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Eight NBA teams will play Sunday as they each start their 2018 NBA postseason campaigns. Fans can sit on the couch and watch NBA basketball for the better part of 12 hours if they so choose, as the action kicks off at 1 p.m. ET when the Milwaukee Bucks face the Boston Celtics.
Until then, here’s a look at the Sunday television schedule, as well as predictions for each matchup.
NBA Schedule: Sunday, April 15
1 p.m. ET on TNT: No. 7 Milwaukee Bucks at No. 2 Boston Celtics
3:30 p.m. ET on ABC: No. 5 Indiana Pacers at No. 4 Cleveland Cavaliers
6:30 p.m. ET on TNT: No. 5 Utah Jazz at No. 4 Oklahoma City Thunder
10:30 p.m. ET on TNT: No. 8 Minnesota Timberwolves at No. 1 Houston Rockets
No. 7 Milwaukee Bucks at No. 2 Boston Celtics
One of the more intriguing storylines of the NBA playoffs will begin revealing itself early Sunday afternoon as the Boston Celtics face Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks.
Specifically, can Boston still go deep even without star point guard Kyrie Irving? The former Duke star is out for the entire postseason with a knee injury, leaving Boston has a tough task ahead. However, Jaylen Brown has been on fire of late, scoring 20.8 points per game on 52.1 percent shooting in five April games.
Jayson Tatum helped lead the Celtics on a six-game winning streak to end March, which included victories over four playoff teams (the Toronto Raptors, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder and Portland Trail Blazers). And Terry Rozier can light it up from downtown, as he did against the Sacramento Kings when he made eight three-pointers and scored 33.
Look for this series, which has the potential to be the best of the first round, to go long. As for Game 1, give the slight edge to the Celtics, who went 27-14 at home.
Pick: Celtics 105, Bucks 104
No. 5 Indiana Pacers at No. 4 Cleveland Cavaliers
Although the Indiana Pacers beat the Cleveland Cavaliers three out of four times during the regular season, those results can be taken with a grain of salt, as they all occurred before Cleveland completely reshuffled their roster at the trade deadline.
Following the additions of George Hill, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr., the new-look Cavaliers struggled following the All-Star break, going 5-7 in 12 games. However, the team has been fantastic ever since, finishing the year 11-3 (the third loss comes with an asterisk, as the Cavs rested key players in the regular-season finale to the New York Knicks).
Notably, Kevin Love has returned to the team following a lengthy absence due to a broken hand, and the Cavs have gone 9-1 in the 10 full games he’s played since March 19. Love might be difficult for the Pacers to contain on the glass, as they rank just 19th in the league in rebounding differential.
Also, LeBron James hasn’t lost a first-round series in his entire career. Don’t expect that trend to break now.
Pick: Cavaliers 115, Pacers 100
No. 5 Utah Jazz at No. 4 Oklahoma City Thunder
This series has a few plausible routes. On one hand, it’s easy to see the Utah Jazz winning thanks to the exploits of Rookie of the Year candidate Donovan Mitchell, who can get scorching hot from the field and almost single-handedly lead his team to a win.
On the other hand, the same could be said for Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook, who averaged a triple-double for the second straight season.
It will be interesting to see if those two players go toe to toe on the scoresheet, but the difference in this series may lie in two matchups. Specifically, can Utah’s Joe Ingles slow down Thunder All-Star Paul George, and can Oklahoma City Thunder Steven Adams hang with the dominant defensive force that is Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert?
This is a tough series to call, but betting against Westbrook when he has the extra home game in hand isn’t a comfortable move. Look for the Thunder to take Game 1 and eventually the series.
Pick: Thunder 103, Jazz 101
No. 8 Minnesota Timberwolves at No. 1 Houston Rockets
What is the path to a potential victory for the Minnesota Timberwolves in this series? It’s hard to fathom, but it probably starts with improving their three-point defense, which ranked just 18th (36.6 percent) in the NBA. That must get better against a Rockets team that shoots (and makes) more three-point field goals than any team in the league.
Minnesota hasn’t fared well against Houston in that endeavor, though, most notably when the Rockets made 22 shots from beyond the arc in a 126-108 regular-season win.
Center Karl-Anthony Towns, who posted 23.8 points and 14.8 rebounds in four games against Houston this year, gives the T-Wolves a puncher’s chance at winning a game or two, especially if he’s able to dominate the Rockets like he did in the regular season.
But taking four games is a tall order (Minnesota didn’t win any in four regular-season tries), and the first game will likely go to the Rockets, who went a league-best 34-7 at home this year.
Pick: Rockets 120, T-Wolves 107