at 1:30 p.m., 4 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. ET.
2020 2020 First Round Program #NBAPlayoffs off NBA Games start on Monday, August 17 with all day and night games! Full program: https://t.co/m6M3b8qUDf https://t.co/jcheJ5HSni
ESPN will televise Monday’s games and TNT will do the same on Tuesday.
ESPN, TNT, ABC and NBATV will televise the offspring. ESPN will handle the Eastern Conference finals, and TNT will do the same for the Western Conference finals. ABC will broadcast the NBA Finals.
Opt for the top contenders in the East
1. Milwaukee Bucks vs 8. Orlando Magic
The Milwaukee Bucks were once 52-8, but will enter the playoffs with a 56-17 record.
Is it cause for the following concern? It may be as the other Eastern Conference teams have played much better leading to the offspring.
But it should not be an issue against Orlando Magic, who made the play-off despite being eight games below .500.
The big man with a star, Nikola Vucevic has to win the battle with the big man of the Bucks Brook Lopez, and guards Evan Fournier and Terence Ross can get hot from the three-point range and help the Magic Breaker keep the pace.
But no one in Magic (or league) has an answer to the controversy of the greatest game talent in Antetokounmpo, which is a nightmare union. The same goes for Lopez, who may not be as skilled as Vucevic, but can hit three deep pointers and block shooting on trails.
Add in the All-Star wing Khris Middleton and a bunch of tough guards who shine in defense, including Eric Bledsoe and Donte DiVincenzo, and you have a team that shouldn’t have too many issues in Round 1.
Orlando’s X-factor to change that story is Aaron Gordon, who should rise as the team’s secondary goal scorer after Vucevic. At his best, Gordon can score points, grab a ton of boards and fly up and down the court for dunks of deflating against the opponent. If that Gordon shows up in the play-offs, then Magic may have the chance to steal a game or two, especially considering there is no real home court advantage at Disney World.
The assumption here is that Orlando will be good enough to win a game against a lethargic Bucks squad, just as the Magic won a race against eventual champion Raps in their first-round series last year. But Giannis and the Bucks are just too strong and have to win the series no more than five games.
Pick: Dollars at 5
2. Toronto Raptors vs Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn networks are 5-2 on the NBA campus despite losing a host of talent including top scorer Kyrie Irving, second-tier top scorer Spencer Dinwiddie, great man DeAndre Jordan and others. The Networks restored their bubble list, and led by interim coach Jacque Vaughn, it all came together as Brooklyn beat several top teams, including the Bucks and Clippers.
The assumption here is that it is not a flow.
Networks defeated the Lakers on the road in their last game before the league was suspended for more than four months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sure, that team had Dinwiddie, Jordan and others who did not make it to Florida, but this team clearly plays for Vaughn, who is getting everything off his roster as he shines in the face of insurmountable odds.
The point the nets have is that they can face the best league team in the Raptors, who are well rounded, deep, battle-tested and capable.
They just have no weaknesses, and are strong on both ends. They make a tight rotation, but the players at the back of the bench have played with the stars occasionally, like when Chris Boucher threw a random 25-point, 11-point line against the Bucks in the bubble.
Toronto should take the series, but it will not be easy. Look for Networks to get a pair of games and make it interesting. After all, it will be impossible for the nets to do anything but make Vaughn their full-time coach.
Pick: The kidnappers in 6