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SportA never-too-late guide to Round 2 of NBA playoffs

00:10  30 april  2019
00:10  30 april  2019 Source:   yardbarker.com

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A wild first round gave us two Game 7s, a shocking sweep and a near-elimination of the defending So what's next? Here is everything you need to know as these binge-worthy NBA playoffs hit the Coach Mike D'Antoni's concern about losing rhythm while occasionally resting key players late in the

The two clubs earned the top seeds in the Eastern and Western Conferences, respectively. The Lakers are far from the only team in Los Angeles who can win a With all games played at a neutral location in Orlando, Florida, without any fans in attendance, the playing field has never been more even.

A never-too-late guide to Round 2 of NBA playoffs © Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

After two weeks of clutch shots, flagrant fouls, blowouts, and nail-biters, the NBA playoffs have reached Round 2. It’s time to we see which talented, brave, and true-hearted teams will advance to conference finals glory and which clumsy, cowardly, and fraudulent squads will end their season in despair. To walk you through the next four exciting series, here’s a guide from a comedian. (The Raptors, Celtics and Warriors are already up 1-0. Game 1 of the Nuggets-Trail Blazers series begins Monday night.)

A never-too-late guide to Round 2 of NBA playoffs © John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Toronto Raptors vs. Philadelphia 76ers

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KEY PLAYER MATCHUPS

Marc Gasol vs. Joel Embiid: The main reason Toronto traded for Gasol at the deadline was to match up with Philadelphia’s center. It’s an aging former Defensive Player of the Year matched up against a young player who is almost unstoppable near the basket. Expect Joel to dominate the trash talking and social media battle.

Kawhi Leonard vs. Ben Simmons: Leonard and Simmons are dominant defensive players who tend to let their play do the talking for them, and are constantly rumored to be angling to play in Los Angeles. The difference between them is that Kawhi has developed a great jumper, and Simmons didn’t make a three-pointer all season.

Pascal Siakam vs. Jimmy Butler: The Sixers' Butler is the youngest old man in the NBA. He hates when young players stay up late playing video games, listens to country music, and played for Tom Thibodeau, which makes NBA players age at an accelerated rate.  Siakam, probably the most improved player in the NBA, started scoring at will in the playoffs. He just turned 25, a fact that may frustrate Butler as much as Siakam’s defense.

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Reporters David Aldridge and Craig Sager with Play by Play from Marv Albert, Dick Stockton, Reggie Miller, Steve Kerr, Mike Fratello and Kevin Harlan. Not affiliated with the NBA or any of its partners - All video contents belongs to their respective copyright holders. All credit goes to Time Warner Cable

The NBA playoffs kick off on Saturday in what has the potential to be one of the more entertaining and dramatic postseasons in years. This could be the best series of the first round , and it's conceivable to see this one going seven games. However, give the slight edge to the Celtics thanks to an excellent

NOT-SO-KEY PLAYER MATCHUPS

Serge Ibaka vs. Jonah Bolden: In previous seasons, Ibaka has scuffled with Robin Lopez, Marquese Chriss, Matt Barnes, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Luis Scola. Whom is he most likely to fight with in Round 2? Probably Sixers backup big man Bolden, who managed to get ejected for fighting with Rodions Kurucs in the final minutes of Game 5 against the Nets, despite the Sixers having a 25-point lead.

Greg Monroe vs. Everyone: Sixers third-string center Monroe is in the unique position of having played for all four remaining Eastern Conference playoff teams during the previous two seasons. He’s going to have a chip on his shoulder — if he ever gets off the bench.

Shared playoff history: The biggest second-round matchup between these teams came in 2001, when Allen Iverson’s 76ers triumphed over Vince Carter’s Raptors in a Game 7 where Carter controversially flew to North Carolina to graduate on the morning of the game.

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The NBA playoffs allow the men to separate themselves from the boys. With the national spotlight thrust upon each and every player, emphasizing the Especially in Game 2 of the 2014 NBA Finals, when he gave the Miami Heat a late lead on his corner three—one that came with just over a minute

What’s at stake? The winner gets a spot in the conference finals, but the implications go further than that. Three of Philadelphia’s starters are free agents this summer, as are Kawhi Leonard and, potentially, Marc Gasol for Toronto. In the era of super teams, any sign of weakness can throw a team into chaos and cause stars to flee like highly-paid rats fleeing a sinking ship, or at least a ship that tops out at the second round. Also, the winning city becomes the worldwide capital for mullets.

