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NBA PlayOffs Preview, Parte 1

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NBA PlayOffs Preview, Parte 1

Some predictions and previews on the first series of the NBA PlayOffs.

There are many things to say about the NBA PlayOffs. The intriguing challenges, even more so.

Let’s not waste time and get straight to the heart of the preview, starting with the four series starting, in chronological order, between Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st.

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CLEVELAND CAVALIERS vs ORLANDO MAGIC, #4 vs #5, Eastern Conference

Cleveland’s dysfunctional season ended with fourth place in the Eastern Conference, after having also been 2nd and then, as the year went by, flirted with the Play-In. The Cavs finished with a record of 48-34, the 16th offense and the 7th defense in the regular season.

The overtime worked by was not enough Donovan Mitchell just before the break for the All-Star Game, with the Cavs ruling second place and with the team having found its balance despite the injuries of Garland and Mobley. From the All-Star Game onwards, also given Mitchell’s prolonged absence from the court, Cleveland strung together a series of defeats that led them to close the season with only 12 wins in the last 29 games and a net rating of -3.6, both scores are the worst of the sixteen remaining contenders for the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

The defense, although it finished with a very respectable 112.1 defensive rating, started to show water in the last third of the season and the continued difficult coexistence between Mitchell and Garland and between Mobley and Allen leaves more than one perplexity entering these NBA Playoffs.

Reverse speech for the Orlando Magicwho arrive at these Playoffs with a sense of lightness and awareness resulting from the excellent work done on the bench by coach Mosley. Orlando finished the season one game behind Cleveland, but consistency, especially in their own half, characterized this year which brought them back to the post-season for the first time since the 2019-2020 season. Like the Cavs, the Magic are also a purely defensive team, and the following statistics are there to prove it: third for Defensive rating, fifth for steals, eighth for deflections and second in percentage of turnovers forced on opponents.

On the other side of the field, the offense struggles enormously in three-point shooting, so much so that they finished with the 24th percentage in the league. For this reason, all the Magic, led by Banchero and Franz Wagner, favor penetration at the rim and the placement in the Top 10 for points scored in the area is the direct consequence of this. The two teams split the series in the regular season 2-2, with two predefined trends that will also be the keys to this first round of the NBA Playoffs: the three-point shooting percentages and the performances of Mitchell – mainly marked by Suggs in regular season.

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The Cavs need evenings in which Mitchell makes the difference, not only for him but also for his teammates: if the Magic win this duel, then the series, which will be purely defensivewill lean towards their side, otherwise Cleveland, thanks to greater experience in these matches, will find itself in the command post with destiny in its own hands.

A series with a very strong ’00s aftertaste.

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES vs PHOENIX SUNS, #3 vs #6, Western Conference

The doubts about the team’s performances that were raised last year for Minnesota they returned after a 56-26 record this regular season. Very first in Def Rating, with more than 2 points less conceded per game than the Boston Celtics, the Timberwolves arrive at these Playoffs after having been in the top positions of the Western Conference all year, led in attack by the season of the definitive consecration of Anthony Edwards and in defended by a system that coach Finch managed to build and refine game after game, anchored at the center by the probable Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert. First place in the West slipped away in the last game thanks to the Phoenix Suns, who beat them at home and closed the three regular season matches 3-0, with three clear double-digit wins.

If it is true that Minnesota had the best DefRtg with only 108.4 points conceded per 100 possessions, in the three seasonal comparisons, Phoenix brought this figure to 129.3 points per 100 possessions. The Suns match up very well against the T’Wolves, having players like Booker, Beal and Durant who can generate an advantage off the dribble forcing the defense to have to chase in rotation to limit numerical superiority.

The three victories came with three different feats of strength: the first thanks to a great performance by the Booker-Durant duo who scored 62 points, the second came by keeping Minnesota’s attack at just 38.8%. on the shot and the third was the result of a 16-24 from the field immediately at the start which put the game on the tracks preferred by the Arizona team.

The appetizer, tasted less than a week ago.

If Phoenix is ​​able to consistently create advantages off the dribble and keep Minnesota’s defense rotating, then the Suns have the shooters to resolve this series in a short time, even more so if Edwards is unable to lead his team’s attack as happened in the previous three games, finished with 14.3 points on average, shooting 31% from the field and committing 10 turnovers against just 11 assists. Another factor to keep in mind are i race finals: Both teams struggle both offensively and defensively in situations clutch (5 point game with less than 5 minutes to play) and whoever manages to find the square first, individually or collectively, will be favored for the final victory.

