2018 NBA playoffs: The full schedule for all eight first-round matchups

The 2017-18 NBA regular season wrapped up with one last wild Wednesday that saw the West’s final playoff berth decided, Russell Westbrook rebound his way into even more history, and all eight first-round playoff series locked in on the campaign’s final day. (Lots of last-minute flights getting booked in the wee hours of the night, y’all.)

[NBA Playoffs Bracket Challenge: $1M for the perfect bracket]

Here’s a quick guide to every first-round series, including records, seeds, and some brief notes on where everybody stands entering the start of Round 1 on Saturday.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

No. 1 Houston Rockets (65-17) vs. No. 8 Minnesota Timberwolves (47-35)

The Rockets have been the NBA’s best team since just about the starting gun this season, taking down the defending champion Warriors at Oracle Arena on opening night and never looking back. Daryl Morey’s big summertime swing to create a two-headed point-guard monster has worked brilliantly, with James Harden turning in a dominant season that’s likely to earn him the first Most Valuable Player trophy of his career and Chris Paul playing about as well as ever both alongside him and in his stead, ensuring that there’s always an All-NBA pilot at the controls of Mike D’Antoni’s offense.

Houston boasts the NBA’s No. 1 offense and a sixth-ranked defense, led by shot-swatting Swiss center Clint Capela and some nasty defenders on the wing. They just lost an important one, veteran Luc Mbah a Moute, for at least the first round, but they’re still a heavy favorite to advance to the conference semis for the third time in four years.

While Houston had its postseason ticket punched ages ago, the Wolves had to work overtime on the regular season’s final night to knock off the Denver Nuggets and earn their spot in the top eight. Minnesota’s been up-and-down for months, going 11-10 with a barely-positive point differential since the All-Star break. But the bulk of that iffy play came with All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler sidelined following surgery to repair a torn right meniscus suffered in the Wolves’ first post-All-Star affair.

Butler’s back now, turning in three straight solid games to help push Minnesota over the finish line; when he’s been on the court this season, according to Ben Falk’s numbers at Cleaning the Glass, the Wolves have produced the kind of point differential you’d expect from a 62-win team. If Butler’s ready to serve as that sort of rising tide, and All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns can wreak havoc inside and out against Capela and company, Minnesota might be able to trade baskets with the Rockets for a while. Whether a maddeningly somehow-bottom-10-ranked defense will be able to get enough stops to get serious, though, very much remains to be seen.

• Game 1 @HOU: 9 p.m. ET, Sunday, April 15 (TNT)
• Game 2 @HOU: 9:30 p.m. ET, Wednesday, April 18 (TNT)
• Game 3 @MIN: 7:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, April 21 (ESPN)
• Game 4 @MIN: 8 p.m. ET, Monday, April 23 (TNT)
• Game 5 @HOU: TBD, Wednesday, April 25 (TBD)*
• Game 6 @MIN: TBD, Friday, April 27 (TBD)*
• Game 7 @HOU: TBD, Sunday, April 29 (TBD)*

Related: See the best photos from the season: 

