2024 NBA Playoffs

Playoff Power Rankings: Where all 16 teams stand at top of first round

With Game 1s in the books, we make the case for -- and against -- each of the playoff teams to win the NBA championship.

The Celtics’ depth, 3-point marksmanship and more have all carried over to the playoffs so far.

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We had a chalky opening weekend of the 2024 NBA Playoffs, with home teams going 8-0 in Game 1s. Only two of those games (Knicks-Sixers and Thunder-Pelicans) were within five points in the last five minutes.

Every playoff game is different, of course. Some of those home teams are dealing with injuries, and some of the lower seeds have a ton of talent. The Game 2s over the next three days will come with adjustments, better execution, and maybe even a surprise or two.

It’s no surprise who the top two teams are in the first set of postseason Power Rankings. The Boston Celtics are one of the best regular-season teams in NBA history and the overwhelming favorite to reach The Finals out of the Eastern Conference. The Denver Nuggets are the defending champs and also off to a strong start as they look to defend their title.

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Movement in the Rankings

  • High jumps of the last two weeks: Cleveland (+6), L.A. Lakers (+2), Milwaukee (+2)
  • Free falls of the last two weeks: Orlando (-3), Dallas (-2), Phoenix (-2)

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OffRtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank)
DefRtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank)
NetRtg: Point differential per 100 possessions (League Rank)
Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank)

The league averaged 114.5 points scored per 100 possessions and 99.2 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes in the regular season.

NBA.com’s Power Rankings, released every Monday during the season, are just one man’s opinion. If you have an issue with the rankings, or have a question or comment for John Schuhmann, send him an e-mail or contact him via threads.

Last Week:1

Regular-season record: 64-18

OffRtg: 122.2 (1) DefRtg: 110.6 (2) NetRtg: +11.7 (1) Pace: 98.0 (19)

It had been a while since the Celtics had something to play for, but they had their foot on the gas at the start of Game 1 against the Heat, busting out to a 14-0 lead and cruising to a 20-point victory. They’ve now led 19 games by at least 30 points, two short of the most for any team in the 28 years for which we have play-by-play data.

The case for the Celtics: They were dominant this season, registering the fifth-best point differential (plus-11.3 per game) in NBA history. They were also strong down the stretch of close games against good teams.

The Celtics were 14-9 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes against the other 17 teams that finished over .500, outscoring those teams by 17.2 points per 100 clutch possessions (only the Nuggets were better against good teams in the clutch), scoring 119.2 and allowing just 102.0.

The case against the Celtics: They’re the jump-shootingest team in the league, with a league-high 57% of their shots coming from outside the paint. So there’s the potential for them to be undone by a poor shooting series, though they still had the league’s best record (22-13) when shooting worse than the league average (36.6%) from 3-point range.

The Celtics shot pretty well (22-for-49) from beyond the arc on Sunday, with seven of their eight rotation players making at least two 3s. The only exception was Jayson Tatum, who recorded his third career triple-double (first in the playoffs). The next test (maybe in Game 2) will be when they don’t shoot so well.

Next game: Wed. vs. MIA 7 p.m. ET, TNT/truTV

Complete coverage: Celtics-Heat series

Last Week:2

Regular-season record: 57-25

OffRtg: 117.8 (5) DefRtg: 112.3 (8) NetRtg: +5.5 (4) Pace: 97.4 (26)

The Nuggets trailed by as many as 12 points in Game 1, but won comfortably, thanks in part to a 20-4 run in the third quarter. They’ve now won nine straight games against the Lakers.

The case for the Nuggets: They’re the champs and they outplayed the team above them on this list in both of their head-to-head meetings. They were able to turn up their defense in last year’s playoffs and that carried over, with this being just the second time in the last 15 seasons that the Nuggets ranked in the top 10 defensively. And they ranked second defensively (112.7 points allowed per 100 possessions over 26 games) against the league’s top 10 offenses.

