2021 NBA Playoffs Hub

Welcome to the Baseline Times 2021 NBA Playoffs Hub! Your go-to for all of the 2021 NBA Playoffs schedule, scores, and more from our dedicated NBA team here at Baseline Times.

The 2021 NBA Playoffs tip-off on May 22, 2021. The Play-in Tournament will run from May 18th – May 21st, 2021.

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Projected Team USA Olympic Basketball Men’s Depth Chart 2021 (2020)

Updated Final Roster:

NameTeam
Bam AdebayoMiami Heat
Devin BookerPhoenix Suns
Kevin DurantBrooklyn Nets
Jerami GrantDetroit Pistons
Draymond GreenGolden State Warriors
Jrue HolidayMilwaukee Bucks
Keldon JohnsonSan Antonio Spurs
Zach LaVineChicago Bulls
Damian LillardPortland Trail Blazers
JaVale McGeeDenver Nuggets
Khris MiddletonMilwaukee Bucks
Jayson TatumBoston Celtics

The below article was written prior to the Olympic MBB team selection.


Alright, alright, let’s cut to the chase. You’re here to see who’ll be on Team USA men’s basketball roster for this upcoming Olympics. Maybe your NBA team is out of the playoffs, maybe it’s not looking good for them, or maybe you’re just a fan of seeing big-bad Team USA beat up on the little guy (if so, you probably are also a big fan of Cobra-Kai, Regina George, and Draco Malfoy). Team USA released 57 finalists in March but that is nowhere near specific enough as only 12 will make the final roster. We, of course, can’t just take the 12 best American players either because a number of guys will opt out due to injuries, age/recovery, other commitments, etc. Given all that, what will the final 12 man squad look like?

Team USA Depth Chart

Committed and established superstars will probably get the start even though they likely won’t play big minutes. Thus, the starting five will likely look something like this:

  1. Dame
  2. Beal
  3. Tatum
  4. KD
  5. Bam

In which case the depth chart would loosely be:

#StarterDepthDepth
1DameHoliday
2BealBookerLavine
3TatumMiddleton
4KDGrant
5BamDraymondLove
Team USA Projected Depth Chart

Note the rest of this article was written in early June, but players who’ve committed or declined are updated with sources.

Guards

The guards are very offensively focused, but the bigs will cure a lot of their defensive deficiencies. And who are we kidding? This is the Olympics… we want to see dudes drop an alley-oop on some dude from Lichtenstein (or in the case of these guards pull up from half court). Curry is the elder statesmen of this group at 33 years old but he does not have an Olympic Gold under his belt. The Warriors also did not make the NBA Playoffs this year after losing the play-in tournament. Seems like the time is ripe for Chef Curry to stir the international pot. Dame is similarly on the older side but also does not yet have an Olympic Gold. Mitchell is a young gun who’ll likely jump at the chance to play as long as he’s healthy and he was on the 2019 World Cup team. He could get booted if Kyrie decides to play but he’s already got a gold medal and the Nets look likely to play in the Finals.

Wings

Kawhi has been suffering from injury and has not officially committed, but he has already stated that his plan is to play in the Olympics this year. And it is looking more and more likely that his Clippers will make an early exit from the playoffs so he will have time enough to rest and rehab prior to the start of the Olympics. The rest of this group has no Olympic experience either and likely will not make deep runs in the NBA playoffs (aside from perhaps Booker). The Celtic’s Jaylen Brown would have made the cut here but he’ll be rehabbing a torn ligament in his left wrist.

Bigs

Drummond has a chance to make the NBA Finals so he could opt out. However, he’s young enough that he could play both and he left the 2016 Olympic running amid some uncertainty after playing on the 2014 World Cup squad. Something tells me that he has not scratched the Olympic itch quite yet. Zion and Bam are no brainers here. Turner is a great defensive addition and was also on the 2019 World Cup team so it seems he’d be inclined to play.

Team USA Make-Up

The above roster would have an average age of 25.9, probably below any other USA Olympic basketball team since they started playing NBA players with the original Dream Team. (I’m not really sure, I didn’t bother to look up all of the ages). The team would also have no Olympic experience but they will have two of the more seasoned point guards alive in Steph and Dame. I don’t think that the rest really matters when the talent gap between them and the rest of the world is so large. This would be a fun squad for Coach Pop to mold with the mix of the youth and would be able to shoot the lights out of the gym. This could go down as the best shooting Olympic squad of all time.

