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Enjoy Basketball presents: Best things to watch in Saturday's 1st-round matchups

Enjoy Basketball is back to preview their favorite storylines from the four series that tip off on Saturday.

Warriors-Kings is just one of the many delights on offer in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

Meet Enjoy Basketball, a brand co-founded by basketball creator Kenny Beecham. Their mission is to uplift the game by providing entertaining NBA coverage, without all the hot takes. The Enjoy Basketball newsletter drops every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning, keeping you in the loop with NBA news, and providing you with player interviews, trivia, memes, and more.

Playoff series are like your children. You love them all equally…however, this year’s first-round series are all basically the honor-roll, team captain, class president, lead in the school play, spelling bee champion type of children. In other words, we got really lucky with the matchups.

Classic postseason memories are waiting to be made. Join us as we traverse some of the most Enjoyable storylines from Saturday’s round one contests.

Darius Garland vs. Jalen Brunson

The Knicks and Cavs both boast top-notch floor generals.

Don’t text…we’re just thinking about how neither Jalen Brunson or Darius Garland was an All-Star this year.

We’re thoroughly ready to Enjoy a series-long duel between these two. On one side, you have the sharpshooting, rack attacking, high-IQ, floor general, and on the other side you have the… wait, that describes both of them. You have to pick your poison when facing these guards–the problem with poison, though, is that it’s lethal no matter what.

Two players in the NBA this season scored at least 600 points and dished out at least 130 assists on drives to the basket. You’re not going to believe this… but those two players were Jalen Brunson and Darius Garland. As a defender, your only hope is to back off and dare them to shoot–ah wait, that doesn’t work either, because they both shot over 40% from deep. There aren’t many players you’d rather have running the show than DG or JB.

The units around them are legit, too. Cleveland’s defensive rating is No.1 in the league—anchored by DPOY Finalist Evan Mobley—and New York’s offense sneakily finished at No.4 These two teams playing in the first round is criminal for the respective fan bases… But a treat for the rest of us.

Get your earplugs ready

The Kings’ faithful are ready to make some noise and glory in the beam this postseason.

We won’t regale you with statistics about how long it’s been since the Kings were in the playoffs– we all know it’s been a while. Instead, we’ll commend Kings fans for their unwavering support through some tough years. No matter what, they showed up for their team. And now their payoff has arrived. You know those fake “noise meters” they put on jumbotrons during timeouts that “break” when fans start cheering louder? Well, Sacramento could actually break all noise measurements on Saturday. Kings fans might discover a higher plane of existence if they get to experience a playoff beam lighting. You can’t not Enjoy an electric stadium atmosphere. 

But what about the actual basketball aspect of this series? For that, we’ll start you out with a quick math problem (sorry!) What do you get when you add the #1 offense in the NBA, the greatest shooter of all time, the team that makes the most threes, then multiply it by two defenses in the bottom half of defending the arc?

If you answered “a defensive battle” then we’re sorry to inform you that you need to retake Basketball Enjoyers 101. Sacramento and Golden State might be on track to have some legendary shootouts in the coming weeks, but they’ll hurt you if you start to hedge, too. Both teams are top-four in scoring off of cuts to the basket. Don’t get caught sleeping. Enjoy off-ball movement.

The prodigal son

Mikal Bridges is ready to lead the Brooklyn Nets against his hometown Philadelphia 76ers.

Mikal Bridges was a Philadelphia 76er for less than an hour. While most players traded on draft night don’t have much of a connection to the team that deals them, Bridges’ experience is patently unique when you consider that his mom Tyneeha worked as the Sixers VP of Human Resources at the time of the 2018 draft, and he grew up about nine miles from Wells Fargo Center.

Now, the Overbrook native heads to Philly–as the new face of the Brooklyn Nets– to face off against his hometown team for the first time in the postseason. Bridges’ 26.3 points per game after the All-Star break was a top-20 mark in the whole league. 

This has the potential for a storybook ending, right? The hometown kid returns as the new superstar and defeats the team that dealt him away? In theory, sure; until you remember that…

Joel Embiid exists

Joel Embiid won his 2nd straight NBA scoring title in the 2022-23 regular season.

And the face of Philly sports is ready to write a story of his own. Embiid is looking to make his first ever conference finals appearance; coming off his second-straight scoring title (33.1 PPG) and flanked by a supporting cast that includes a former MVP in James Harden, he might have the facilities to do it.

This Sixers team is particular about the shots they take (16th in the NBA in 3PA) but they pick them well (#1 in 3PT%.) If you’re wondering why the team doesn’t shoot more threes, it’s because getting the ball to their seven-footer who has the coordination of a guard but the power of a grizzly bear is pretty efficient, too.

Thanks to Embiid, Philly fourth in post-up frequency, third in points per post-up, and fifth in FG% on post-ups. The combination of a dominant inside presence and lethal outside shooting (Several Sixers shoot well above league average) could make this team a nightmare to oppose.

Brooklyn does, however, possess loads of defensive versatility in the form of Bridges, Nic Claxton, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Cam Johnson. Seeing how they scheme against Philly’s versatile offense will be fascinating. We Enjoy a good game of matchup chess. 

Trae vs. the Jays

Trae Young will lead his Atlanta Hawks into Boston to face Jayson Tatum and the Celtics.

See what we mean about ideal first round matchups? The names of the stars even rhyme. It’s meant to be.

Trae Young vanquished his playoff demons with a strong performance to oust the Heat–who defeated ATL in last year’s first round– in the 7 vs. 8 play-in game. Their prize? The opportunity to play a Boston team that’s elite all 94 feet (second in both offensive and defensive rating, and #1 in net rating) and has a pair of proven playoff stars in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

That’s like, the worst prize ever.

Is it just us, or does Boston feel like a prime candidate to join Young’s list of playoff “enemies?” C’s fans love talking. Trae Young loves when fans talk, because it puts a chip on his shoulder. The recipe is simple. There’s nothing more enjoyable than a (mostly) friendly NBA rivalry.