The case against the Nuggets: This team isn’t as deep as it was a year ago, and Nikola Jokic had the league’s biggest on-off differential (20.4 points per 100 possessions) for the third straight season. Second units anchored by Jamal Murray and Aaron Gordon didn’t work either, as the Nuggets were outscored by 39 points (16.1 per 100 possessions) in 115 total minutes with that duo on the floor without the Kia MVP favorite.

They didn’t play a five-man second unit on Saturday, and Jokic’s 39:23 was the fifth most he’s played in regulation this season. But the Nuggets did play 10 guys, with DeAndre Jordan on the floor during Jokic’s time on the bench. It will be fascinating to see how the rotation evolves throughout the playoffs.

Next game: Mon. vs. LAL, 10 p.m. ET, TNT/truTV

Complete coverage: Nuggets-Lakers series

Last Week:4

Regular-season record: 56-26

OffRtg: 114.6 (17) DefRtg: 108.4 (1) NetRtg: +6.3 (3) Pace: 97.8 (23)

It’s been 20 years since the Wolves last won a playoff series, but they’re off to a terrific start in this one after beating the Suns by 25 points in Saturday’s Game 1.

The case for the Wolves: Over the last 20 (full) seasons, the first third of the season (Games 1-27) most correlates with postseason success. The Wolves were tied with the Celtics for the best record (21-6) through the first third this season.

While offense has trended up over the last few years, winning a championship still requires defending at a high level. And no team has defended at a higher level than this one. The Suns have been held under a point per possession in just four of their 83 games, and the Wolves’ defense is now responsible for two of those four instances.

The case against the Wolves: This is still an opponent that torched the Wolves’ defense twice this season. And the Minnesota offense can (and will) go through some struggles. It was the lowest-ranked offense among Western Conference playoff teams, and it ranked 22nd (104.1 points scored per 100 possessions) in the clutch.

The Wolves have a 1-0 series lead for just the third time in franchise history, and they should expect some urgency from the Suns in Game 2. But they certainly can win ugly if the shots aren’t falling as much as they did on Saturday.

Next game: Tue. vs. PHX, 7:30 p.m. ET, TNT/truTV

Complete coverage: Timberwolves-Suns series

Last Week:3

Regular-season record: 57-25

OffRtg: 118.3 (3) DefRtg: 111.0 (4) NetRtg: +7.3 (2) Pace: 100.9 (5)

It was a bit of a struggle on Sunday, but the Thunder survived Game 1 against the Pelicans, with Kia Clutch Player of the Year nominee Shai Gilgeous-Alexander getting the biggest bucket of the playoffs thus far: an and-one runner that gave OKC the lead with 32.5 seconds left.

The case for the Thunder: They and the Celtics were just the 12th and 13th teams to rank in the top four on both ends of the floor in the 28 seasons for which we have play-by-play data. All of the previous 11 won their first-round series, with eight advancing to the conference finals.

The Celtics (32-15) and Thunder (31-18) were also the only teams with at least 30 wins against the 18 teams that finished the season over .500. And OKC had the best record (16-9) in games played between the eight Western Conference playoff teams, allowing just 110.7 points per 100 possessions over those 25 games.

The case against the Thunder: Among the 100 teams that ranked in the top five in the percentage of their minutes that came from rookies or second-year players over the last 20 seasons, only three won a playoff series. Only one of those three made it to the conference finals and that team — the 2004-05 Miami Heat — had a former MVP who had reached the Finals in four of the previous five seasons. The Thunder (fourth in rookie-or-second-year percentage) have an MVP candidate, but Gilgeous-Alexander isn’t ’04-05 Shaquille O’Neal. This team is young and inexperienced.

They all have one more game of playoff experience than they did 24 hours ago, so they should be a small degree more comfortable in Game 2 on Wednesday.