33 PHOTOS
The best photos from the 2017-18 NBA season
See Gallery
The best photos from the 2017-18 NBA season
CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 13: Dwight Howard #12 of the Charlotte Hornets goes after a loose ball against Devin Harris #34 of the Dallas Mavericks during their game at Spectrum Center on October 13, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO,TX - OCTOBER 10: Elfrid Payton #2 of the Orlando Magic battles Amida Brimah #37 of the San Antonio Spurs for a loose ball, at AT&T Center on October 10, 2017 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that , by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - OCTOBER 23: Mirza Teletovic #35 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts to a three point shot against the Charlotte Hornets during the second half of a game at the BMO Harris Bradley Center on October 23, 2017 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 27: Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors and Bradley Beal #3 of the Washington Wizards gets tangled up in a fight during the second quarter of their NBA basketball game at ORACLE Arena on October 27, 2017 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 20: Mario Hezonja #8 of the Orlando Magic reaches for the ball in the second half against the Orlando Magic during their game at Barclays Center on October 20, 2017 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO,TX - NOVEMBER 7: Patty Mills #8 of the San Antonio Spurs steals the ball from Patrick Beverley #21 of the Los Angeles Clippers at AT&T Center on November 7, 2017 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that , by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ - NOVEMBER 06: Josh Jackson #20 of the Phoenix Suns battles for a loose ball with Timofey Mozgov #20 and Allen Crabbe #33 of the Brooklyn Nets during the first half of the NBA game at Talking Stick Resort Arena on November 6, 2017 in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 13: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Enes Kanter #00 of the New York Knicks exchange words in the first half at Madison Square Garden on November 13, 2017 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 17: Frank Kaminsky #44 of the Charlotte Hornets tries to shoot against Robin Lopez #42 of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on November 17, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 15: Robert Covington #33 of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts in the first overtime against the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Wells Fargo Center on December 15, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Thunder defeated the 76ers 119-117 in triple overtime. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 01: Jakob Poeltl #42 of the Toronto Raptors shoots the ball as Thaddeus Young #21 of the Indiana Pacers defends during the second half of an NBA game at Air Canada Centre on December 1, 2017 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 18: JJ Redick #17 of the Philadelphia 76ers is called for an offensive foul against Kris Dunn #32 of the Chicago Bulls as he puts up a shot at the United Center on December 18, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the 76ers 117-115. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 13: Paul George #13 of the Oklahoma City Thunder goes up to dunk the ball against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on December 13, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 20: Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics celebrates after sinking a three point shot against the Miami Heat during the second quarter at TD Garden on December 20, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JANUARY 2: Referee Steve Anderson #35 listens to Isaiah Thomas #3 of the Cleveland Cavaliers after Thomas was charged with a technical foul during the first half against the Portland Trail Blazers at Quicken Loans Arena on January 2, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 29: Malcolm Delaney #5 of the Atlanta Hawks dribbles the ball as Delon Wright #55 of the Toronto Raptors defends during the second half of an NBA game at Air Canada Centre on December 29, 2017 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 12: Meyers Leonard #11 of the Portland Trail Blazers shoots over Anthony Davis #23 of the New Orleans Pelicans during the first half at the Smoothie King Center on January 12, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 11: Lebron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers is fouled as he drives to the basket by Daniel Theis #27 of the Boston Celtics during a game at TD Garden on February 11, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 4: Caris LeVert #22 of the Brooklyn Nets dunks the ball against the Milwaukee Bucks during the game at Barclays Center on February 4, 2018 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matteo Marchi/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 10: Marcin Gortat #13 of the Washington Wizards is fouled by Lauri Markkanen #24 of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on February 10, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The Wizards defeated the Bulls 101-90. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 25: Ben Simmons #25 of the Philadelphia 76ers dunks over Kelly Oubre Jr. #12 of the Washington Wizards during the second half at Capital One Arena on February 25, 2018 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - MARCH 07: Jonas Valanciunas #17 of the Toronto Raptors dunks the ball over Ish Smith #14 of the Detroit Pistons in the first half of an NBA game at Little Caesars Arena on March 7, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. The Raptors defeat the Pistons 121-119. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 19: D'Angelo Russell #1 of the Brooklyn Nets takes a shot against Briante Weber #3 of the Memphis Grizzlies in the fourth quarter during their game at Barclays Center on March 19, 2018 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Nov 5, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Dennis Schroder (17) shoots the ball as Cleveland Cavaliers forward Jeff Green (left) pressures him during the fourth quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. The Hawks won 117-115. Mandatory Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Nov 22, 2017; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks forward Tim Hardaway Jr. (3) dives onto the scorers table diving for a ball heading out of bounds during the second half against the Toronto Raptors at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Nov 26, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) reacts to missing a shot in the third quarter against the Phoenix Suns at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Nov 27, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Avery Bradley (22) grabs a hold of Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving (11) during the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Los Angeles Lakers guard Briante Weber (12) comes face to face with Denver Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay (0) under the basket in the second half of the game at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, CA, U.S., October 4, 2017. USA TODAY Sports/Jayne Kamin-Oncea/File Photo SEARCH "POY SPORT" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Dec 22, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie (8) blocks a shot by Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) during the first half at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Jan 6, 2018; Orlando, FL, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) and Orlando Magic guard Mario Hezonja (8) go after the rebound the hits James in the face during the first quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Apr 5, 2018; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) slam dunks during the second half against the Washington Wizards at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Apr 11, 2018; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Markelle Fultz (20) is doused with water by guard Ben Simmons (25) and center Amir Johnson (5) after recording his first triple double in a game against the Milwaukee Bucks at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Mar 29, 2018; Miami, FL, USA; Chicago Bulls center Robin Lopez (42) shoots defended by Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside (21) during the first half of an NBA game at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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No. 2 Golden State Warriors (58-24) vs. No. 7 San Antonio Spurs (47-35)

