Miami Heat (1) vs. Atlanta Hawks (8)
What is the Miami Heat missing to go all the way?
The Heat finished first in the East despite repeated injuries to their best players. The Florida franchise boasts three all-stars: Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Kyle Lowry. Three majors who share the common trait of loading the game on both offense and defense. The rotation is deep around them, with Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, Gabe Vincent or even Victor Oladipo. It’s a team that plays hard and defends well. With a mind of steel. Talent and complementarity in all positions. Notably, it’s the best-trained in the NBA, with genius Erik Spoelstra on the bench. She has everything to be holy.
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And yet it gives the impression of a missing ingredient. A Kevin Durant. A Giannis Antetokounmpo. A Joel Embiid. Butler is a fine basketball player, even more so in the playoffs, but he’s not among the ultimate elite either. The 7 or 8 Best Players That Can Really Take Their Franchise To The Holy Grail. The absence of a Superstar of this caliber is historically a punishment. Almost all NBA champions have been guided by a stronger individuality than any other. It could work against the Heat sometime during this playoff.
Prediction: 4-2 Heat
Boston Celtics (2) vs. Brooklyn Nets (7)
Should we still count the Brooklyn Nets among the title favorites?
With that, the Nets officially ended a disappointing season in seventh place in the Eastern Conference. It’s still better than the 10th place they were in a few weeks ago before they finished with a bang. But it’s still disappointing, especially after being among the top performers earlier in the year. Above all, it’s a disastrous result compared to the expectations and ambitions of the New York franchise. The optimists will remember that the counters reset in the playoffs. Well, actually not quite. Only two teams in NBA history have reached the Finals: the Sonics in 1987 and the Knicks in 1999.
Brooklyn is definitely not your usual No. 7. The Nets rely on two future Hall of Famers, including Kevin Durant, the world’s greatest basketball player, when he’s not in the infirmary. As long as KD and Kyrie Irving are fit, the team will believe in their chances of going all the way. The duel between Durant and Jayson Tatum will also be one of the keys to the series. But even with so much individual talent, the lead for Steve Nash’s men is very slim. Because behind it is weak. Defensively in particular, there are certainly good elements (Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, Bruce Brown), but the poverty of the game was highlighted in the second half of the play-in, which was won at the wire against the Cavaliers. Brooklyn is a team that loses a lot of balls and doesn’t know their theme. Capable of the best, but also capable of the worst. A chronic irregularity that rarely leaves champions’ mark. Ben Simmons is likely to tie this feverish set, but his return – possibly from Game 4 – remains as hypothetical as his level of play after a game-less year.
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So what’s left? An armada that goes as far as its superstars can. With probably not enough experience to get a ring this season. It can happen against Boston. But probably less once against Milwaukee or Miami.
Prediction: 4-3 nets
Milwaukee Bucks (3) vs. Chicago Bulls (6)
Are the Milwaukee Bucks underrated?
But since when has the defending champion had such a quiet season? The brutal failures of the Lakers and the Nets (to a lesser extent, of course) occupied the media for months. Meanwhile, the Bucks were able to get through the regular season without pressure. With almost underdog status before the crash of LeBron James and others. However, this formation knows the way to success and is prepared for all positions. Brook Lopez has returned from injury, Grayson Allen is an interesting addition and Jrue Holiday has looked more uninhibited since last year’s coronation.
Above all Giannis Antetokounmpo. An absolute basketball player. The best thing in the world when Kevin Durant is in the infirmary. Milwaukee has a chance to challenge its “neighbor” Chicago, a losing team that was deprived of Lonzo Ball and suffered badly against the main conference armadas. The ideal first round for Mike Budenholzer’s band.
Prediction: 4-1 dollars
Philadelphia Sixers (4) vs. Toronto Raptors (5)
Is James Harden the player under the most pressure going into this playoff?
James Harden’s first tickets in the Sixers jersey, shortly after his transfer last February, already seem a long way off. The former MVP has been struggling ever since. Averaging 21 points in 21 matches, but with 40% success on shots and 32% success on three-pointers. With at least 10 assists. He’s finally following up on his performances with the Nets earlier in the season. In other words, it’s not bad, but less spicy than usual. This is problematic. Especially since his stat volume has almost always gone down in the playoffs.
