National Basketball Association releases pool of 36 referees for first round

Paola Ditto
Aprile 17, 2018

Terry Rozier added 23 points, four rebounds and three assists for Boston in his first career playoff start.

Who are your underdog team in the playoffs? The Raptors and the Wizards were once peers in development, but today, it's not even close to the same story with Toronto taking over the Eastern Conference this season. And, even if he did, it wouldn't be enough to make this series an interesting one.

- Players to Watch: DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka (Raptors); John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter (Wizards). I will give an upset pick by choosing the Wizard to win in seven games. If Joel Embiid comes back faster than expected from a fractured orbital bone, Philadelphia could do some real damage in the East. Look for the Sixers to beat the Heat in the opening round, leading to what could be a very favorable matchup against the injury ravaged Boston Celtics in Round 2. They will be going up against playoff LeBron James though, which nearly certainly spells defeat.

Giannis Antetokounmpo (34 points), Khris Middleton (31 points) and Malcolm Brogdon (16 points) were excellent for the Bucks, but the rest of the team shot 11-of-29 from the field. This may be a quick round. The Spurs are already struggling on offense and if he continues to play like he did in Game 1, this series will end in a disappointing sweep.

Then there is the No.3 Philadelphia 76ers playing against No. 6 seed Miami Heat. The Pelicans finished the regular season one game behind Portland in the standings and have the fifth-best road record (24-17) among playoff teams. The recent additions of Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova have supplied depth in perimeter shooting, while number one draft pick Markelle Fultz is finding form at just the right time, having become the youngest player to record a triple-double in the National Basketball Association this week.

Wednesday's final night of the regular season was well beyond dramatic - an overtime game between Minnesota and Denver to decide the last berth, 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.

IN plays Game Two of its best-of-seven series Wednesday night at Cleveland.

Houston enters the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and are coming off their first 60-win season in franchise history, so you know the pre-playoff hype video was on another level.

Few players have consistently delivered in big moments as Lillard has, so the expectation is that he's going to be better as the series moves along. If it wasn't the Warriors looking like their old selves against the Spurs, it was the Cavs getting blown out at home by the Pacers.

And given the way they played on Saturday, they might have sandbagged the entire league.

Injury update: Warriors star Stephen Curry and Spurs star Kawhi Leonard both remain out, but there's no new major issues for either team. I think it's going to be more in Portland's favor as it will take all seven games.

He tore up the Utah for 36 points in the Oklahoma City Thunder's 116-108 victory Sunday night in Game 1 of their series. Even the most recent League MVP has not been able to click together. If I'm in his shoes, I go the Tom Thibodeau route and ride my top players into the ground.

At the time of the year where most teams shorten their rotation, Dwane Casey turned to sparingly used third centre Lucas Nogueira early in the fourth quarter of Game 1, making him the 11th different Raptor to see the court.

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