• Welcome, Hoop Ball readers, to another edition of The Week Ahead!

    The first round of the playoffs is officially over and although it was full of excitement and drama, we could see an even more entertaining round coming up.  The matchups for the semifinals are the Celtics vs. the Bucks, the Raptors vs. the 76ers, the Nuggets vs. the Blazers, and the Warriors vs. the Rockets.  All of these series have the potential to go 7 games, but before I get into my predictions for this round let me go over the first round.

    All of us have seen the Damian Lillard shot in Paul George’s face from just inside half-court to send the Thunder home, but that has to be stated as the best moment from the first round.  Lillard made Russell Westbrook’s case for winning and being a top point guard in this league a lot more controversial with that shot.  Personally, I have Westbrook as the 4th best point guard in the NBA behind Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving, and Damian Lillard in that order.

    Aside from the Blazers-Thunder drama, a new rivalry spawned between the Nets and the 76ers due to Jared Dudley and Ben Simmons.  Although it is tough to call a 4-1 series defeat a rivalry, the Nets fought hard and created an enemy in the 76ers each and every game.

    The Nuggets and Spurs were the only series to make it to 7 games and the Nuggets pulled out the victory.  The crowd was so loud that the Spurs’ players could not hear head coach Gregg Popovich screaming for them to foul Nikola Jokic with 20 seconds on the clock.

    The Rockets, Raptors, Celtics, and Bucks did not have much drama or entertainment as they got by their opponents with ease.

    The last thing that surprised a lot of people, including myself, was the Warriors losing two games to the Clippers.  Although the Warriors did win the series, no one expected the Clippers to even take them to six games so that should be a moral victory for a franchise on the rise.

    That wraps up all eight series from the first round, and so far the 2019 playoffs are shaping up to be much more competitive rather than the domination from the Warriors that we are used to seeing. It is very possible that we could see a new NBA champion this season.

    Here are my predictions for the Semifinals:

    Celtics over Bucks in 6 games

    Raptors over 76ers in 5 games

    Warriors over Rockets in 7 games

    Nuggets over Blazers in 7 games

    Now here is an overview of the week ahead:

    Weekly Schedule Breakdown

    Monday, April 29th– 76ers at Raptors (Game 2) at 8 PM ET; Trail Blazers at Nuggets (Game 1) at 10:30 PM ET

    Tuesday, April 30th– Celtics at Bucks (Game 2) at 8 PM ET; Rockets at Warriors (Game 2) at 10:30 PM ET

    Wednesday, May 1st– Trail Blazers at Nuggets (Game 2) at 9 PM ET

    Thursday, May 2nd– Raptors at 76ers (Game 3) at 8 PM ET

    Friday, May 3rd– Bucks at Celtics (Game 3) at 8 PM ET; Nuggets at Trail Blazers (Game 3) at 10:30 PM ET

    Saturday, May 4th– Warriors at Rockets (Game 3) at 8:30 PM ET

    Sunday, May 5th–  Raptors at 76ers (Game 4) at 3:30 PM ET; Nuggets at Trail Blazers (Game 4) at 7 PM ET

    Injury Report 

    Steph Curry (ankle) and Klay Thompson (ankle) were both listed as questionable heading into Game 1 against the Rockets on Sunday, but they both suited up and helped the Warriors gain a 1-0 series advantage with a 104-100 victory. Hopefully, the ankle issues do not linger and the Warriors are able to keep the Splash Bros on the court for the entirety of the series.

    Joel Embiid (knee) played in Game 1 against the Raptors, but had a worse outing than he would typically have.  Similar to Curry and Thompson, we can only hope that this is not an injury that keeps him from playing in any of the games in this series.  Look out for Embiid’s status on a game-by-game basis.

    Marcus Smart (torn oblique) and Malcolm Brogdon (foot) are important players in the Celtics vs. Bucks series that could change the series if they were to return from their respective injuries.  Brogdon is going to be re-evaluated after Game 2, while Smart is likely out until late in the series or the Conference Finals if the Celtics make it that far.  Brogdon is definitely closer to a return, which could give the Bucks an advantage in the series.  Check prior to each game to see whether Brogdon or Smart are able to give it a go.

    Players who are currently day-to-day that are pivotal for their teams to succeed:  Enes Kanter (shoulder), Aron Baynes (ankle), Mike Scott (heel), Sterling Brown (back)

    Thanks Hoopballers for reading another edition of The Week Ahead!

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