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The Sixers will need a big Harden. All eyes will be on him. He did everything he could to leave Brooklyn barely a year after he did everything he could to leave Houston. His arrival in Philadelphia raised great ambitions. It’s almost title or nothing for the Pennsylvania franchise, which has yet to reach the Conference Finals since 2001. A tall order for a player who isn’t exactly known for his ability to carry a team. His performances will also come under scrutiny, as will his agreement with Joel Embiid over the pitch and how they will deal with adversity. Again, this is not their forte. The potential for eventual disillusionment is very high. Especially against the Raptors, who in return have absolutely nothing to lose. They already intend to usurp Embiid. Harden will have enormous responsibility. An exit from the road before the third round would do well ahead of the offseason, where he can claim a massive extension that could net him more than $50m by the time he turns 37.
Prognosis: 4-3 sixes
Phoenix Suns (1) vs. New Orleans Pelicans (8)
Chris Paul, now or never for the title?
The Suns proved that they didn’t get into the finals by accident last season. Anthony Davis has injuries (the Lakers led 2-1 in the first round), Phoenix are definitely the best team in the Western Conference. Arguably the best team in the league. Monty Williams’ system works beautifully and every player in the squad knows and respects their role. The Suns have chosen to play unconventional patterns, insisting on shots from mid-range, the area least defended by opposing teams.
She can afford it because her two stars, Chris Paul and Devin Booker, stand out 5-6 yards from the circle. These two are terribly effective even in the hottest of moments, during the tightest of matches. All signs point to the Arizona franchise. In terms of talent, complementarity, defense, coaching, complicity. So could this finally be the right year for CP3? Anything other than a ring would constitute a real mistake.
Forecast: 4-0 suns
Memphis Grizzlies (2) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (7)
Can Ja Morant defeat the three stars of the Minnesota Timberwolves?
Basketball is a collective sport that often boils down to its individuality. to have stars. Quiet. Quiet. The irony in this match between Memphis and Minnesota is that the Timberwolves, although seventh, are perhaps more talented than their opponents. There’s Ja Morant with the Grizzlies, of course, but the latter struggled particularly hard (20 points at 33%) during the four innings between the two teams during the regular season.
Wolves, on the other hand, can count on several scorers: Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell. Their offense can create real problems for the Grizzlies. But overall, Memphis still seems tactically up there. The team is also deeper, with a much better bench. However, the series promises to be engaging — and physical — with these two young and relatively inexperienced formations. Perhaps two of the teams of the future, with Morant and Edwards two of the brightest prospects of their generation.
Prediction: 4-2 grizzlies
Golden State Warriors (3) vs. Denver Nuggets (6)
And if it was the most exciting series of the first half of the season?
Stephen Curry on one side, at least when he comes back from his ankle injury, Nikola Jokic on the other. Between the Golden State and Denver, there is no shortage of artists in this series. Between Draymond Green and his science of playmaking and defence, Facundo Campazzo (banned for Game 1) and his brilliant passing, Klay Thompson, Jordan Poole… the duels between the two teams will be worth a look.
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The pace should be high. But the series could also be marked by her absences. Jamal Murray and Michael Porter for the Nuggets and possibly Curry for the Warriors. Poole will also play an important role, with or without a double MVP. He’s the potential X-factor of this series. The young man approached for the MIP has really made a step forward and is increasingly distinguished by his ability to make the difference with the ball in hand. Like the best strikers in this league. It remains to be seen whether he can do that in the playoffs.
Prediction: 4-2 warriors
Dallas Mavericks (4) vs. Utah Jazz (5)
Is the end of the jazz cycle inevitable?
Utah has high ambitions each season before it hits its own limit, which is the second round of the playoffs. There’s no real reason to change that this year. The Jazz retained the same team. A continuity that can sometimes pay off, but in this particular situation looks like the end of the cycle. Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert may be playing their final playoffs together.
On the other hand, jazz will eventually have the opportunity to make a last stand. The injury to Luka Doncic – already absent for Game 1 and uncertain for Game 2 – re-dealt the cards in this series. Because behind the Slovenian, the Mavericks lack real individual talent. His mere presence can be enough to lead Dallas very high, a bit like a LeBron James early in his career. But without him it looks complicated.
Prediction: 4-3 Mavericks if Luka Doncic plays from Game 2, 4-2 Jazz if he doesn’t return before Game 3
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