But you couldn't risk that second game. Especially the way the Celtics lost nine of their last 13, the four wins over teams not in the playoffs. I'm also assuming the Warriors win, though I don't see Boston winning any series. Including against the Bulls, who basically have been dominating them most of the season. Fortunately for Boston, the Bulls aren't in. The Celtics would be fortunate to get two games against anyone. So how do I think that first round might go?
76ers/Wizards: If Gafford can take out Embiid... Are we talking the old Bulls three-headed monster against Shaq in Gafford, Len and Robin Lopez? If Ben Simmons is the best defender, as he says, he has to take out Beal or Westbrook. The 76ers can't process this too much longer. 76ers in 5.
Nets/Celtics: If only they could defend Tatum like the Bulls do. Brad Stevens says it's hard to see how the Nets can lose. Reverse psychology? Or saying what they'd bury Tony LaRussa for? With the 76ers Three ready, I tend to agree with Stevens. I remember when Doug Moe's Nuggets faced Magic's Lakers in the first round in the late 80s and said no way the Nuggets would win a game. He was right. Nets in 4.
Bucks/Heat: This is the big one for the first round after the Heat took out the first place Bucks last bubble. Giannis has more help now even if no one defends him beyond five feet anymore. He really, really needs to win this one. It won't be easy, but still they should. Bucks in 6.
Knicks/Hawks: This is the other one for the first round, more fun than big. Can Thibs push his guys through one more round? Can Kris Dunn shut down Derrick Rose? The Knicks are the best defense and the Hawks are all offense. It's an offensive league. Hawks in 6.
Jazz/Warriors: One more round of Steph, please. What a delight to watch Steph move, move Steph move. To watch him shoot, shoot Steph shoot. I couldn't figure what the Lakers were up to with all that size refusing to go inside in the play-in . I suspect the Jazz will think otherwise. If Donovan Mitchell isn't back, maybe 6 or 7 for Utah. If he is 4 or 5.
Suns/Lakers: This really isn't fair, spending all season working your way up to second and then drawing the Lakers now basically healthy. I've heard some suggest—mostly with the Suns—saying top seeded teams should be able to select their first round opponents. Tough luck. The Suns had a good season. Bye. Lakers in 6.
Denver/Portland: Sure be a nice time to have Jamal Murray. The Aaron Gordon acquisition looked like a final piece until it became a replacement. Jokic is going to be the MVP, and will have plenty of time to find a trophy case. Trailblazers in 7.
Clippers/Mavericks: Not many teams know how to lose like the Clippers, who played their way down to this matchup and thus also avoided the Lakers until they reach the conference finals. That was the plan last season, also, until it didn't work out. Who knows when and if Porzingis will play, and the Clippers have way too much defensive possibilities. Maybe the Mavs get a game. Clippers in 4.