I’m sure that the final Team USA roster will not look exactly like this. One or two of the old-guard like Harden, Durant, Butler, PG13, or Kyrie will probably opt into playing. One or two of the projected guys will probably opt out due to a deep playoff run, injury, recovery, etc. Guys like Steph and Dame who are older but have never played in the Olympics maybe just don’t want to?

This is, of course, Team USA we’re talking about here. They could go big or small if they have too. For pure small-ball point barrage Beal could easily get the start at the two and KD could push to the five. They can really do whatever they want. We will find out how this all shakes out by late July!


2021 NBA Playoffs: East Conference Semifinals – (2) Brooklyn Nets vs (3) Milwaukee Bucks

Tonight’s staff picks

East First Round: (2) Brooklyn Nets vs (3) Milwaukee Bucks – Series preview

(2) Brooklyn Nets

 The Brooklyn Nets are coming off a first-round series victory against the Boston Celtics. They defeated the Celtics in a five-game gentleman’s sweep. They dominated the Celtics for four games offensively and defensively. With Boston losing some of their key players including Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker to injury, Brooklyn was able to take complete advantage.

The Nets now look to take their winning ways into the next series against the Milwaukee Bucks. Brooklyn lost the season series 2-1, but the playoffs are much different than the regular season. Brooklyn looks to take advantage of Milwaukee offensively with their big three of Durant, Harden, and Irving. In order to win this series they must step up their defense and they must also make sure their role players get into a rhythm early and often.

Their defense is something that they have not been great at this season because they are typically able to out-talent most teams. Defense is going to be very important in stopping one of the best players in the NBA with Giannis Antetokounmpo. They must also make sure that their shooters including Joe Harris and Landry Shamet get their rhythm going. This will open the floor for the Nets’ big three to dominate.

This series will come down to whether Brooklyn’s offensive weapons will overwhelm the Bucks. The Bucks are more of an experienced team than Brooklyn is. The Nets have had to come together on the fly. Harden, Irving, and Durant have only played eight regular-season games together because of injury and rest. This series will prove whether the team concept or overall offensive talent will win out.   

(3) Milwaukee Bucks

The Milwaukee Bucks are coming off a dominant first-round series sweep against the hapless Miami Heat. The Bucks lost their 2nd round series matchup against the Heat in the 2020 playoffs. They showed how new and improved their team is by dominating the Heat. No game in their four-game sweep was close. They are not taking on a star-studded Brooklyn Nets team that was excellent in the regular season despite not having their three best players playing in the lineup for the majority of the season.

Milwaukee took the regular-season series against the Nets 2-1. All three matchups were closely contested games. The largest margin for victory was just six points. In order for Milwaukee to come out of this series victorious, the core players of Jrue Holiday, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Brook Lopez must continue their stellar play. In order to beat Brooklyn, they must force them to play hard defense which is something that they are not known for. For Milwaukee, this series will come down to whether they can weather the storm from the big three and ice out Brooklyn’s supporting class.

Players like Joe Harris and Jeff Green cannot get a rhythm. As good as Brooklyn’s big three are, they cannot win this series on their own. Giannis Antetokounmpo must also continue to prove that he is more than a regular-season wonder. In last year’s playoffs, the Miami Heat defense was able to figure him out. He was able to flip the script this year with his dominance over that same Heat team. The Bucks will go as far as Giannis will take them.

Preview by Baseline Times Intern – Adam Kinberg

Top players to watch

Kevin Durant – First Round vs Boston

  • 32.6 PPG
  • 7.4 RPG
  • 3.0 APG

Giannis Antetokounmpo – First Round vs Miami

  • 23.5 PPG
  • 15.0 RPG
  • 7.8 APG

Schedule and Results

Game

Away

Home

Date

Time

TV

Results

Game 1:
BKN leads series 1-0

6/05/21

7:30 PM ET

TNT

Bucks - 107
Nets - 115

Game 2:
BKN leads series 2-0

6/07/21

7:30 PM ET

TNT

Bucks - 86
Nets - 125

Game 3:
BKN leads series 2-1

6/10/21

7:30 PM ET

ESPN

Nets - 83
Bucks - 86

Game 4:
Series tied 2-2

6/13/21

3:00 PM ET

ABC

Nets - 96
Bucks - 107

Game 5:
BKN leads series 3-2

6/15/21

8:30 PM ET

TNT

Bucks - 108
Nets - 114

Game 6:
Series tied 3-3

6/17/21

8:30 PM ET

ESPN

Nets - 89
Bucks - 104

Game 7:
MIL wins series 4-3

6/19/21

8:30 PM ET

TNT

Bucks - 115
Nets - 111

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2021 NBA Playoffs: East Conference Semifinals – (1) Philadelphia 76ers vs (5) Atlanta Hawks

