NBA playoffs: Scores, schedules, matchups, predictions for first round

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

The NBA playoffs have begun with eight first-round matchups – four in the Eastern Conference and four more in the West.

The first-round series are best-of-7 contests with a team needing to win four games to advance to the next round. The latest a series could run – if it reaches a full seven games – is April 30.

The Milwaukee Bucks earned the top seed in the Eastern Conference and the Denver Nuggets earned the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.

Here is everything you need to know for the first round, including scores, schedules, TV information, storylines and predictions for every series:

Follow every game: Latest NBA Scores and Schedules


*-if necessary

No. 1 Milwaukee Bucks vs. No. 8 Miami Heat

Miami leads 3-1

Game 1: Heat 130, Bucks 117

Game 2: Bucks 138, Heat 122

Game 3: Heat 121, Bucks 99

Game 4: Heat 119, Bucks 114

Game 5, Wednesday: Miami at Milwaukee, 9:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV  

*-Game 6, Friday:  Milwaukee at Miami, time and TV TBD

*-Game 7, April 30: Miami at Milwaukee, time and TV TBD

Season series: Tied, 2-2

Key storyline: The Heat had the No. 25 offense and the No. 27 3-point shooting team, and that’s going to be a problem against Milwaukee’s No. 4 defense. The Bucks’ offense, led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, will make the Heat pay for those missed shots..

Zillgitt’s prediction: Bucks in five

No. 2 Boston Celtics vs. No. 7 Atlanta Hawks

Boston leads 3-2

Game 1: Celtics 112, Hawks 99

Game 2: Celtics 119, Hawks 106

Game 3: Hawks 130, Celtics 122

Game 4: Celtics 129, Hawks 121

Game 6, Thursday: Boston at Atlanta, time and TV TBD

*-Game 7, April 29: Atlanta at Boston, time TBD, TNT  

Season series: Celtics won, 3-0

Key storyline: Hawks coach Quin Snyder helped improved a dangerous offense (Trae Young, Dejounte Murray, Bogdan Bogdanovic) since taking over on Feb. 26, but the defense still has issues and that will be a problem against Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum and the Celtics’ No. 2 offense.

Zillgitt’s prediction: Celtics in five

No. 3 Philadelphia 76ers vs. No. 6 Brooklyn Nets

Philadelphia wins 4-0

Game 1: 76ers 121, Nets 101

Game 2: 76ers 96, Nets 84

Game 3: 76ers 102, Nets 97

Game 4: 76ers 96, Nets 88

Season series: 76ers won, 4-0

Key storyline: The Nets have thrived under tumultuous conditions, but stopping Joel Embiid, James Harden and the Sixers offense is a difficult ask for the Nets in a seven-game series.

Zillgitt’s prediction: Sixers in five

No. 4 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. No. 5 New York Knicks

New York leads 3-1

Game 1: Knicks 101, Cavaliers 97

Game 2: Cavaliers 107, Knicks 90

Game 3: Knicks 99, Cavaliers 79

Game 4: Knicks 102, Cavaliers 93

Game 5, Wednesday: New York at Cleveland, 7 p.m. ET, TNT

*-Game 6, Friday: Cleveland at New York, time and TV TBD

*-Game 7, April 30: New York at Cleveland, time and TV TBD

Season series: Knicks won, 3-1

Key storyline: The Knicks need to find a way to score on Cleveland’s top-ranked defense, and the Cavs, just 20-21 on the road, likely will need a win at Madison Square Garden, which means they need Donovan Mitchell to score efficiently.

Zillgitt’s prediction: Cavs in seven


*-if necessary

No. 1 Denver Nuggets vs. No. 8 Minnesota Timberwolves

Denver wins series, 4-1

Game 1: Nuggets 109, Timberwovles 80

Game 2: Nuggets 122, Timberwolves 113

Game 3: Nuggets 120, Timberwolves 111 

Game 4: Timberwolves 114, Nuggets 108 (OT)

Game 5: Nuggets 112, Timberwolves 109

Season series: Tied, 2-2.

Key storyline: Minnesota center Rudy Gobert, coming off a one-game suspension for punching teammate Kyle Anderson in the season finale, has a bad back. That puts a lot of pressure on Karl-Anthony Towns and the Timberwolves to stop two-time MVP Nikola Jokic.

Zillgitt’s prediction: Nuggets in six

No. 2 Memphis Grizzlies vs. No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers

Los Angeles leads 3-1

Game 1: Lakers 128, Grizzlies 112

Game 2: Grizzlies 103, Lakes 93

Game 3: Lakers 111, Grizzlies 101

Game 4: Lakers 117, Grizzlies 111 (OT)

Game 5, Wednesday: Los Angeles at Memphis, 7:30 p.m. ET, TNT  

*-Game 6, Friday: Memphis at Los Angeles, time and TV TBD

*-Game 7, April 30: Los Angeles at Memphis, time and TV TBD

Season series: Lakers won, 2-1

Key storyline: The new guard (Memphis and Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane) faces a compelling challenge from the old guard (the Lakers and LeBron James and Anthony Davis). This is an atypical 2-7 series with pressure on both sides.

Zillgitt’s prediction: Grizzlies in seven

No. 3 Sacramento Kings vs. No. 6 Golden State Warriors

Series tied 2-2

Game 1: Kings 126, Warriors 123

Game 2: Kings 114, Warriors 106

Game 3: Warriors 114, Kings 97

Game 4: Warriors 126, Kings 125 

Game 5, Wednesday: Golden State at Sacramento, 10 p.m. ET, TNT

Game 6, Friday: Sacramento at Golden State, time and TV TBD

*-Game 7, April 30: Golden State at Sacramento, time and TV TBD

Season series: Warriors won, 3-1

Key storyline: Can the Kings, making their first playoff appearance since 2006 behind the strong play of Domantas Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox, handle the pressure of playing the defending champs and Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green? Both defenses have their hands full with the offensive movement of the other team.

Zillgitt’s prediction: Warriors in six

No. 4 Phoenix Suns vs. No. 5 Los Angeles Clippers

Phoenix wins series 4-1

Game 1: Clippers 115,  Suns 110

Game 2: Suns 123, Clippers 109

Game 3: Suns 129, Clippers 124

Game 4: Suns 112, Clippers 100

Game 5: Suns 136, Clippers 130

Season series: Tied, 2-2

Key storyline: No Paul George to start the series for the Clippers, and Kawhi Leonard might not be enough against a loaded Suns squad with Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton that has excelled in short time since acquiring Durant.

Zillgitt’s prediction: Suns in six

Follow NBA reporter Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.

This post appeared first on USA TODAY