A never-too-late guide to Round 2 of NBA playoffs © Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Milwaukee Bucks vs. Boston Celtics

KEY PLAYER MATCHUPS

Kyrie Irving versus Eric Bledsoe: It’s hard for anyone to stop Uncle Drew. But the Bucks' Bledsoe does about as well as anyone at stopping Kyrie at the rim. Kyrie’s outrageous shot-making will make any defender say “I dont wanna be here.“

Brook Lopez versus Al Horford: Both centers are solid defenders who turned themselves into dangerous three-point shooters midway through their careers. They also spent quite a bit of time with moribund NBA franchises, and as such are as motivated as anyone to make their first trip to the Finals. Some players have trouble matching up with the rangy athleticism of Big Al, but Brook has had a lifetime of playing against his twin brother Robin to prepare him for this very series.

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Malcolm Brogdon‘s foot versus Marcus Smart’s oblique: Each is crucial to his team, whether it’s with intense defense or incredibly efficient shooting. Both are desperately trying to recover, from a plantar fascia tear and a torn oblique muscle, respectively. A team trainer might secretly be MVP of this series.

NOT-SO-KEY PLAYER MATCHUPS

Nikola Mirotic vs. Marcus Morris: Given their history being on the giving or receiving end of beatings, the most likely fistfight in the series would be between Mirotic and Morris. They both need to hit a bunch of three-pointers as well.

Terry Rozier vs. Sterling Brown: Rozier was the breakout star of last year’s Celtics-Bucks series, when his feud with Eric Bledsoe was triggered when he accidentally called him Drew Bledsoe. With Kyrie back, Rozier comes off the bench, so his best bid for a repeat would be to “accidentally” confuse reserve Bucks guard Sterling Brown with Emmy Award-winning actor Sterling K. Brown. Imagine Rozier hitting a big three and then screaming “Now this is us!” right in Brown’s face!

Shared playoff history: Last year the teams battled in a chippy seven- game series and got into such weirdness that former Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe was attending games wearing a Terry Rozier jersey. But the real rivalry came in the '80’s, when the Celtics beat the Bucks four times in five years, twice in the conference finals. It was a long time ago — two of those Bucks, Sidney Moncrief and Jack Sikma, just made the Hall of Fame, Danny Ainge is now running the Celtics, Kevin McHale had extended careers with two NBA teams, and former Bucks coach Don Nelson is running a Bed & Breakfast/weed farm in Hawaii.

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What’s at stake? Giannis’ bid to be the best player in the NBA, Eric Bledsoe’s revenge, and the free agency fate of Kyrie Irving, who rumors have heading for New York. It’s not clear whether this series will affect his decision, given that he demanded a trade after three straight Finals trips in Cleveland. If Boston wins, it’s a testament to Brad Stevens’ coaching, at least according to every sportswriter or Boston fan in the world, whereas if Milwaukee wins, the Red Sox will trade for Christian Yelich as revenge.

A never-too-late guide to Round 2 of NBA playoffs © Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Trail Blazers vs. Nuggets

KEY PLAYER MATCHUPS

Damian Lillard vs. Gary Harris: Can anyone stop Lillard? No, but Harris has the best chance of slowing him down of anyone on Denver’s roster. At the very least, he has the good sense not to anger Lillard by dunking in garbage time.

Nikola Jokic vs. Enes Kanter: When he became a free agent in 2015, Kanter signed an offer sheet with Portland. Oklahoma City matched, and thus Kanter went to two different teams and became a political exile before a buyout let him finally join the Blazers. Kanter will have his hands full trying to stop Jokic.