Next game: Wed. vs. NOP, 9:30 p.m. ET, TNT/truTV

Complete coverage: Thunder-Pelicans series

Last Week:6

Regular-season record: 51-31

OffRtg: 117.9 (4) DefRtg: 114.6 (16) NetRtg: +3.4 (7) Pace: 97.9 (20)

The Clippers’ comfortable, wire-to-wire victory over the Mavs on Sunday was certainly the weekend’s biggest surprise, given Kawhi Leonard’s absence and how well Dallas was playing in March and April.

The case for the Clippers: While the Mavs were the best team in the league (16-2) over a five-week stretch at the season’s end, the Clippers were the best team in the league (31-8) for a stretch (Nov. 17 – Feb. 5) that was more than twice as long. Historically, how well a team played late in the season hasn’t had much impact on success in the playoffs.

When whole, the Clippers have both three elite offensive players and three great perimeter defenders in their starting lineup. When healthy, Leonard has been incredible in the postseason, averaging 29.6 points on a true shooting percentage of 63.5% over 62 playoff games since 2017.

The case against the Clippers: Even if Leonard can play at some point in this series, that he’s been dealing with knee inflammation for the last three weeks is not a good sign. This series will have two-day breaks between Games 2 and 3 and between Games 4 and 5. But unless you finish a series in four or five, the extended breaks go away.

While they were great for almost three months straight, the Clippers did lose their mojo at some point. They also can’t expect to shoot 50% from 3-point range (as they did in Game 1). Overall, they haven’t been great against good teams, just 11-15 (only the Mavs were worse) in games played between the top eight in the West.

Leonard was initially listed as questionable for Game 1, so maybe there’s some hope that he can play on Tuesday.

Next game: Tue. vs. DAL, 10 p.m. ET, TNT/truTV

Complete coverage: Clippers-Mavericks series

Last Week:8

Regular-season record: 49-33

OffRtg: 117.6 (6) DefRtg: 115.0 (19) NetRtg: +2.6 (11) Pace: 100.5 (8)

It was tough to pick the Bucks with Giannis Antetokounmpo’s status uncertain, in part because Damian Lillard hasn’t been “that dude” this season. But he was that dude in the first half on Sunday, scoring 35 points on 11-for-19 shooting as the Bucks built a 30-point lead.

The case for the Bucks: While the Bucks ranked 19th defensively overall (their lowest rank in the last seven seasons), they were 10th against the league’s top 10 offenses. In Game 1, they were the first team in more than five months to hold the Pacers’ second-ranked offense under a point per possession.

If Antetokounmpo returns, the Bucks have the most top-line talent in the lower half of the Eastern Conference bracket. Their starting lineup outscored opponents by 15.1 points per 100 possessions, the best mark among 21 lineups that played at least 300 minutes.

The case against the Bucks: In the 27 previous seasons for which we have play-by-play data, only four of the 54 teams that reached the NBA Finals ranked as low as 19th defensively, and no team that reached the Finals without a top-five offense ranked lower than 12th defensively.

The Bucks’ starting lineup (with Bobby Portis in Antetokounmpo’s place) was only a plus-4 in a little less than 14 minutes on Sunday, and the Bucks have still been outscored by 20.4 points per 100 possessions (scoring just 99.5 per 100) in 196 total minutes with Lillard, Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez on the floor without Antetokounmpo.

Getting a second win without their MVP candidate will likely be tougher than the first.

Next game: Tue. vs. IND, 8:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV

Complete coverage: Bucks-Pacers series

Last Week:5

Regular-season record: 50-32

OffRtg: 117.0 (8) DefRtg: 114.9 (18) NetRtg: +2.1 (15) Pace: 100.6 (7)

The Mavs went 16-2 down the stretch but rested Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving for the last two games of the regular season. They couldn’t get the bus moving again until the second half of Game 1 against the Clippers. Their first half on Sunday was the fifth least efficient half (30 points on 48 possessions) for any team in any game this season (4,972 total halves).