It feels odd to say that a defending champ that just won 58 games and features four All-Stars feels shaky, but the Warriors really stumbled their way to the finish line this season. Golden State lost six of its last 10, capped by a 40-point pasting in Utah; that the late March/early April swoon came despite the presence of Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green lends credence to the belief that, no matter how much talent the Warriors accrue, everything Golden State is still revolves around Stephen Curry. With the two-time MVP unlikely to return from his MCL sprain before the end of the first round, the Warriors still enter the postseason as a title favorite, but they also feel as vulnerable as they have in the Steve Kerr era.

Unfortunately for San Antonio, they’re not working at full strength, either. The Spurs have operated nearly all season long without their best player, two-time Defensive Player of the Year and top-three MVP finisher Kawhi Leonard, who’s been dealing since preseason with right quadriceps tendinopathy. Barring any super-long-con trickery, that’s expected to continue come Saturday.

It hasn’t always been pretty without Kawhi making two-way magic, but the Spurs, as ever, have kept on keeping on. Gregg Popovich’s club has weathered the end of its 18-year 50-win season streak by extending its 21-year playoff streak behind tremendous play from big man LaMarcus Aldridge, a defense that has remained in the top five in points allowed per possession all year despite lacking its best perimeter stopper, a knack for taking care of home court that’s seen them go 33-8 at AT&T Center, and timely contributions from a deep bench led by 40-year-old legend Manu Ginobili and professional scorer Rudy Gay. Their reward for all that perseverance? A first-round date with KD, Klay and Draymond. Not the coolest gift, if you ask me.

• Game 1 @GS: 3 p.m. ET, Saturday, April 14 (ABC)
• Game 2 @GS: 10:30 p.m. ET, Monday, April 16 (TNT)
• Game 3 @SA: 10:30 p.m. ET, Thursday, April 19 (TNT)
• Game 4 @SA: 3:30 p.m. ET, Sunday, April 22 (ABC)
• Game 5 @GS: TBD, Tuesday, April 24 (TBD)*
• Game 6 @SA: TBD, Thursday, April 26 (TBD)*
• Game 7 @GS: TBD, Saturday, April 28 (TBD)*

Related: See Steph Curry through the years: 

