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Seventy-two regular-season games have been played. Now it is time to get serious. Everything is ready for the NBA Playoffs to start. They are one of the most eagerly awaited events by basketball fans. The best 16 teams of the most beautiful and most followed league in the world are ready to fight in a schedule that this year offers big surprises.
The first novelty concerns the introduction of the play-in, that will decide which four teams will go to the postseason, two in the East and two in the West. And among those teams that have yet to earn a playoff pass are the current champions, the Los Angeles Lakers. The Yellow-Purple remain the favourites for the final victory of the title, even though their regular season was complicated. In the East, the Boston Celtics will have to earn their ticket through the play-in. The Greens seem to be only distant relatives of the team that last year came close to reaching the Finals. They will have to work hard to extend their season until the first round of the playoffs.
But now let us see the play-in pairings:
(7) Los Angeles Lakers vs Golden State Warriors (8)
(9) Memphis Grizzlies vs San Antonio Spurs (10)
(7) Boston Celtics vs Washington Wizards (8)
(9) Indiana Pacers vs Charlotte Hornets (10)
The way the competition works is simple. The winner of the challenge between team number 7 and team number 8 will go straight to the playoffs and will face the second-placed team in their Conference. The loser will play against the winner of the challenge between team number 9 and team number 10, thus gaining access to the postseason and facing in the first round the team that came first in the Conference.
Now, 12 teams are to play the playoffs:
1) Utah Jazz
2) Phoenix Suns
3) Denver Nuggets
4) Los Angeles Clippers
5) Dallas Mavericks
6) Portland Trail Blazers
1) Philadelphia 76ers
2) Brooklyn Nets
3) Milwaukee Bucks
4) New York Knicks
5) Atlanta Hawks
6) Miami Heat
While only four pairings have already been decided:
Denver Nuggets vs Portland Trail Blazers
Los Angeles Clippers vs Dallas Mavericks
Milwaukee Bucks vs Miami Heat
New York Knicks vs Atlanta Hawks
Among these 12, there are several surprises. In particular, the Phoenix Suns and the New York Knicks, which after so many disappointing seasons managed to return to the postseason thanks to a regular season, played at very high levels. The Utah Jazz, first in the West, also deserve a special mention, having secured the best record in the league in 72 regular-season games.
We are very curious to see the Brooklyn Nets on stage since they are the number one candidate to take the throne from the Lakers. The Big Three “Durant, Irving and Harden” are synonymous with success, but doubts remain whether the three can get on well since they have played very few games together due to injury. We should also note the presence of two of our countrymen: Danilo Gallinari (Atlanta Hawks) and Nicolò Melli (Dallas Mavericks). For Gallinari, the first round is a return to the past. The number 8 of the Hawks will face the Knicks, the team that in 2008 selected him at the draft and launched him into the NBA world. At his third consecutive participation in the postseason, Gallinari is going to be a key player. The situation is different for Melli, who arrived in Dallas during the season and has a secondary role in the Mavs’ line-up and will probably watch the series against the Clippers from the bench.
The guide to the NBA Playoffs is complete. Now all that is left to do is to get comfortable on the sofa and watch the incredible show. It will surely be even more exciting due to the return of the public to the arenas. In almost every city where the games will be played, capacity will be increased to over 50% and fans will once again be a part of the action.