The case for the Mavs: Over the two months from the first game they had Daniel Gafford and P.J. Washington through Game No. 80, the Mavs had the league’s second-best record (21-7), ranking in the top six on both ends of the floor, with huge improvement on defense.

And if they can play decent defense, they’re in great shape, because they have two of the best offensive guards in the world. They can have at least one on the floor at all times and when they’re both on the floor, one can make you pay for double-teaming the other.

The case against the Mavs: That 21-7 mark over those two months broke down to 12-0 against teams that finished with losing records and 9-7 against teams that finished over .500. Overall, the Mavs had the worst record (10-14) in games played between the eight Western Conference playoff teams, and their defense wasn’t good against the league’s best offenses.

After scoring just 30 points on 48 possessions in the first half on Sunday, the Mavs scored 67 on 45 (149 per 100) in the second half. So maybe they have some momentum going into Game 2.

Next game: Tue. @ LAC, 10 p.m. ET, TNT/truTV

Complete coverage: Clippers-Mavericks series

Last Week:9

Regular-season record: 49-33

OffRtg: 116.5 (11) DefRtg: 111.9 (6) NetRtg: +4.6 (6) Pace: 98.7 (16)

First-round series: Down 1-0 vs. Oklahoma City

The Pelicans, playing without Zion Williamson, were the lower seed that came closest to winning Game 1, with CJ McCollum’s leaning 3-pointer for the win hitting off the heel of the rim. Three of their four games against the Thunder (one win and two losses) have been within three points in the final minute.

The case for the Pelicans: This was a much better team than its record would indicate. The Pelicans were 49-33, but had the point differential (plus-4.4 per game, fourth best in the West) of a team that was 54-28.

They also had the league’s best road record (28-14) and were one of two teams (the Nuggets were the other) to hold the Thunder under 105 points per 100 possessions in Oklahoma City this season.

The case against the Pelicans: Though they still have a winning record (8-6 after Sunday) without Williamson, only two of those eight wins came against playoff teams. And if there’s such a thing as comeback-ability, the Pelicans don’t have it. Amazingly, if McCollum’s shot went in, it would have been their first win (they’re 0-24) in a game they trailed after the third quarter.

With the Thunder (the league’s best 3-point shooting team in the regular season) going just 10-for-32 (31%) from beyond the arc, Game 1 may have been the one the Pelicans needed to get. It was just their fourth loss (they were 28-3 in the regular season) in a game where they outscored their opponent from beyond the arc.

The Pelicans could certainly have shot better themselves, and they’ll get another chance to steal home-court advantage on Wednesday

Next game: Wed. @ OKC, 9:30 p.m. ET, TNT/truTV

Complete coverage: Thunder-Pelicans series

Last Week:7

Regular-season record: 49-33

OffRtg: 116.8 (10) DefRtg: 113.7 (13) NetRtg: +3.1 (8) Pace: 99.0 (15)

After sweeping their regular-season series with the Wolves, the Suns were clobbered in Game 1, with the 25-point margin tied for their second-worst of the season.

The case for the Suns: It’s all about the talent. The playoffs can come down to the ability to create shots and get buckets, and Phoenix has two of the best bucket-getters in the world. The Suns ranked 10th offensively overall but had the third most efficient offense (115.7 points scored per 100 possessions) against the league’s top 10 defenses. Those 26 games include two in which they scored more than 130 points per 100 possessions against the Wolves.

The case against the Suns: They’re always fighting the math. Not only did the Suns rank last in the percentage of their shots that came in the restricted area or from 3-point range, but they were also 29th in shooting opportunity differential, averaging 3.3 fewer than their opponents. They also had 12 fewer shooting opportunities than the Wolves on Saturday, grabbing just 36.3% of available rebounds, the worst mark for any team in Game 1.

Game 2 is certainly the biggest game this group has played together. There has to be more urgency, especially on the defensive end of the floor, where the Wolves scored 120 points on just 97 possessions on Saturday.