25 PHOTOS
Stephen Curry through the years
See Gallery
Stephen Curry through the years
Gonzaga's Micah Downs (L) battle Davidson's Stephen Curry for a loose ball during the first half of their first round NCAA men's basketball tournament game in Raleigh, North Carolina March 21, 2008. REUTERS/Ellen Ozier (UNITED STATES)
Davidson Wildcats' Stephen Curry celebrates after a three-pointer against the Wisconsin Badgers during second half of their NCAA men's Midwest Regional basketball game in Detroit March 28, 2008. REUTERS/John Gress (UNITED STATES)
Players attending the 2009 NBA Draft pose on stage with NBA Commissioner David Stern before the start of the Draft in New York, June 25, 2009. From left are Jordan Hill, Stephen Curry, Stern, Hasheem Thabeet (back C) Ricky Rubio and Blake Griffin. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson (UNITED STATES SPORT BASKETBALL)
Stephen Curry of the U.S. gestures while biting on his mouth guard during a friendly basketball game against Greece ahead of the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Athens August 25, 2010. The FIBA World Championship will take place in Turkey from August 28 to September 12. REUTERS/Kostas Tsironis (GREECE - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry holds the trophy after winning the skills challenge event during the NBA basketball All-Star weekend in Los Angeles, February 19, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry bites a mouth piece during the first quarter of his NBA basketball game against Los Angeles Lakers in Oakland, California December 22, 2012. REUTERS/Stephen Lam (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry and New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (R) wait for a rebound in the fourth quarter of their NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden in New York, February 27, 2013. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Feb 12, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) moves to the basket against Miami Heat center Chris Bosh (1) the fourth quarter at Oracle Arena. The Heat defeated the Warriors 111-110. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 14, 2015; New York, NY, USA; Team Curry legend Dell Curry (left) and Team Curry guard Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors (30, right) celebrate during the 2015 NBA All Star Shooting Stars competition at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
April 10, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30, right) drives to the basket against Denver Nuggets guard Aaron Brooks (0) during the third quarter at Oracle Arena. The Nuggets defeated the Warriors 100-99. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 27, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) celebrates against the Los Angeles Clippers during the first quarter in game four of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
May 3, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) is defended by Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan (6) in game seven of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center. The Clippers defeated the Warriors 126-121 to win the series 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 14, 2015; New York, NY, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) celebrates during the 2015 NBA All Star Three Point Contest competition at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
April 18, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr (left) talks to guard Stephen Curry (30, right) during the third quarter in game one of the first round of the NBA Playoffs against the New Orleans Pelicans at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Pelicans 106-99. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
May 5, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) hoists the MVP trophy before game two of the second round of the NBA Playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
May 13, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) celebrates in front of forward Draymond Green (23) after making a three-point basket during the first quarter in game five of the second round of the NBA Playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
May 27, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) celebrates with the western conference championship trophy after defeating the Houston Rockets in game five of the Western Conference Finals of the NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 16, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) celebrates with forward Draymond Green (23) during the third quarter of game six of the NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 16, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) poses with the Larry O'Brien Trophy as Golden State Warriors guard Andre Iguodala (9) celebrates with the NBA Finals MVP trophy after beating the Cleveland Cavaliers in game six of the NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 04: National Basketball Asssociation MVP Stephen Curry (3rd R) laughs as U.S. President Barack Obama jokes during his remarks at an event for the 2015 NBA Champion Golden State Warriors in the East Room on February 4, 2016 in Washington, DC. Obama welcomed the Warriors to the White House to congratulate the team on their championshhip season. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07: Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors prepares to hit the 'Keep Pounding' drum for the Carolina Panthers prior to Super Bowl 50 against the Denver Broncos at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Jun 8, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) shoots the ball over Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson (13) during the first half in game three of the NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 16, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) speaks to the media after game six of the NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. The Cavaliers won 115-101. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
October 21, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) and forward Kevin Durant (35) celebrate after Curry made a three-point basket during the second quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 19, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) flexes against the Los Angeles Lakers during the fourth quarter at Valley View Casino Center. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
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No. 3 Portland Trail Blazers (49-33) vs. No. 6 New Orleans Pelicans (48-34)

Damian Lillard’s been just about as good as it gets at the guard position this year, bombing away and dishing and controlling the game at a career-best level to propel the Blazers to the top of the tier just below Houston and Golden State out West. A Portland club that has long relied on its offense to outscore opponents now packs a defense that can clamp down, ranking in the top 10 in defensive efficiency throughout the season. If C.J. McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic and Terry Stotts’ army of intriguing specialists can hold up their end of the bargain and keep things close, the Blazers feel awfully confident that they’ll come out on top when the game gets to Dame Time.

A Pelicans team intended to be built around twin towers has instead wound up relying on a lone superstar to guide them, and man, has Anthony Davis ever delivered in the absence of injured partner DeMarcus Cousins.

The Brow averaged nearly 31 points, 12 rebounds and five combined blocks and steals over the final 30 games of the season, utterly dominating opposing defenses from every part of the court, raining down terror from above the rim and helping fuel New Orleans’ rise to a top-five defensive efficiency mark after the All-Star break. He’s had help — the finally healthy Jrue Holiday has been fantastic, as have post-shave Nikola Mirotic and veteran point guard Rajon Rondo — and he’ll need more of it if he’s going to not only earn the first playoff victory of his career, but push New Orleans out of Round 1 for the first time in a decade.

• Game 1 @POR: 10:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, April 14 (ESPN)
• Game 2 @POR: 10:30 p.m. ET, Tuesday, April 17 (TNT)
• Game 3 @NO: 9 p.m. ET, Thursday, April 19 (NBA)
• Game 4 @NO: 5 p.m. ET, Saturday, April 21 (TNT)
• Game 5 @POR: TBD, Tuesday, April 24 (TBD)*
• Game 6 @NO: TBD, Thursday, April 26 (TBD)*
• Game 7 @POR: TBD, Saturday, April 28 (TBD)*

No. 4 Oklahoma City Thunder (48-34) vs. No. 5 Utah Jazz (48-34)

The Jazz have been one of the year’s best stories, a team that looked dead in the water multiple times this season — including before it, after losing All-Star forward Gordon Hayward and starting point guard George Hill in free agency — only to go on an absolute tear after getting Defensive Player of the Year candidate Rudy Gobert back from a knee injury. Utah’s been one of the hottest teams in the NBA for three solid months, riding the league’s stingiest defense and the shot creation of Rookie of the Year hopeful Donovan Mitchell all the way from a possible lottery bid to the middle of the Western playoff pack.

