Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press
As New Orleans has faded throughout the seeding games, a more appealing matchup for the top-seeded Lakers has emerged in the form of the Portland Path Blazers.
Terry Stotts’ team has taken advantage of a healthy frontcourt and Damian Lillard dipping into a high level to move into a favorable position to land the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.
Portland still has work to do to secure a playoff berth, and it will likely have to win a play-in series, however it is trending in the best direction to challenge James, Anthony Davis and Co.
Over in the Eastern Conference, the kind of Miami and Indiana inside the Orlando bubble combined with Philadelphia suffering a setback through Ben Simmons’ injury has actually set up the capacity for the Heat and Pacers to square off in the opening round.
Best Potential 1st-Round Matches
No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. No. 8 Portland
Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press
Portland has the top-level guard play that might damage the Lakers backcourt throughout a seven-game series.
Damian Lillard has knocked down 21 shots from three-point variety in 4 seeding video games, including 11 in a 45- point efficiency against Denver Thursday.
Lillard has actually had success in three meetings with the Lakers this season. He totaled 108 points and hit 13 triples in those contests.
In their 3 bubble defeats, the Lakers have had problem including the scorers from Toronto, Oklahoma City and Houston.
Those 3 groups tore down 40 shots from beyond the arc, with the Firecrackers and Raptors accounting for35
If Lillard and C.J. McCollum can make use of the backcourt matchup with the Lakers, it might make life harder on James and Davis to bring the bulk of the production.
Davis needs to be hoping the Blazers are not his first-round challengers because they are best equipped of the 6 groups fighting for the eighth seed to deal with his paint existence.
Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins returned from injury after the extended break, and Hassan Whiteside can spell both off the bench. Portland might also utilize Carmelo Anthony in protective areas to contain James and Davis.
Los Angeles is still efficient in surpassing Portland due to the fact that it has two of the video game’s finest gamers on its side, but Portland would cause it the most difficulty, and in turn, give us among the most entertaining opening-round bouts.
No. 4 Miami vs. No. 5 Indiana
Morry Gash/Associated Press
Miami and Indiana are looking set for a matchup that could be the most interesting first-round clash by far in the East.
Milwaukee and Toronto will be set up with relatively simple series against Brooklyn and Orlando, while Boston would face less of a risk from Philadelphia if Ben Simmons does not recover in time from his knee injury.
That leaves the Heat and Pacers, who have actually been two of the more entertaining sides to view in the bubble, to save what might be a rather boring East preliminary.
T.J. Warren has offered Indiana with some required scoring depth behind Malcolm Brogdon and Victor Oladipo with Domantas Sabonis out.
Warren exploded for 119 points in his first three games in Orlando before he was decreased a bit by Phoenix Thursday.
Miami has likewise dealt with its scoring depth beneath Jimmy Butler. Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro both eclipsed 20 points in Butler’s absence Thursday.
The appealing wrinkle to this potential match is the Pacers and Heat play twice in their last 3 seeding video games.
In a typical season, those games would matter more since home-court benefit would be on the line, however they might still be additional competitive as both sides attempt to keep away from a meeting with third-seeded Boston.
If they are successful with that job, we could see as many as 9 games in between the Heat and Pacers over the next couple of weeks.
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Stats acquired from Basketball Reference