With the NBA regular season coming to a close on Wednesday night, the entire NBA playoff bracket is set. Overall, there are six postseason teams that surpassed the 50-win mark. Four teams from the Western conference and two from the Eastern conference.
The Golden State Warriors (73-9) broke the single season record for wins, while the San Antonio Spurs (67-15) claimed the second best record in the NBA. Both teams were the frontrunners from the beginning of the season, and they are heavy favorites to make the Western Conference finals. However, there are some pitfalls along the way.
The Oklahoma City Thunder (55-27) finished the season in third place, two games ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers (53-29). Due to injuries, the Thunder were not a participant in the NBA playoffs last season. This maybe their final chance to make another run to the NBA finals with this cast of characters.
In the East, the Cleveland Cavaliers led the way with a (57-25) record. They earned home court advantage by one game over the Toronto Raptors (56-28). The rest of the conference had a much better showing than last season. All eight playoff teams finished above .500 and there should be plenty of competition in the first round. Last season, three Eastern conference playoff teams finished with a .500 or worse record.
Still, 10 of 16 teams won over 50 games last year compared to only six this year. The Houston Rockets were the only team not to have a winning record in the 2016 postseason. They happen to play the team with the best NBA record ever.
Here are the first round match ups.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers (57-25)
8. Detroit Pistons (44-38)
The Cavaliers are heavy favorites to reach their second straight NBA Finals. If they make it past through the Eastern Conference, LeBron James and company will wind up being the favorite in the finals. It seems farfetched now, but watch how the narrative changes.
The Detroit Pistons are appearing in their first playoff series since 2009. They’ve had regular season success against the Cavaliers, so they’ll come into the postseason with confidence. Could they pose a threat to the defending Eastern conference champions?
2. Toronto Raptors (56-26)
7. Indiana Pacers (45-37)
The Raptors increased their win total by seven games. Now they have to breakthrough and make it to the second round of the NBA Playoffs. The backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have to come up big to move forward.
The Indiana Pacers are back in the playoffs after a one-year hiatus. Paul George came all the way back from a debilitating leg injury to help earn the seventh spot.
3. Miami Heat (48-34)
6. Charlotte Hornets (48-34)
If there’s any team ready to dethrone King James and the Cavaliers, it’s the Miami Heat. Entering the playoffs, they are a trendy pick to make a run to the NBA Finals. Still, the Heat better bring their game against the Hornets.
The Hornets finished in a tie with the Heat but lost home court advantage due to a tiebreaker. Led by Kemba Walker’s 20.9 points per game, the Hornets have six players scoring in double figures.
4. Atlanta Hawks (48-34)
5. Boston Celtics (48-34)
Both of these teams had plans of making it into the second round of the playoffs. Only one will survive the first round. With each team sporting the same record, the Hawks earned the home court advantage in case it goes seven games. The winner will likely have a rematch against the Cavaliers.
1. Golden State Warriors (73-9)
8. Houston Rockets (41-41)
Golden State hasn’t lost two games in a row all season. It’s one of the reasons why they earn the single season NBA record. Stephen Curry led the league in scoring at 30.1 points per game. They’ll be facing their nemesis from last year’s Western Conference finals.
Houston slipped into the eighth spot on the final night of the season. Can they produce the biggest upset in NBA playoff history? James Harden averaged 29 points this season. He’ll be on the prowl for revenge.
2. San Antonio Spurs (67-15)
7. Memphis Grizzlies (42-40)
The Spurs were hanging with the Warriors until the final week of the regular season. Now they have their sights on what could be Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili’s final playoff push.
The Grizzlies have been injury riddled all season, but don’t expect them to not fight in the first round. They are undermanned, but they won’t be undeterred early on.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder (55-27)
6. Dallas Mavericks (42-40)
When it comes down to it, the Thunder want to get through the first round healthy. Then they can concentrate on the highly anticipated match up against the Spurs. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant weren’t part of the last year’s postseason, so they’ll have a lot of energy pent up.
The Mavericks had a strong start to the season. They also had too many injuries to sustain it. Dirk Nowitzki leads the way with over 18 points per game. The Mavericks will need J.J. Barea to be healthy for any chance of an upset.
4. Los Angeles Clippers (53-29)
5. Portland Trailblazers (44-38)
This could be the most intriguing match up of the western conference first round. Chris Paul will be facing his commercial TV son Damian Lillard. The Clippers are as healthy as they’ve been all season with the addition of Blake Griffin back in the lineup.
Meanwhile, the backcourt duo of Lillard and C.J. McCollum averages 45 points per game. They have to play stellar basketball every night to advance into the second round.
The playoffs tip-off on Saturday afternoon. Stay tuned for more postseason information.