Next game: Tue. @ MIN, 7:30 p.m. ET, TNT/truTV

Complete coverage: Timberwolves-Suns series

Last Week:10

Regular-season record: 50-32

OffRtg: 117.3 (7) DefRtg: 112.4 (9) NetRtg: +4.9 (5) Pace: 96.0 (30)

For the second straight postseason, the Knicks are destroying their first-round opponent on the glass. They turned 23 offensive rebounds into 26 second-chance points in their seven-point victory over the Sixers on Saturday.

The case for the Knicks: They’ve been playing playoff-style basketball all season, ranking last in pace and taking a league-high 24.5% of their shots in the last six seconds of the shot clock. They’re now 20-2 (12-0 at home) when they’ve had both Jalen Brunson and OG Anunoby available and have outscored their opponents by 21.8 points per 100 possessions in their 665 total minutes on the floor together.

The duo was a minus-8 in 29.3 minutes on Saturday, but the Knicks’ bench (which hadn’t been good since Immanuel Quickley’s departure) was terrific.

The case against the Knicks: They fattened up against bad teams in the regular season, and the bad teams aren’t playing anymore. While the Knicks ranked ninth defensively overall, they had the fourth-worst defense (122.2 points allowed per 100 possessions) and were 8-17 against the league’s top 10 offenses. Only the Hawks, Nets and Hornets allowed more.

The Sixers ranked 14th offensively (so they’re not included in that calculation), but were sixth at the time of Joel Embiid’s knee injury. Embiid played more minutes on Saturday (36:33) than he did in the regular season against New York (36:13) and Philly scored 96 points on just 67 possessions (143 per 100) with him on the floor, even though he settled for too many jumpers.

Assuming that Brunson’s teammates won’t shoot better than 50% from 3-point range in a second straight game, the Knicks will need to do a better job of containing Tyrese Maxey in Game 2.

Next game: Mon. vs. PHI, 7:30 p.m. ET, TNT/truTV

Complete coverage: Knicks-76ers series

Last Week:11

Regular-season record: 47-35

OffRtg: 116.2 (14) DefRtg: 113.0 (11) NetRtg: +3.1 (9) Pace: 98.2 (18)

The good news is that Joel Embiid returned for the second half after falling to the ground and grabbing his left knee in the second quarter. But the Sixers blew a 13-point lead in the first half and a six-point lead in the second half as their nine-game winning streak at Madison Square Garden ended on Saturday.

The case for the Sixers: They’re still 30-8 when they’ve had both Embiid and Tyrese Maxey, and they ranked third in point differential per 100 possessions at the time of the big fella’s injury. They outscored the Knicks by 14 points in Embiid’s 36:32 in Game 1, even though he shot just 8-for-22 from the field, in part because New York couldn’t stop Maxey (8-for-11 on drives) from getting to the basket.

The case against the Sixers: That 30-8 record when they’ve had both Embiid and Maxey is 6-7 against Eastern Conference playoff teams (including 0-2 vs. New York) and 24-1 against everybody else. Even at the time of Embiid’s injury, they ranked 26th in defensive rebounding percentage. They got destroyed on the glass in Game 1, allowing 23 offensive rebounds and 26 second-chance points.

Embiid isn’t at his best, and too many of his catches came beyond the 3-point line on Saturday.

The Sixers also (and obviously) can’t lose Embiid’s minutes off the floor by … [checks notes] … 97 points per 100 possessions going forward. It will be a huge summer in Philadelphia and that summer may be here sooner than they thought if they don’t clean up multiple issues in Game 2.

Next game: Mon. @ NYK, 7:30 p.m. ET, TNT/truTV

Complete coverage: Knicks-76ers series

Last Week:18

Regular-season record: 48-34

OffRtg: 114.7 (16) DefRtg: 112.1 (7) NetRtg: +2.5 (12) Pace: 97.6 (24)

Two weeks ago, things looked bleak for the Cavs, mostly because Donovan Mitchell had missed 17 games and shot 38% since the All-Star break. But Cleveland has won its last three games in which Mitchell has played as he’s averaging 30.7 points on 49% shooting during that span.