While the Jazz have been on a nearly uninterrupted roll since mid-January, the Thunder have been a team operating in fits and starts all season long. On their best nights, Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, Steven Adams and company can lay waste to championship favorites. On their worse evenings, they can look like a team without a clear sense of what it wants to do and who it wants to be, struggling even against some of the league’s lesser lights.

George bounced back from an ice-cold shooting stretch with a 40-point explosion in the season finale, during which Westbrook rebounded his way to averaging a triple-double for the second straight season. Both have shown the capacity to take over games, even in the playoffs, and Adams is just the sort of bruiser who’ll relish going toe-to-toe with Gobert inside. What kind of impact Anthony, who has largely struggled to make his presence felt has a lower-tier option, can make on the proceedings could go a long way toward determining the Thunder’s chances of advancing.

• Game 1 @OKC: 6:30 p.m. ET, Sunday, April 15 (TNT)
• Game 2 @OKC: 8 p.m. ET, Wednesday, April 18 (NBA)
• Game 3 @UTH: 10 p.m. ET, Saturday, April 21 (ESPN)
• Game 4 @UTH: 10:30 p.m. ET, Monday, April 23 (TNT)
• Game 5 @OKC: TBD, Wednesday, April 25 (TBD)*
• Game 6 @UTH: TBD, Friday, April 27 (TBD)*
• Game 7 @OKC: TBD, Sunday, April 29 (TBD)*

***

EASTERN CONFERENCE

No. 1 Toronto Raptors (59-23) vs. No. 8 Washington Wizards (43-39)

After a disappointing end to last season, the Raptors set about triggering a “culture reset” aimed at moving away from isolation-heavy offense and facilitating a more free-flowing, ball- and player-movement-heavy style. The results have been fantastic: Toronto’s owned one of the NBA’s best offenses despite All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry each doing a little bit less, with coach Dwane Casey empowering a young, hungry second unit to step up and prove they deserve more shots, more opportunities and more minutes. The Raptors have ridden the more egalitarian approach to the best record in franchise history and home-court advantage throughout the Eastern playoffs; they believe they’re good enough to win it all, even if the rest of the NBA-watching world still needs some convincing.

Their path to proving it will begin with a visit from the Wizards, who infamously swept a higher-seeded Toronto club out of the first round back in 2015. Alas: this time around, Paul Pierce works for ESPN.

John Wall and Bradley Beal are still around, though, and as long as the Wizards have their All-Star backcourt intact along with frontcourt bully Markieff Morris and do-everything wings Otto Porter Jr. and Kelly Oubre Jr., they’ve got a puncher’s chance of taking it to anybody in the East. The problem with the Wizards, however, is that they can also look capable of laying an egg against just about anybody in the East. Sometimes, they can look both ways in the same night. They’ll need the coin to land on heads more often than not to stand a chance to toppling a heavily favored Toronto team.

• Game 1 @TOR: 5:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, April 14 (ESPN)
• Game 2 @TOR: 7 p.m. ET, Tuesday, April 17 (NBA)
• Game 3 @WAS: 8 p.m. ET, Friday, April 20 (ESPN2)
• Game 4 @WAS: 6 p.m. ET, Sunday, April 22 (TNT)
• Game 5 @TOR: TBD, Wednesday, April 25 (TBD)*
• Game 6 @WAS: TBD, Friday, April 27 (TBD)*
• Game 7 @TOR: TBD, Sunday, April 29 (TBD)*

No. 2 Boston Celtics (55-27) vs. No. 7 Milwaukee Bucks (44-38)

The Celtics went from Eastern Conference finals hopeful to The Team Everyone Wants to Play in the time it took to announce that All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving won’t be suiting up in the postseason. Led by All-Star center Al Horford, Boston will still defend with intensity, precision and activity, and has enough young talent — wings Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, reserve guard Terry Rozier, among others — to produce something special on any given night. But they’ve had trouble scoring without Irving on the floor all season long, and those problems only figure to increase in the pressurized atmosphere of the postseason.