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NEW YORK KNICKS vs PHILADELPHIA 76ERS, #2 vs #7, Eastern Conference

The vera New York season it began when, after slipping to seventh place in the Eastern Conference, they led AND Anunoby in the Big Apple. From there, in the next 14 games, came 12 wins and one of the best stretch defensive players this season. The ride to the Playoffs, however, began when Brunson started playing like never before in his career, like a player who could (should?) end the year in the first All-Nba team. With the injuries of Robinson first and then of Randle and Anunoby (the former Raptors will be available for the series against the 76ers), Brunson averaged 31.5 points and 7.1 assists, shooting 48% from the field and 37% from three.. He harnessed any defense in the league that faced him thanks to his physicality and majestic footwork that brought him to the rim with negligible ease even against opponents who were more structured than him.

Due to injuries, DiVincenzo and Hart, returning from their best season of their careers, found themselves playing more than 40 minutes per game, whose work on both sides of the field was greatly appreciated and supported by coach Thibodeau. Hartenstein’s contribution was also important for the Knicks, thanks to his skills as a passer and rebounder, both under the knife.

However, the German alone will not be enough to counter the reigning MVP Joel Embiid, just back from injury but apparently in great shape. Before the forced stop, the Philadelphia big man averaged 36 points in just over 34 minutes of play. Then his left knee injury sent shockwaves through the city of brotherly love, with the Sixers losing 18 of 29 games without him and falling into disarray. zona Play-In, where they beat Miami to earn the right to challenge the Knicks in the first round. Philadelphia desperately needs Embiid to be even just 90% of his pre-injury player and the last few games played, after he returned on April 2, seem to satisfy this requirement.

The other player returning from a stellar season is Tyrese Maxey, a strong candidate to win the Most Improved Player award. His 26 points and 6 assists on average helped prevent the Sixers from sinking once and for all in Embiid’s absence and were the perfect support for the team’s ride after Harden’s departure.

The defenses will be a key in this NBA PlayOffs series: how Philadelphia limits Brunson (spoiler, they will also send the warehouse workers to man-mark) and how New York limits Embiid will likely decide the series, particularly if the Knicks fail to find another creator game in addition to the former Dallas.

An “inside” opinion.

DENVER NUGGETS vs LOS ANGELES LAKERS, #2 vs #7, Western Conference

I Nuggets they didn’t finish the regular season in first place in the Western Conference only because of an unfortunate defeat against the San Antonio Spurs in the penultimate championship match.

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Obviously this second place takes nothing away from the season of coach Malone’s team, which is there most likely to emerge more or less unscathed from the Playoffs in the West. It helps to have Nikola Jokic, probable MVP again this season, who averaged 26 points, 12 rebounds and 9 assists in less than 35 minutes a night, presenting the best on/off differential (excluding garbage time) in the league +23.7 points per 100 possessions. The quintet of the reigning champion team is the same one that won the title last season, while the bench has been revisited, having lost Brown and Green and added Watson. 3 of the 57 victories of the season have come against the next opponents in the first round of the Playoffs, the Los Angeles Lakers, against whom they are 8-0 in the last meetings between the regular season and the Playoffs.

Denver, in the last Conference finals in which they easily defeated the yellow and purple, won all four games in different ways, benefiting at will from their strengths and exposing their opponents’ weaknesses: none of these games was a blowouta one-sided game, the Nuggets simply performed better in the decisive moments of the games.

The tightest of the previous ones in the Regular Season.

These Lakers, however, are a different team compared to last season, last year’s team being more defensive-oriented, while this year’s is predominantly offensive. From the All-Star Game break onwards, i Lakers they are fourth in offensive rating and third in three-point shooting percentage, as well as 2nd in pace, which makes you smile considering that in Lebron James they have the oldest and most mileage player in the entire league. Hachimura’s inclusion in the starting lineup helped Los Angeles find their rhythm and added size to the frontcourt.

After the latest defeat suffered at the hands of Jokic and his teammates, James said that the Nuggets “they have their number”, further emphasizing the difficulty of this series for the Lakers in view of the NBA PlayOffs. Based on what we saw in the regular season, it should be Hachimura marking Jokic, with Davis in roaming (marking on the least dangerous attacker, from whom he can detach himself to disturb the passing lines away from the ball and help protect the rim) on Gordon to provide help under the basket.

Denver has already shown that it knows how to punish the little attention paid to Gordon with his team alley oop of the Serbian center at the former Orlando. The yellow-purples start out as clear underdogs: if they want to have a chance to play, Lebron James and especially Anthony Davis will have to give their best on both sides of the court, otherwise we all know how the first round of the NBA PlayOffs will end.

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