IND (7) @ CLE (2)
Cavs won regular-season series: 3-1
Prediction: Cleveland 4-1
LeBron James owned Indiana during the regular season, boasting of impressive averages of 32.3 points, 8.3 boards, 8.0 assists, 2.7 triples, 1.3 steals, 0.7 blocks and 3.0 turnovers per contest on 59.7 percent shooting through 40.8 minutes of floor time. Like pretty much every team in the league, Indiana just doesn’t have an answer for King James, and I expect him to dominate the Pacers during this first-round series.
Paul George essentially willed the Pacers into the playoffs this year with his incredible play down the stretch, and through Indiana’s final seven regular-season games he produced incredible averages of 32.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 4.1 trey-bombs, 1.9 steals and just 2.4 turnovers per contest on 53.5 percent shooting. The only reason I’m giving Indiana one game in this series is because I think PG-13 will be able to will the Pacers to victory at least once with something like a 50-point outing, but I don’t think George has the help he needs in Indiana to make this a legitimate series.
Jeff Teague was forced out of Indiana’s regular-season finale against the Hawks after tweaking his left ankle, and while he didn’t return to the game, he did return to the bench and was spotted signing autographs for the fans after the game. Indiana’s medical staff assured head coach Nate McMillan that the injury is not being considered serious, and considering he’s not had a full three days to rest up, I imagine he’ll be just fine for Game 1.
Al Jefferson (ankle) was able to practice on Friday, but he remains questionable for Game 1. He missed Indiana’s nine final regular-season games heading into the postseason, so his conditioning likely isn’t where it needs to be. If he does play Saturday, don’t expect many minutes to come his way.
MIL (6) @ TOR (3)
Raptors won regular-season series: 3-1
Prediction: Toronto 4-2
Kyle Lowry dominated Malcolm Brogdon and Matthew Dellavedova during the regular-season, and that trend should continue during the post-season. In three blowout wins over the Bucks this season, Lowry registered averages of 23.0 points, 3.7 triples, 6.3 dimes, 3.7 boards, 1.3 steals and 3.0 turnovers per game on 50.0 percent shooting.
Through four games against the Raptors during the regular-season, Giannis Antetokounmpo put forth averages of 24.8 points, 7.8 boards, 7.0 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.0 block and just 2.0 turnovers per contest on 58.8 percent shooting. Obviously, The Greek Freak will be stuffing the stat sheet for the Bucks during Milwaukee’s first-round series.
Jabari Parker (ACL surgery) he could miss a large portion of the 2017-18 season as well.
DeMar DeRozan missed Toronto’s regular-season finale against the Cavs on Wednesday due to an illness, but there’s no way he’ll be on the sidelines for Game 1.
P.J. Tucker (illness) didn’t practice on Friday, but he’s fully expected to play on Saturday.
MEM (7) @ SA (2)
Regular-season series tied: 2-2
Prediction: San Antonio 4-2
The Spurs and the Grizzlies both ranked within the bottom five in pace this season, and they’re also both ranked amongst the top-3 in defensive efficiency, so aside from Kawhi Leonard, I wouldn’t really target anyone in this series for fantasy purposes. Even Leonard somewhat struggled in his three games against the Grizzlies this season with averages of 24.3 points, 8.7 boards, 3.7 assists, 2.7 triples, 1.0 steal and 2.3 turnovers on 42.6 percent shooting from the field and 79.2 percent from the stripe. Still impressive, sure, but the steals and shooting percentages are way off his regular-season averages.
Tony Allen is dealing with a right calf strain and he's "out indefinitely." It sounds like he could miss Memphis' entire first-round series against the Spurs, which should result in more minutes for guys like Vince Carter, James Ennis (knee) and Troy Daniels.
James Ennis sat out Memphis’ final regular-season game on Wednesday with right knee bursitis, but I’d be very surprised to see him sit out Game 1.
UTA (5) @ LAC (4)
Clippers won regular-season series: 3-1
Prediction: Los Angeles 4-3
Amongst the Clippers’ players, Chris Paul tended to be the most effective against Utah this season, owning averages of 18.7 points, 7.0 assists, 4.0 boards, 2.0 triples, 1.7 steals and just 2.3 turnovers per contest on 40.4 percent shooting. I expect him to produce some big time performances to help Los Angeles advance to the second round and beyond.
Rudy Gobert’s incredible defense is a key factor in why I’m expecting the Jazz to take the Clippers to the brink with a seven-game series, and I could see Rudy coming away with at least one 20-20 game. In four games against the Clippers this season, The Stifle Tower produced averages of 13.8 points, 11.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.5 blocks per contest on 65.7 percent shooting.
Raul Neto (ankle) will not play in Game 1 against the Clippers, but he’s irrelevant anyway.
Austin Rivers (hamstring) is hoping that he’ll be able to get back on the court at some point during this first-round series, but it seems unlikely that he’ll be out there for Game 1. Jamal Crawford and Raymond Felton will continue to split most of River’s minutes.
Other Injury News
76ers GM Bryan Colangelo said he doesn't think back-to-backs will be an issue for Joel Embiid next season. That seems incredibly optimistic considering that the 23-year-old’s body broke down after just 31 games this season, despite having a minutes limit his entire rookie year and sitting out back-to-back sets. I love Embiid’s potential, but considering that hype will likely drive up The Process’ price in next year’s drafts, I’m just not willing to take the risk on a guy with so many red flags.
Sam Dekker had his fractured left hand examined on Friday, and he remains out indefinitely.
Matt Barnes (ankle) is doubtful to play in Game 1 vs. Portland on Sunday. He won’t be playing much during the postseason anyway.
Jusuf Nurkic's (leg) status for Sunday's game is "undecided." He was spotted going through a 25-minute pregame workout on Wednesday, and said that he’s feeling good and just “waiting for the green light” from Portland’s medical staff, so it does seem like there’s a chance he’ll be able to get out there. If Nurkic is able to play, Meyers Leonard will lose most of his fantasy appeal.