East Conference Semifinals: (1) Philadelphia 76ers vs (5) Atlanta Hawks – Series preview

(1) Philadelphia 76ers

 The 76ers came in with arguably the most favorable path to get to the Finals. A first-round series against the Washington Wizards shouldn’t have been a hassle. It wasn’t a hassle as the 76ers locked up the series in five games. However, learning after Game 4 Joel Embiid suffered a partially torn meniscus. He also did not play in Game 5 but obviously not missed.

As of Game 1, he is in the starting line-up and what is yet to be determined is how long can he long with the injury but most importantly how well can Embiid be an impact. Obviously, the Hawks defense will still have their hands full if Embiid isn’t impacted greatly. It still does give an opportunity for the Hawks to feel how mobile Embiid is and adjust accordingly, however.

The 76ers also arguably could be referenced as the BEST defensive team in the NBA this season as they rated top 5 for most of the season. Ben Simmons will have the task of slowing down Trae Young and who else better to do it than the potential Defensive Player of the Year?

The biggest plus here that Philly presents is they are very good defensively but they do not have an issue scoring the basketball like the Knicks. The Hawks will be facing better talent in Tobias Harris, Seth Curry, and Danny Green all shooters who shot 48-percent or better respectively against the Wizards last series. Dwight Howard is also a better defensive player on the interior to combat Clint Capela. 

(5) Atlanta Hawks

The final bow was Trae Young’s best act yet? Well, there is more to come as the lower seed of the 4th and 5th seed survived to the Conference Semifinals. After a 4-1 series win against the New York Knicks, the Hawks also got better news that Joel Embiid isn’t fully healthy.

The biggest boost of confidence for the Hawks is that not only was Young coming alive with this offensive flurry of scoring but Bogdan Bogdanovic and John Collins both seem to be the beneficiaries of the defense focusing on Young. Bogdanovic averaged 14.4 points per game against the Knicks while Collins averaged 12.2 points per game.

The likelihood of the Hawks winning this series will fall on how well Embiid is of an impact truthfully. Should Embiid see limited minutes I’d imagine this is a good chance for the Hawks to attack the paint and allow Trae Young to work from inside out to his shooters like Bogdanovic and Collins. Bench scoring for Atlanta will be key as Danilo Gallinari and Kevin Huerter saw most of the minutes from the Hawks bench against the Knicks. Again, two guys who can shoot from long range.

The promising bright spot for Atlanta and their defense is De’Andre Hunter. However, Hunter has a knee injury and will not play in Game 1. At 6’8 he’s Atlanta’s best option to try and combat a Ben Simmons who is listed at 6’11. Some key injuries for both teams could decide how this series plays out however, Atlanta overall at a disadvantage defensively.

Top players to watch

Joel Embiid – First Round vs Washington

  • 24.0 PPG
  • 6.8 RPG
  • 2.5 APG

Trae Young – First Round vs New York

  • 29.2 PPG
  • 2.8 RPG
  • 9.8 APG

Where should the money go?

Schedule and Results

Game

Away

Home

Date

Time

TV

Results

Game 1:
ATL leads series 1-0

6/06/21

1:00 PM ET

ABC

Hawks - 128
76ers - 124

Game 2:
Series tied 1-1

6/08/21

7:30 PM ET

TNT

Hawks - 102
76ers - 118

Game 3:
PHI leads series 2-1

6/11/21

7:30 PM ET

ESPN

76ers - 127
Hawks - 111

Game 4:
Series tied 2-2

6/14/21

7:30 PM ET

TNT

76ers - 100
Hawks - 103

Game 5:
ATL leads series 3-2


6/16/21

7:30 PM ET

TNT

Hawks - 109
76ers - 106

Game 6:
Series tied 3-3

6/18/21

7:30 PM ET

ESPN

76ers - 104
Hawks - 99

Game 7:
ATL wins series 4-3

6/20/21

8:00 PM ET

TNT

Hawks - 103
76ers - 96

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2021 NBA Playoffs: West Conference Semifinals – (2) Phoenix Suns vs (3) Denver Nuggets