The case for the Cavs: Mitchell is a postseason performer who (with 30 on Saturday) has now scored at least 30 points in 21 of his 45 playoff games. The Cavs also have a strong defense that held the Magic to just 83 points on 96 possessions (including 45% shooting in the paint) in Game 1 on Saturday.

They even rebounded well, a very positive development considering their rebounding performance in last year’s playoffs and that the Magic ranked seventh in offensive rebounding percentage this season.

The case against the Cavs: They had just the 21st-ranked offense (110.5 points scored per 100 possessions) in games against the league’s top-10 defenses. Five East playoff teams (including the Cavs themselves) ranked in the top 10 defensively and the Sixers (11th) would probably have, too, if Joel Embiid didn’t miss half the season.

The offense wasn’t good (113.7 points scored per 100 possessions) with both Mitchell and Darius Garland on the floor together, and it was worse (111.3 scored per 100) with Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen on the floor together.

The Magic are the worst offensive team still playing, but you’d have to assume they’ll shoot better in Game 2. If so, Mitchell may need a little more help than he got on Saturday, when his teammates shot just 5-for-22 (23%) on 3-pointers.

Next game: Mon. vs. ORL, 7 p.m. ET, NBA TV

Complete coverage: Cavaliers-Magic series

Last Week:15

Regular-season record: 47-35

OffRtg: 115.4 (15) DefRtg: 114.8 (17) NetRtg: +0.6 (19) Pace: 101.4 (4)

The reward for winning the 7-8 Play-In game was a series against the Nuggets, to whom the Lakers have now lost nine straight games. Their 12-point lead in the second quarter on Saturday was the largest they’ve held against the champs this season, but it disappeared quickly as the Lakers couldn’t get enough stops in the second half.

The case for the Lakers: LeBron James and Anthony Davis have had their healthiest season in L.A. and the Lakers ranked third offensively after the trade deadline (even though they didn’t make a trade). All five starters averaged at least 16.4 points per game (with a collective true shooting percentage of 63.2%) over those last 30 games.

The Lakers weren’t short of quality wins, finishing with a winning record (14-13) in games played between the eight Western Conference playoff teams.

The case against the Lakers: Despite Davis’ Kia Defensive Player of the Year candidacy (over the most minutes he’s played in the last six seasons), this is just the second worse-than-average defensive team that the Lakers have had in James’ six seasons in L.A. (The other was the 33-49 team — which got only 40 games from Davis and 56 from James — from two seasons ago.)

To win, the Lakers need to score efficiently. To do that, they need D’Angelo Russell to shoot well. But after his 1-for-9 performance on Saturday, Russell is now 52-for-164 (31.7%) from 3-point range in his playoff career. The Lakers are also 1-9 since the All-Star break when he’s shot less than 35% from beyond the arc.

The Lakers have allowed 123.9 points per 100 possessions over their four losses to the Nuggets this season, with Denver averaging 58.5 points in the paint, its third highest mark against any Western Conference opponent. If the Lakers are going to avoid another sweep, they’ll have to defend at a higher level or have Russell catch fire.

Next game: Mon. @ DEN, 10 p.m. ET, TNT/truTV

Complete coverage: Nuggets-Lakers series

Last Week:14

Regular-season record: 47-35

OffRtg: 120.5 (2) DefRtg: 117.6 (24) NetRtg: +2.9 (10) Pace: 102.2 (2)

The Pacers couldn’t take advantage of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s absence on Sunday, when they scored less than a point per possession for the second time this season (and the first time since Nov. 1).

The case for the Pacers: They had the league’s second-ranked offense and improved defensively (ranking 15th) over the last five weeks of the season. Their starting lineup allowed just 107.2 points per 100 possessions, the fifth-best defensive mark among 21 lineups that played at least 300 minutes.

The Pacers had the second-best record (15-11) in games played between the eight Eastern Conference playoff teams, including a 4-1 mark against their first-round opponent.

The case against the Pacers: Over the last five years, there’s still been a slightly stronger correlation between the number of playoff series a team won and how high it ranked defensively than offensively. None of the 40 teams that have won a playoff series over that time ranked as low as the Pacers did on defense. (The lowest was the 22nd-ranked, 2020-21 Nets.)

Though Damian Lillard scored 35 points in the first half on Sunday, offense was the Pacers’ larger issue. Pascal Siakam was terrific, but Tyrese Haliburton scored just nine points, registering his lowest usage rate (11.4%) of the season. It would be safe to assume that the priority for Game 2 is getting more shots for the All-Star point guard.

Next game: Tue. @ MIL, 8:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV

Complete coverage: Bucks-Pacers series

Last Week:16

Regular-season record: 46-36

OffRtg: 113.3 (21) DefRtg: 111.5 (5) NetRtg: +1.8 (17) Pace: 96.9 (29)

Last year, the Heat won all three of their Game 1s on the road in the first three rounds of the playoffs. This year, they got clobbered in Game 1 in Boston, just their fourth wire-to-wire defeat of the season.

The case for the Heat: They’re the Heat. They have one of the league’s best coaches and we’ve seen them do it before. They have the most playoff wins (38) since 2020, and they were a better team this season (46-36, plus-1.8 points per 100 possessions) than they were last season (44-38, minus-0.5), when they reached the NBA Finals from the No. 8 seed.

Even with the loss on Sunday, the Heat still have a winning record (14-10) without Jimmy Butler, and eight of those wins came against teams that finished over .500.

The case against the Heat: Though they had a winning record without him, the Heat were outscored by 2.0 points per 100 possessions with Butler off the floor this season. And though they were improved offensively, they still ranked in the bottom 10 on that end of the floor for the second straight season.

Maybe they’d have an edge if they could keep things close until the last five minutes. But the Heat were outscored by 13.5 points per 100 clutch possessions this season, with only the Wizards and Pistons having been worse.

The Heat must stew on that 20-point loss for more than 72 hours. According to Synergy tracking, they only played nine possessions of zone in Game 1, so we could see more of that on Wednesday.

Next game: Wed. @ BOS, 7 p.m. ET, TNT/truTV

Complete coverage: Celtics-Heat series

Last Week:13

Regular-season record: 47-35

OffRtg: 112.9 (22) DefRtg: 110.8 (3) NetRtg: +2.2 (14) Pace: 97.4 (27)

You just had to know that Cavs-Magic was going to be the ugliest offensive series. The Cavs barely scored a point per possession (97 on 96) in Game 1 and still won by 14.

The case for the Magic: They ranked third defensively overall and third defensively (112.9 points allowed per 100 possessions) in games against the league’s top 10 offenses. They have great defenders on the perimeter and inside and limit their opponents’ opportunities, finishing second in both opponent turnover rate and defensive rebounding percentage.

The case against the Magic: Let’s start with the paltry 83 points they scored (on 96 possessions) in Game 1 on Saturday. This is the worst offensive team among the 16 still playing, ranking in the bottom five in both turnover rate (26th) and effective field-goal percentage on shots from outside the paint (28th) in the regular season.

The problems went beyond the turnovers (nine from Paolo Banchero) and poor perimeter shooting (8-for-37 from 3-point range) on Saturday. The Magic also shot just 18-for-40 (45%) in the paint, struggling all afternoon to get good looks against another good defense.

This may be the team for which the “Do we need to make changes or just play better?” question is most interesting.

Next game: Mon. @ CLE, 7 p.m. ET, NBA TV

Complete coverage: Cavaliers-Magic series