NOT-SO-KEY PLAYER MATCHUPS

Mason Plumlee vs. Meyers Leonard: In 2017, Portland traded Plumlee months after re-signing Leonard as their white American center of the future. Since then, Portland drafted Zach Collins, who leap-frogged Leonard in the rotation. Mason, AKA “Plumdog Millionaire,” has something to prove to Portland, as does Leonard, while Collins will come off the bench to deliver something the other two guys are woefully familiar with: rejections.

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Monte Morris vs. Seth Curry: Two reserve guards with a lot of swag. Morris dated (and dumped) Kanye’s ex, Amber Rose, and Curry is engaged to Doc Rivers’ daughter. Curry is all-offense, Morris is all-defense, and both might end up playing big minutes.

Shared playoff history: The eventual champion Trail Blazers beat Denver in 1977. The Nuggets got revenge in the first round in 1986. This will be their first playoff meeting in 33 years, meaning that the Nuggets' Paul Millsap is the only player on either team who was alive when that series happened.

What’s at stake? The winner gets a spot in the conference finals where they’ll play a maximum of five games against the Warriors or Rockets. And while each team insists that its coach’s job is safe, the only coach who has real job security is the one who wins this series.

A never-too-late guide to Round 2 of NBA playoffs © Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Warriors vs. Rockets

KEY PLAYER MATCHUPS

Chris Paul vs. Steph Curry: Curry played basketball in Paul’s shadow growing up in North Carolina, even attending a basketball camp where CP3 was one of the pros. Then they battled for years in the Pacific Division while Paul was on the Lob City Clippers. Paul won in the 2014 playoffs, Curry got revenge last season. Curry made Paul fall down with a crossover; Paul hit a three in Curry’s face and did his shimmy back to him.

James Harden vs. Klay Thompson: Both are deadly from three, but Klay’s job is defense, while Harden’s is to provide all the offense for Houston. Harden likes to dominate the ball, hold it, and wait for his chance to strike; Klay prides himself on his quick release and almost never dribbling. Harden dated a Kardashian, Klay is dating Spider-Man’s girlfriend. These guys seem like they really know how to have a good time off the court, and Klay has finally managed to grow a full beard this season!

Kevin Durant vs. P.J. Tucker: Tucker left the University of Texas months before Durant arrived for his lone season there. After playing all over Europe for six years, Tucker made it back to the NBA in 2012-13, the year before Durant won his MVP award. Tucker is going to have to slow KD in the series, while also rebounding and playing center occasionally. KD must keep scoring and avoid offensive fouls. Tucker’s a worthy foe, since he has a Finals MVP of his own — it’s just from the Bundesliga.

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Draymond Green vs. The Refs: Once again, Green’s prime opponent is not LeBron James or James Harden. No, it’s everyone holding a whistle. He’s 30 percent of the way to suspension for excessive technicals going into the series, but at least he hasn’t kicked anyone in the groin. Yet.

NOT-SO-KEY PLAYER MATCHUPS

Austin Rivers vs. Shaun Livingston: The Rockets' Rivers is another former Clipper nemesis of the Warriors, though he and Steph Curry are basically brothers-in-law now that Seth is marrying Austin’s sister. Livingston was a promising Clippers guard before blowing out his knee. Rivers is trying to re-establish himself in the league after two trades and four teams in the last year; Livingston is likely to retire after the season. If either one can score 8-10 points a game, it could swing the series.

Andrew Bogut vs. Nene Hilario: The Warriors and Rockets are the poster children for the pace-and-space era of basketball, a game without formal position that makes the traditional center extinct. Thankfully, each team has a foreign-born dinosaur from the ancient era of the mid-2000s to come off the bench, set monster screens, and remind us of our past.

Shared playoff history: Golden State beat Houston in the conference finals in 2015 and 2018, and in the first round in 2016. Last year’s series was incredibly close, and Houston fervently believes it would have won without Paul’s hamstring injury.

What’s at stake? To some, this series is the de facto NBA Finals, as it was last year. A win for Houston changes the legacy of Harden and Paul; a loss equally damages the Warriors in their quest for the first three-peat in 17 years. If the Warriors lose, KD and Andre Iguodala are almost certainly gone, not to mention the GM and whoever gets traded in a rebuild. If Houston loses, the team is still locked into some expensive years of Harden and Paul, with their window slowly closing.

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