West Conference Semifinals: (2) Phoenix Suns vs (3) Denver Nuggets – Series preview

(2) Phoenix Suns

Well despite being called an “underdog” as the 2nd seed in the Western Conference and having to hear that the Lakers are poised for a strong championship defensive run the Suns are here. Devin Booker who should be considered Phoenix’s best player is a huge reason why. Defensively, the Suns got a break in not having to see Anthony Davis for a game and a half. However, credit is due where it is deserved because the Suns defense seems to be peaking at the right time.

Chris Paul the motor of the Suns and Booker is the star ready to excel his team to the next level. On the defensive side for Denver, there is a little bit better size in Michael Porter Jr. and Aaron Gordon to defend Booker. I’d imagine that JaMychal Green and if Michael Malone needs Shaquille Harrison are deep into the bench for additional reinforcements. However, I’m riding with the hot hand here and trusting that Booker has learned a thing or two now that he’s won a playoff series. Still advantage Phoenix that Booker isn’t done.

Where the Suns might struggle is obviously defending Nikola Jokic. In Denver’s first-round series against Portland, Jokic changed his game slightly to be more of a scorer. In six games he averaged 33 points a game while only averaging 4.5 assists per game. His regular-season averages were 26.4 points per game and 8.3 assists per game. This might not even mean anything but the fact that if Phoenix decides to double team Jokic, he’s already kind of a good passer? DeAndre Ayton could make a huge case here should he be able to go down the line of the West’s best big men and defeat them.

(3) Denver Nuggets

Now if you really have been following along with my previews I think I hit the nail on the head here. First, the Nuggets needed much support from their backcourt of Monte Morris, Facundo Campazzo, and Austin Rivers. Now, I did say that Rivers would be an underrated pick-up in that Denver-Portland preview. Sure enough, hitting clutch shots and having veteran IQ on defending Damian Lillard.

Second, I also have mentioned that to me Jamal Murray is a great player I really like. BUT I think his game isn’t too hard to replace as a scoring guard. Monte Morris comes into this series and averages 15.3 points per game, 5.8 assists per game, and shooting the ball 44-percent from the field this Playoffs. Now that’s no way in hell close to Jamal Murray’s playoffs series last year against the Jazz in the first round. However, in Game 6 Morris’ 22 points, 9 assists, and 50-percent shooting from the field was a key part of closing out the series. I like to see signs of how teams and certain players react to close out games. If Morris is that motivated he’s going to need to take that up a notch with Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Cameron Payne, and Mikal Bridges on the other end. Another big challenge against another big star in the Western Conference.

Lastly, I think the Nuggets adjust so well to the loss of Murray and understand with a playmaker like Jokic they’ll have to work a little harder on offense. However, it’s a game of sharing the wealth for them. Against Portland, Michael Porter Jr. averaged 18.8 points per game, Aaron Gordon averaged 12.5 points per game, and Austin Rivers averaged 11.5 points per game playing more than Campazzo in the series. Denver’s success in this series relies heavily upon how their backcourt will combat Booker and Paul’s attempts to blow open the scoring punch from themselves or assisting others.

Top players to watch

Devin Booker – First Round vs Los Angeles Lakers

  • 29.7 PPG
  • 6.2 RPG
  • 5.0 APG

Nikola Jokic – First Round vs Portland

  • 33.0 PPG
  • 10.5 RPG
  • 4.5 APG

Where should the money go?

DENVER IN 6 for me. I may be slightly salty that the Suns put an end to maybe another historic LeBron James playoff run but I’m here for this series. This should be one of the most entertaining series in terms of passing and hopefully shooting. Both teams have solid three-point shooters and arguably top 3 of the 5 best playmakers actively in the NBA right now (Jokic & Paul).

The interesting part here is that the chess match of a series could boil down to a few scenarios. Both teams could play to their defensive strengths and really make this series a chess match. How well does Ayton adapt to playing more on the perimeter against Jokic? Unless you plan to throw Cameron Johnson or Dario Saric at him. The strategic playmaking skills of Nikola Jokic and Chris Paul combined with role players thriving is a series that could also end up in high-scoring affairs. I’d take anything over 218 or more for this series.

