No need to panic just yet, but the first round of the NBA playoffs looks like it’s going to be kind of a dud. At least in the Eastern Conference, where there’s a nonzero chance that we could be looking at four sweeps, or at least a couple sweeps and a couple five-gamers.
But that Western Conference playoffs? Outside of that Golden State Warriors-Los Angeles Clippers barnburner, at least, we might have some blowout series.
The Denver Nuggets and San Antonio Spurs face off in a test of how much playoff experience actually matters. The Nuggets haven’t made the playoffs since 2013, and have very little playoff experience on their team. The Spurs haven’t missed the playoffs since seemingly the Roosevelt administration, and they have a man named Gregg Popovich. But then there’s the question of home-court advantage: The Nuggets have it, and they also had the best home record in the NBA this season. (The Spurs’ home record was tied for third.)
Portland Trail Blazers vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder? We got two teams that both lost, in somewhat embarrassing fashion, in the first round last year. We also got two teams that are dealing with different levels of injuries. For the Blazers, Jusuf Nurkic’s broken leg a few weeks ago was an absolute gut punch; now they have to rely on Enes Kanter. For the Thunder, how will Paul George’s shoulder hold up? He hasn’t been the same MVP-caliber player since the All-Star break.
And then there’s the rematch from a year ago: The fourth-seeded Houston Rockets against the fifth-seeded Utah Jazz. The Rockets won in a five-game series, but that series was a lot closer than those five games would make it seem — especially when you consider how banged-up the Jazz were by the end of it. The Jazz are a little bit better than a year ago, the Rockets are little bit worse. If there’s one first-round series with the potential to go the full seven games, well, this one’s it.
The playoffs always bring surprises. But our NBA staff is going to do our best to predict how this first round will go.
Here are your CBS Sports expert picks for every first-round series: