Blazers Could Make NBA Finals, Not Warriors Says TNT's Kenny Smith

Giannis Antetokounmpo James Harden

Enlarge Image Giannis Antetokounmpo James Harden Anthony J. Causi Getty Images

"I know guys been itching to get to this first playoff game". The Bucks will host the Pistons, the Raptors will have home court advantage over the Magic, the 76ers will face off against the emerging Nets and the Celtics will host the Pacers. This Clippers season was so much fun, but sinking to the 8th spot will turn out to be their downfall.

Season series is tied 2-2 between the two. Even though the Warriors star has been doing this for 10 years now, the six-time All-Star still gets pumped up when he plays in an National Basketball Association game.

There's no Tony Parker, for the first time in almost two decades. Not every team left standing was expected to make it here, but they're still here and ready to make some noise!

On Saturday night the 2019 edition of the NBA Playoffs will get underway with the Brooklyn Nets hosting the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round opener.

Over the regular season, the Milwaukee Bucks have proven to be the most formidable challenger to the vacant throne.

Or Toronto, humiliated by the Cavaliers in the last two years but armed now with a former NBA Finals MVP in Kawhi Leonard.

Boston is the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference after putting up a 49-33 record this season.

The 1-8 matchup in the West isn't really a fair one, but it usually never is. Neither team is particularly potent so needs to rely on being solid defensively.

The two-time MVP returned from a left knee injury for Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals, missing the entire first round as the Warriors eliminated the Spurs in five games.

All four of those teams went on to win the National Basketball Association championship.

It's been a few years since Kevin Durant chose to leave the OKC Thunder and sign with the Golden State Warriors, a team that had just won 73 games in the regular season and came back from a 3-1 deficit against his team to eliminate him just the month before.

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While he suffered a mild right foot sprain Tuesday at New Orleans, Curry was a full go in practice Friday with no issues.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr was a member of one of those teams in the modern era and now has the chance to do it again in a different role, having played under the man who was the guiding hand behind each of the sides to have done the three-peat.

HEALTHY STEPH: Curry wasn't even healthy when the 2018 playoffs began.

No. 2 DENVER NUGGETS (54-28) vs.

A surprise package this year, the Nuggets finished second in the west after not making the playoffs since 2013. He's strung together seven straight seasons of over 50% shooting, and in the last three consecutive seasons, he's shot over 51.5% from the field, a mark he hadn't hit prior to joining the Warriors. Here's the experience factor again: Malone has been on the sideline for zero playoff games as a head coach, while Popovich has coached 277.

This season, Durant has battled the stress of rumors that he is heading to the Knicks and the words he exchanged with Draymond Green in a huddle in a game against the Clippers at the beginning of the season.

Story line: Oklahoma City started 0-4, then went 37-15, then went 12-14 from there.

The Thunder and the Blazers may provide one of the most intense series in the first round, as top-tier competitors Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook will be sure to leave it all on the floor.

Two games, two upsets. The addition of Rodney Hood and Enes Kanter. Antetokounmpo will likely have to defend Griffin assuming he starts and plays, which is not a great matchup for your best player. Kanter has been great down the stretch for Portland, and Adams is a stabilizing force for the Thunder.

This was the best move for Durant, and hearing him say he's got no regrets should make fans a bit more confident that he'll return after they hopefully three-peat this postseason.

Houston Rockets' James Harden has been a scoring machine this season, netting over 30 points in 32 games in a row and averaging 36.6 points per game. The way these teams are playing, it's kind of a shame that they're meeting in the first round. Not to mention Donovan Mitchell has been on another level.

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