I have a hard time imagining that the Nuggets will drop one by 30 points like the Los Angeles Lakers did against Phoenix in the first round. For the most part, these games should be closer in terms of the spread. Phoenix seems to have no problem often covering any favorable spread of 6 or more points.

Schedule and Results

Game

Away

Home

Date

Time

TV

Results

Game 1:

PHX leads series 1-0

6/07

10:00 PM ET

TNT

Nuggets - 105

Suns -122

Game 2:

PHX leads series 2-0

6/09

9:30 PM ET

TNT

Nuggets - 98 Suns - 123

Game 3:
PHX leads series 3-0

6/11

10:00 PM ET

ESPN

Suns - 113
Nuggets - 102


Game 4:
PHX wins series 4-0

6/13

8:00 PM ET

TNT

Suns - 125
Nuggets - 118

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2021 NBA Playoffs: West First Round – (4) Los Angeles Clippers vs (5) Dallas Mavericks

Schedule and Results

Game

Away

Home

Date

Time

TV

Results

Game 1:
DAL leads 1-0

5/22/21

4:30 PM EST

ESPN

Mavericks - 113
Clippers - 103

Game 2:
DAL leads 2-0

5/25/21

10:30 PM EST

NBATV

Mavericks - 127
Clippers - 121

Game 3:
DAL leads 2-1

5/28/21


9:30 PM EST

ESPN

Clippers - 118
Mavericks - 108

Game 4: Series tied 2-2


5/30/21

9:30 PM EST

TNT

Clippers- 106 Mavericks - 81

Game 5:
DAL leads 3-2

6/2/21

10:00 PM ET

TNT

Mavericks - 105
Clippers - 100

Game 6:
Series tied 3-3

6/4/21

9:00 PM ET

ESPN

Clippers - 104
Mavericks - 97


Game 7
LAC wins series 4-3

6/6/21

3:30 PM ET

ABC

Mavericks - 111
Clippers - 126

West First Round – (4) Los Angeles Clippers vs (5) Dallas Mavericks – Series preview

(4) Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers have had a quiet season by their finishing 4th in the West. They made quick work of the Mavericks in the playoffs including two blowouts for a 4-2 series win. This season they are in the top 10 in both offense and defense and look to right the wrongs of last season’s debacle. Paul George has been sharp all season while Leonard suited up only 51 times. The area of exploitation where the Clippers can excel is the interior if Zubac was a bit more consistent. The Mavs are a rotating door of big men who each possess a certain skill while none exhibit anything remotely complete. Getting Serge Ibaka back after an extended layoff from back issues would prove clutch. This is the Clippers’ series to lose which they might if Doc Rivers was still on the bench. 

(5) Dallas Mavericks

Beating the Clippers by 51 points in January and winning the season series with both Leonard and George playing is a huge confidence booster. Dorian Finney-Smith, shot 39% from 3 this season, and Maxi Kleber at 41% which kept defenses honest defending Luka. Kristaps Porzingis was also effective against the Clippers when healthy averaging 16 & 11 in two meetings this season. However, the playoffs are where the Clippers need Porzingis to be at his best with his size. Luka was the sole reason that Dallas won any playoff games vs the Clippers last season. He is toughness was often tested by Marcus Morris that lead to some intense moments. Hard to read this Mavericks team overall as they tend to play to the level of competition good or bad. 

Top players to watch

Luka Doncic: 2020-2021 season

  • 27.7 PPG
  • 8.0 RPG
  • 8.6 APG

Kawhi Leonard: 2020-2021 season

  • 24.8 PPG
  • 6.5 RPG
  • 5.2 APG

Where should the money go?

The 4 seed for the Clippers is a bit misleading as they are better than their record indicates. Let’s not forget that the Mavericks struggled to claw their way back up into the playoff picture after flirting with the possibility of the play-in tournament. 

CLIPPERS 

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2021 NBA Playoffs: West First Round – (2) Phoenix Suns vs (7) Los Angeles Lakers

Schedule and Results

Game

Away

Home

Date

Time

TV

Results

Game 1:
PHX leads 1-0

5/23/21

3:30 PM EST

ABC

Lakers - 90
Suns - 99

Game 2:
Series tied 1-1

5/25/21

10:00 PM EST

TNT

Lakers - 109
Suns - 102

Game 3:
LAL leads 2-1


5/27/21

10:00 PM EST

TNT

Suns - 95
Lakers - 109

Game 4:
Series tied 2-2

5/30/21


3:30 PM EST

ABC

Suns - 100
Lakers - 92

Game 5:
PHX leads 3-2

6/1/21

10:00 PM ET

TNT

Lakers - 85
Suns - 115

Game 6:
PHX wins series 4-2

6/3/21

10:30 PM ET

TNT

Suns - 113
Lakers - 100

Game 5 Notes:

Where should the money go?

