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2017 NBA Playoffs bracket projection: Cavs, Celtics battling for top seed

2017 NBA Playoffs bracket projection: Cavs, Celtics battling for top seed

The West is basically set, while the East still has plenty to sort out ahead of the 2017 NBA Playoffs. 

Each of the eight Western Conference playoff teams have been determined, as the Portland Trail Blazers secured a top eight seed on Sunday. 

We know seeds 1-3 and 6-8. The only thing left in the West to determine is who gets home court advantage in the 4-5 series between the L.A. Clippers and Utah Jazz, who are currently tied with 49-31 records.

In the East it is much more complicated. There are two playoff spots open and the No. 1 seed has not been clinched. 

Here is what we know: 

EAST: 

- the Cavs, Celtics, Raptors, Wizards, Hawks and Bucks have clinched playoff spots. The Pacers and Bulls currently hold the seventh and eight seeds, though they haven't clinched.

- the Wizards are locked into the fourth seed

WEST:

- the Warriors, Spurs, Rockets, Clippers, Jazz, Thunder, Grizzlies and Blazers have clinched playoff spots

- the Warriors will be the No. 1 seed, the Spurs will be No. 2, the Rockets No. 3, the Thunder No. 6, the Grizzlies No. 7 and the Blazers No. 8

Here is what we don't know:

EAST:

- the last two playoff spots

- which teams will get the 1-3 and 5-8 seeds

WEST:

- whether the Clippers or Jazz will earn the four seed and therefore have home court advantage in their 4-5 series 

Here is what the playoff picture looks like currently:

2017 NBA PLAYOFFS BRACKET PROJECTION

Eastern Conference (As of Monday morning 4/10):

No. 1 Cleveland Cavaliers (51-29) vs. No. 8 Chicago Bulls (39-41)

No. 2 Boston Celtics (51-29) vs. No. 7 Indiana Pacers (40-40)

No. 3 Toronto Raptors (50-31) vs. No. 6 Milwaukee Bucks (41-39)

No. 4 Washington Wizards (48-32) vs. No. 5 Atlanta Hawks (42-38)

Western Conference (As of Monday morning 4/10):

No. 1 Golden State Warriors (66-14) vs. No. 8 Portland Trail Blazers (40-40)

No. 2 San Antonio Spurs (66-14) vs. No. 7 Memphis Grizzlies (43-38)

No. 3 Houston Rockets (54-26) vs. No. 6 Oklahoma City Thunder (46-34)

No. 4 L.A. Clippers (49-31) vs. No. 5 Utah Jazz (49-31)

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Rui Hachimura's learning curve can be seen on offense late in games

Rui Hachimura's learning curve can be seen on offense late in games

WASHINGTON -- Wizards forward Rui Hachimura has translated so smoothly to the NBA level that it is easy to forget he is still just a rookie with only 31 games under his belt. For a reminder of his inexperience, just look at the fourth quarter.

Hachimura tends to start games hot on the offensive end, like he did on Friday in the Wizards' loss to the Cavaliers when he had eight points by the end of the first quarter. But he scored only nine points after that and went scoreless through seven minutes in the fourth.

That has been a consistent theme for him this season. He averages 4.8 points in the first quarter shooting 48.4 percent from the field, 4.0 points in the second shooting 57 percent and then 4.3 points on 47.9 percent in the third. In the fourth quarter those numbers plummet to 1.9 points on average and 33.3 percent shooting.

Basically, Hachimura often comes out on fire but then slows down considerably once opponents make midgame changes. Against the Cavs, Hachimura said it was because they disrupted passing lanes.

"They are an NBA team. They just adjusted. They didn't want me to catch the ball. They didn't let me just catch the ball. I think that's why," he said.

The Wizards have seen teams switch defensive match-ups midgame to counter Hachimura. Sometimes taking away his midrange jumper will be prioritized. The Cavs seemed to find success playing Hachimura more physically in the second half, bumping him away from his comfort zones.

Over time, Hachimura can improve his ability to sustain scoring throughout games simply by becoming more versatile. The more consistent he becomes at making three-point shots and creating off the dribble, the more difficult it will be for teams to stop him. As long as he keeps improving, he will reach a point where he can stay ahead of the defense with a multitude of counters.

Developing a more reliable outside game and more dribble combinations will take some time. For now, Hachimura believes the key to him keeping up his scoring pace involves working with his teammates, particularly star shooting guard Bradley Beal.

"I just gotta connect more with Brad. Brad is the one everybody is trying to guard. Screens and pick-and-rolls with him, that kind of stuff will help me," Hachimura said.

Hachimura's game against the Cavaliers reflected how the team played overall. After scoring 41 points in the first quarter, they managed only 42 in the second half. They blew a 16-point lead and lost, 113-108.

So, he wasn't alone. And those rooting for Hachimura to round out his game should feel good about his odds. He has a relentless work ethic and is often staying after practice to go over film with player development coach Dave Adkins.

Hachimura is perceptive and driven to improve. In order to take the next step as a scorer, he will have to get better at closing games.

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Tristan Thompson calls Bradley Beal one of the best shooting guards in the league

Tristan Thompson calls Bradley Beal one of the best shooting guards in the league

Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson spoke with reporters after the team's victory over the Wizards Friday night, praising Bradley Beal, who was snubbed from All-Star consideration this season despite averaging nearly 30 points-per-game.

The Cavaliers held the Wizards to just 21 points in the fourth quarter, and Thompson said their main focus was neutralizing Beal.

"The Wizards are really good offensively when they are making their runs," Thompson said postgame. "Bradley Beal is an All-Star in our league. One of the top-three two-guards in our league right now, so we were just trying to make it tough for him."

Beal finished the night with 26 points, but struggled from the floor. Beal shot 9-for-28 from the floor and the Cavaliers' stingy defense was clearly a factor.

Beal and the Wizards will have a chance to get back on track on Sunday night at Capital One Arena when they host the Chicago Bulls for the final time this season.

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