The 2018 NBA Playoffs are officially under way, and they’re set to make it one of the most competitive postseasons in recent NBA history. Many strong teams in the West were left out, so that side of the bracket could produce the most upsets with its top-to-bottom depth. Injured players such as Joel Embiid, Stephen Curry, and Kawhi Leonard could all return to their teams soon, so that’s an important factor to keep an eye on moving forward. These games will be harder to predict, so here’s Sports.net’s advice for Week 27.
Toronto Raptors vs. Washington Wizards
- Wednesday 18th April 2018, 12:00am (UK time)
The Toronto Raptors defeated the Washington Wizards 114-106 in Game 1 of their series, which marked Toronto’s first ever Game 1 victory. The Raptors have traditionally struggled mightily in the playoffs despite being a high seed most of the time, and a certain man named LeBron James has a lot to do with that. DeMar DeRozan will be leaned on to lead this team in the postseason, but Toronto’s newly improved bench with guys like Fred Vanvleet and O.G. Anunoby should help pick up the slack. Vanvleet didn’t play in Game 1, so his status should be monitored closely.
The Wizards are used to playing the part of the underdog in the playoffs, so it is likely they’re ready to embrace the opportunity for an upset once again. Though they finished just 43-39 in the regular season and had a losing road record, the Wiz have John Wall back and are finally healthy again. Younger wings like Otto Porter Jr. and Kelly Oubre will have to outduel C.J. Miles and Serge Ibaka in order to maintain their team’s defensive presence. If Wall and Beal can outplay Lowry and DeRozan, then this team definitely has a shot.
Can the Raptors win two in a row at this point? Another close game is likely, but take the Wizards to take Game 2 and tie the series up 1-1.
Portland Trailblazers vs. New Orleans Pelicans
- Wednesday 18th April 2018, 03:30am (UK time)
The Portland Trailblazers couldn’t have had a worse beginning to their playoffs. Portland lost Game 1 97-95 and shot just 38% from the field. C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard shot quite poorly, and that will have to change if the Blazers are to make it past the first round. Rajon Rondo and Anthony Davis tore Portland apart with their pick-and-roll, so Jusef Nurkic and Ed Davis will be called upon to protect the paint in Game 2.
Anthony Davis enjoyed his first playoff victory behind his own 35 points and 14 rebounds, and his teammate Rajon Rondo finished with six points, eight rebounds, and a whopping 17 assists. If Nikola Mirotic and Jrue Holiday can continue to complement those two with their shooting, then the Pelicans might win their first series in years.
The Trailblazers are too good of a team to lose their first two playoff games at home. Take Portland in this one.