West First Round – (2) Phoenix Suns vs (7) Los Angeles Lakers – Series preview

(2) Phoenix Suns

For the first time ever LeBron James will Chris Paul in a playoffs series. The strange part of this is that Suns perhaps are going to be the underdogs as a higher seed. It always seems like Paul is on the bad end of the stick in terms of the path to a championship. The last time he was remotely close was in 2017-2018 for the Houston Rockets, however, sat out Game 6 and 7 against the Warriors to watch his team lose in the Western Conference Finals.

Next, the Suns are also a team that deserves its respect and admiration for competing this season. Securing the 2nd seed in the Western Conference isn’t always as easy for the entire season. Devin Booker is arguably the Suns best player averaging 25.6 points per game on 48-percent shooting.

What the Suns would have to do to complete a successful series is find a way to stabilize Anthony Davis. Quite frankly their roster says DeAndre Ayton, Frank Kaminsky, and Dario Šarić? This is their biggest disadvantage coming into the series and should be highlighted as to why they’re underdogs.

(7) Los Angeles Lakers

Bring on the doubt, questioning Lebron’s ankle, and Anthony Davis’ health. That’s what came out of the 2021 Play-in Tournament game from last week Wednesday against the Warriors. It was a Lebron James three-point field goal that sealed the deal on the 7th seed for the Lakers. In hindsight, the Warriors aren’t even headed to the Playoffs after losing Game 6 of the Play-in Tournament.

This Los Angeles team may have a few moments of rust, growing pains, or whatever you wanted to call them. This is a team and a series that the regular season will hold no bearing during the playoffs. The Warriors once led the Lakers by 13 in the Play-in Game 4 but the 1st and 2nd half of the game was different for the Lakers. Los Angeles shot 33-percent from the field in the first half and 49-percent in the second half.

Let’s face it, any team expecting back a healthy James and Davis should be heavily favored in the Western Conference. Are the Lakers going to sweep? Probably not. However, this is a better series for them instead of losing the Play-in games and seeing Utah in the first round.



Top players to watch

Chris Paul: 2020-2021 season

  • 16.4 PPG
  • 4.5 RPG
  • 8.9 APG

LeBron James: 2020-2021 season

  • 25.0 PPG
  • 7.7 RPG
  • 7.8 APG

Podcasts

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2021 NBA Playoffs: West First Round – (3) Denver Nuggets vs (6) Portland Trailblazers

Daily staff picks

Schedule and Results

Game

Away

Home

Date

Time

TV

Results

Game 1:
POR leads 1-0


5/22/21

10:30 PM EST

ESPN

Blazers - 123

Nuggets - 109

Game 2:
Series tied 1-1


5/24/21

10:00 PM ET

TNT

Blazers - 109 Nuggets - 128

Game 3:
DEN leads 2-1

5/27/21

10:30 PM ET

NBATV

Nuggets - 120 
Blazers - 115

Game 4:
Series tied 2-2

5/29/21

4:00 PM ET

TNT

Nuggets - 95 
Blazers - 115

Game 5:
DEN leads 3-2

6/1/21

9:00 PM ET

NBA TV

Blazers - 140
Nuggets - 147

Game 6:
DEN wins series 4-2

6/3/21

8:00 PM ET

TNT

Nuggets - 126 
Blazers - 115

West First Round – (3) Denver Nuggets vs (6) Portland Trailblazers – Series preview

(3) Denver Nuggets

All hail my MVP pick for the 2020-2021 season Nikola Jokic. Yes, I’m aware that folks think this is the WORSE of years for the NBA MVP race. That is sadly unfortunate. We hold Wilt Chamberlain to this high regard and when Jokic’s name pops up next to his that’s now an issue? Regardless, the Nuggets rightfully earned their spot as the third-best team in the Western Conference. This was largely due to Jokic’s presence and ability to stay on the floor for EVERY game in the Nuggets’ regular season.

Their season follows up losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in last year’s Western Conference Finals. Somehow someway the Nuggets forced themselves back from 3-1 deficits against the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers. The 2020 Playoffs, played in the Orlando campus, dubbed the Nuggets as the “underrated” team. However, this season the tables have turned as the expectation is higher. Down guard, Jamal Murray to a season-ending injury the biggest question is finding scoring from the backcourt.

The beautiful part of Jokic’s game is that he plays as a facilitator towards his teammates. However, without Murray’s scoring ability either Gary Harris, Monte Morris, and Will Barton will all be included with expectations to shoot well or give Denver a well-balanced offensive output from their backcourt. This excludes the bigger challenge for Denver and that’s defending Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum on the defensive end. Enter in Austin Rivers who isn’t the most sought-after free agent but a backcourt player that is low risk and high reward in moments he can defend and hit shots.

(6) Portland Trailblazers

The injury bug never seems to ignore Portland year after year. C.J. McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic missed significant time this season. Yet, the Blazers carried on with Damian Lillard and secured a playoff berth by clinching the 6th seed. The Blazers ended last season by waving the white flag to the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the 2020 Western Conference Playoffs series. I say that due to the fact that Dame Time didn’t even play in Game 5 of that series. This year, the Blazers also avoided the Play-in Tournament. A trip down memory lane can tell you that Lillard was passionate about returning to play the 2020 season finish under the condition he could have a shot to make the playoffs.

Last year’s NBA bubble finish to win over the 8th seed from the Memphis Grizzlies was the first time we saw some sort of requirement to lock in a seed in NBA history. While Portland made sure to capitalize on the seeding games they never turned the corner to compete more with the eventual champions Los Angeles Lakers. After a 5 game series and early exit home, what do we have in store for 2021?

Portland enters its 8th straight playoffs (Lillard’s as well), and the best they have to show is a winless Western Conference Finals series against the Warriors in the 2018-2019 season.

Top players to watch

Damian Lillard: 2020-2021 season

  • 28.8 PPG
  • 4.2 RPG
  • 7.5 APG

Nikola Jokic: 2020-2021 season

  • 26.4 PPG
  • 10.8 RPG
  • 8.3 APG

Where should the money go?

The toughest part of the Western Conference is determining how well teams like Denver and Portland will come out during the playoffs. Both teams to me are equally matched and we know two incredible players like Jokic and Lillard are out for vengeance from last year.

This series should build similar excitement from Denver’s series against Utah in last year’s 2020 Playoff run. A foreseeable ping pong match where teams may not get a one-up on each other until later in the series. Will Barton has been ruled out of Game 1 for the Nuggets and it’s the next man up. The scary thing for Portland and according to my “defense wins championships” bias is that Portland ranks at the bottom of the league in Team Defensive Rating. It doesn’t mean they can’t outscore the Nuggets but I wouldn’t be surprised if Portland drops a game by double-digits in this series.

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2021 NBA Playoffs: East First Round – (4) New York Knicks vs (5) Atlanta Hawks

Where should the money go?

Schedule and Results

Game

Away

Home

Date

Time

TV

Results

Game 1:
ATL leads 1-0

5/23/21

7:00 PM EST

TNT

Hawks - 107
Knicks - 105

Game 2:
Series tied 1-1

5/26/21

7:30 PM EST

TNT

Hawks -  92
Knicks - 101

Game 3:
ATL leads 2-1

5/28/21

7:00 PM EST

ESPN

Knicks - 94
Hawks -  105

Game 4:
ATL leads 3-1

5/30/21

1:00 PM EST

ABC

Knicks - 96
Hawks -  113

Game 5:
ATL wins series 4-1

6/02/21

7:30 PM ET

TNT

Hawks -  103
Knicks - 89

East First Round – (4) New York Knicks vs (5) Atlanta Hawks – Series preview

(4) New York Knicks

Did anyone expect the Knicks to be winning anything over 20 games in the shortened 70 game season? Probably not a lot of you but hell, here we are! I am all for it let’s go Knicks nation! Enter in Tom Thibodeau and the second season of Julius Randle in a Knicks uniform.

The Knicks are one of the best defensive teams in the NBA this season and that isn’t surprising being led by Thibodeau. New York’s ability to stand out all season long was by becoming a gritty defensive team that leans on Randle to put them over the top in the close moments.

