The NBA playoffs that start this weekend already have an extremely tough act to follow.

The regular season ended with a flourish.

Wednesday’s final night of the regular season was well beyond dramatic – an overtime game between Minnesota and Denver to decide the last berth Babe Ruth Jersey , another overtime game between Miami and Toronto to determine some East fates, a 46-point first quarter by Philadelphia , an absurd 20-rebound, 19-assist night from Russell Westbrook.

And now, the best time of the NBA year is finally here.

The playoffs are back, with Golden State and Cleveland – who’ve met in the last three NBA Finals – not exactly looking like the overwhelming favorites the league has come to expect. A fourth straight Warriors-Cavs matchup is no guarantee. A fourth straight trip by either of those teams alone is far from certain, either.

It all starts Saturday, the 16-team tournament that will be a two-month grind following the six-month grind of the regular season.

”I feel pretty ready,” Toronto guard Kyle Lowry said. ”We’re ready to go.”

So are 15 other teams.

Start with the East pairings: Lowry and the top-seeded Raptors play No. 8 Washington Luis Severino Jersey , No. 2 Boston faces No. 7 Milwaukee, No. 3 Philadelphia gets No. 6 Miami and No. 4 Cleveland – with LeBron James bidding for an eighth consecutive appearance in The Finals – opening against No. 5 Indiana, a surprise team at the start of the season and one that isn’t a surprise anymore.

”We’re one of 16 teams that have a chance to win a championship,” James said. ”That’s all you can ask for.”

Philadelphia, after years of the rebuilding saga known as ”The Process,” has a chance as well. The 76ers are going into the playoffs on a 16-game winning streak.

”Take a deep breath, then reload,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said, talking about what he wants his team to do before getting ready for Game 1.

Out West Authentic Baker Mayfield Jersey , it’s No. 1 Houston meeting No. 8 Minnesota – which earned its berth by topping Denver in the NBA’s first win-and-get-in, lose-and-go-home regular-season finale in 21 years. No. 2 Golden State opens its quest for a third championship in four seasons against No. 7 San Antonio, No. 3 Portland drew No. 6 New Orleans and No. 4 Oklahoma City opens against No. 5 Utah.

”The playoffs are about moments, and you just want a chance to have those moments,” Miami guard Dwyane Wade said.

For the Timberwolves, Wednesday was a moment in itself. They needed overtime to beat the Nuggets and get into the postseason. It’s Minnesota’s first berth since 2004, and ended what was the NBA’s longest playoff drought (which now is bequeathed to the Sacramento Kings, who last played a playoff game in 2006).

”They just made the plays at the end,” Denver’s Will Barton said of the Timberwolves. ”Give them credit.”

There are some rematches from the 2017 playoffs already waiting. Cleveland swept Indiana in the first round last year Alex Cappa Color Rush Jersey , and Boston needed seven games to oust Washington in a thrilling East semifinal series.

But the most intriguing should be the Golden State-San Antonio matchup – because once again, just like a year ago, the Spurs will almost certainly be without Leonard.

Those two teams played in the West finals last season, and the Spurs were up by 23 points when Leonard left in the third quarter after getting injured on a play where he tried a jumper and Warriors center Zaza Pachulia closed out aggressively. Leonard got hurt when he stepped on Pachulia on the landing; he and the Spurs haven’t been the same since.

Leonard never returned to that series, and played in only nine games for the Spurs this season.

”There is no pressure on us,” Spurs star LaMarcus Aldridge said.

There is on Golden State.

The Warriors are trying for a third title in four seasons, and will play this first round more than likely without Curry while he continues recovering from a knee injury. Golden State went 7-10 in its final 17 games, and clearly sputtered across the finish line.

But the records all reset now, and the Warriors have been waiting to get the postseason started.

”It’ll be our first meaningful game in about a month Josh Jackson Color Rush Jersey ,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. ”Looking forward to that.”

With good reason. There’s a trophy to go chase now.



Draymond Green saw Klay Thompson limping on his tender left ankle a day before Game 2 of the NBA Finals and quickly texted Nick Young to tell him the Golden State Warriors would need big minutes from the backup.

But Golden State’s most durable player and understated star once again managed to play through the pain and scored 20 points to help the Warriors beat Cleveland 122-103 to take a 2-0 series lead Sunday night.

”He came out there and gutted through it,” Green said. ”Even if you saw him take the first lay-up he took in warmups and ran back to the locker room. It’s like he’s not going to have it. Sure enough he did. I mean, that’s just a microcosm of who he is, one of the toughest guys if not the toughest guy I’ve ever played with. He’ll never get credit for it because he’s not going to physically beat you up. But one of the toughest, if not the toughest guy for sure.”

Green might be the loudest of Golden State’s four superstars and Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant are the most accomplished. Thompson often flies a bit under the radar, just delivering lockdown defense and long-range shooting that help the Warriors thrive.

He’s so consistent and always available, having played in a franchise record 100 playoff games without missing a single one, that he sometimes gets overlooked. But after Cleveland’s J.R. Smith awkwardly fell into his left leg in the first half of Game 1, sending Thompson to the locker room following the scary fall http://www.titansauthorizedshops.com...ke-falk-jersey , there has been plenty of focus on if he’d be able to play.

He made it back for the rest of Game 1 and scored 24 points in a 124-114 overtime win Thursday before the injury got worse the next day. But he still managed to play in Game 2 and shot 8 for 13, making three 3-pointers to become the sixth player with 300 in a career in the playoffs.

”Being on the training table for, it felt like, three straight days. That’s something I’m not used to,” Thompson said. ”But at this point in the season, any means necessary. And the ankle feels great. I won’t do much tomorrow and I’ll do a little bit Tuesday. But I’m just going to conserve all I’ve got for Wednesday because I don’t want to play with it. It’s something that you use a lot. I didn’t realize how much you use your ankle until you hurt it …”

That drew a quick quip from Curry, who has been plagued by ankle injuries throughout his career.

”You should have asked me,” Curry said.



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