Derrick Rose joined the Knicks in a midseason trade and the reunion with Thibbs from their Chicago days reincarnated some brief success in New York. The biggest question for the Knicks in this series is going to be point guard play. Defensively, the Knicks are going to be tested by Trae Young’s ability to penetrate and get into the paint. Depending on how well they defend this the sky is the limit for the Knicks in this series.

(5) Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks are a feel-good story for the league. After starting the season with Head Coach Lloyd Pierce and finishing with Nate McMillan the coaching change WORKED! Atlanta locks up the 5th seed after a slow start to their season. In their final eight regular season games, they went 7-1.

Trae Young finally gets his first stab at the playoffs in his third year (and perhaps a year he may have been snubbed as an All-Star). He averages 8.7 free throw attempts per game and this could be a point to watch if he’s able to get into the interior of the Knicks on defense.

Lastly, the bright spot for the Hawks is that their best player Young averaged 24.7 points, 12.0 assists, and 2.3 rebounds in 3 games versus the Knicks this season. Currently, the Hawks are running a 4-game win streak into the Playoffs and one of the better teams in the month of May and 7-3 in their last 10 games.

Top players to watch

Julius Randle – 2020-2021 season

  • 24.1 PPG
  • 10.2 RPG
  • 6.0 APG

Trae Young: 2020-2021 season

  • 25.3 PPG
  • 3.9 RPG
  • 9.4 APG

2021 NBA Playoffs: East First Round – (1) Philadelphia 76ers vs (8) Washington Wizards

Where should the money go?

East First Round – (1) Philadelphia 76ers vs (8) Washington Wizards – Series preview

(1) Philadelphia 76ers

Philadelphia enters in the season with a new coach in Doc Rivers and a few key additions such as Danny Green, Dwight Howard, and Seth Curry. It seems to be making all the world of a difference post-Brett Brown. A team that never lost its top spot in the Eastern Conference and clinched the first seed. The 76ers are one of the best defensive teams rated in the NBA this season.

Joel Embiid is an MVP candidate and Ben Simmons is a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year. That’s two All-Stars on one team playing at an elite level over the rest of the league in the same season. Embiid’s likelihood of averaging 35 points a game this series or more is very likely.

The odds of the Wizards defending Embiid and the paint effectively can be thrown out the window. There is nothing creative or perplexing that the 76ers will have to do in this series to win. That’s even considering that Russell Westbrook is on the other side of the spectrum as the Triple-Double King.

(8) Washington Wizards

This series took almost an entire week and two games for the Wizards to arrive at the 8th seed. They come in as the underwhelming underdogs and it is straightforward from me here. The Wizards are looking for a miracle, heart, and hustle, and maybe the help of a good shooting night a few times in this series.

Their defensive scheme to combat Joel Embiid will be Alex Len, Davis Bertans, Daniel Gafford? That might work to rotate the fouls and attempts to bother Embiid’s dominance. Wizards Head Coach, Scott Brooks made a comment after the team’s loss to the Celtics last Tuesday night. He alluded to the fact that his team does not shoot the three-ball well then, their best effort was to try and get to the free-throw line more often in the game (and they did not enough against the Celtics in Game 2 of the 2021 NBA Play-in Tournament.

Furthermore, the top 3 teams that averaged the most free throws in the season? Washington with 26.2 attempts per game while Philadelphia averaged 25.5 free throws per game in the regular season. Scott Brooks better come up with another game plan if the free throw shooting doesn’t pan out in his favor.

Top players to watch

Joel Embiid: 2020-2021 season

  • 28.5 PPG
  • 10.6 RPG
  • 2.8 APG

Russell Westbrook: 2020-2021 season

  • 22.2 PPG
  • 11.5 RPG
  • 11.7 APG

Where should the money go?

Schedule and Results

Game

Away

Home

Date

Time

TV

Results

Game 1:
PHI leads 1-0

5/23/21

1:00 PM ET

TNT

Wizards - 118
76ers - 125

Game 2:
PHI leads 2-0

5/26/21

7:00 PM ET

NBA TV

Wizards - 95
76ers - 120

Game 3:
PHI leads 3-0

5/29/21

7:00 PM ET

ESPN

76ers - 132 Wizards - 103

Game 4:
PHI leads 3-1

5/31/21

7:00 PM ET

TNT

76ers - 114 
Wizards - 122

Game 5:
PHI wins series 4-1

6/02/21

7:00 PM ET

TBD

Wizards - 112
76ers - 129

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