The question, though, is whether or not the Bucks can capitalize on what’s arguably the most favorable upset opportunity on the board in Round 1. Giannis Antetokounmpo has been unbelievable all year, an MVP-caliber scorer, facilitator and defensive game-wrecker. There’s more talent alongside him than there was this time last year, too, with Khris Middleton and Jabari Parker both healthy and point guard Eric Bledsoe in tow. And yet, the Bucks have felt somewhat like a team underperforming its talent level all season long — a group with a transcendent, incandescent star at the top, but without a sound plan for maximizing his contributions or those of the roster around him.

That doesn’t sound like a recipe for knocking off a well-drilled and disciplined Brad Stevens-led team. Then again, while all things might not quite be possible through Giannis, overwhelming a wounded Boston squad four times in seven games just might.

• Game 1 @BOS: 1 p.m. ET, Sunday, April 15 (TNT)
• Game 2 @BOS: 8 p.m. ET, Tuesday, April 17 (TNT)
• Game 3 @MIL: 9:30 p.m. ET, Friday, April 20 (ESPN)
• Game 4 @MIL: 1 p.m. ET, Sunday, April 22 (ABC)
• Game 5 @BOS: TBD, Tuesday, April 24 (TBD)*
• Game 6 @MIL: TBD, Thursday, April 26 (TBD)*
• Game 7 @BOS: TBD, Saturday, April 28 (TBD)*

No. 3 Philadelphia 76ers (52-30) vs. No. 6 Miami Heat (44-38)

Two years ago, the Sixers were two years into Sam Hinkie’s hyper-aggressive, sink-to-the-bottom-themed, multi-year rebuilding plan, and all they had to show for it were 10 measly wins. Now, though … well, if you didn’t get the idea back then, you sure do now.

Ben Simmons is a revelation, a skyscraper of a point guard who guards four positions expertly, devours whatever the defense gives him and stuffs the box score like no rookie since Magic Johnson. Dario Saric is everywhere Brett Brown needs him to be, all the time. Markelle Fultz is out of the wilderness and posting triple-doubles. The Sixers, shockingly, have barely missed a beat without All-Star center Joel Embiid, and enter the playoffs owning an NBA-best 16-game winning streak. They lock down, they hunt 3s in transition, they push the pace and they work you until you break. They’re the genuine article, and they were worth the wait.

In the other corner: a Miami side built primarily at the other end of the lottery, in the second round and through free-agent signings that, be honest, led you to cock an eyebrow or two as you wondered what exactly Pat Riley thought he was constructing down in South Beach. The Heat are a perpetually hard-charging tough out that beats you with grinding defense, waves of wings, the playmaking of Goran Dragic, occasional interior dominance from Hassan Whiteside and more James Johnson than you ever realized you wanted or needed. They don’t have the top-end talent Philly can unleash with Simmons and Embiid, but Erik Spoelstra’s club won’t beat itself, and will take advantage of every Sixer misstep it can.

In that respect, the Heat are a perfect opening test for Brett Brown’s young club, a kind of next-level professional proving ground. If Philly can calmly handle its business here and get Embiid back in time for Round 2 … well, let’s just say things could get awfully scary in the Eastern bracket.

• Game 1 @PHI: 8 p.m. ET, Saturday, April 14 (ESPN)
• Game 2 @PHI: 8 p.m. ET, Monday, April 16 (TNT)
• Game 3 @MIA: 7 p.m. ET, Thursday, April 19 (TNT)
• Game 4 @MIA: 2:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, April 21 (TNT)
• Game 5 @PHI: TBD, Tuesday, April 24 (TBD)*
• Game 6 @MIA: TBD, Thursday, April 26 (TBD)*
• Game 7 @PHI: TBD, Saturday, April 28 (TBD)*

No. 4 Cleveland Cavaliers (50-32) vs. No. 5 Indiana Pacers (48-34)

It’s been a chaotic season for the Cavs — if we’re being honest, it’s felt like three or maybe four seasons, really — but it’s ended in a very familiar place. LeBron James is going to start a playoff series at home, looking at a bracket full of teams he doesn’t believe can stop him enough times to matter, and plotting a course to an eighth straight NBA Finals.

The path there might be a bit bumpier than it’s been in years past. James and head coach Tyronn Lue are still working out the kinks on a roster that, save for holdovers like Kevin Love and J.R. Smith, was roundly shuffled up at the February trade deadline in hopes of ameliorating the damage done by the preseason trade that swapped a disgruntled Kyrie Irving for an injured Isaiah Thomas. A spate of late-season injuries have kept Cleveland from getting a long look at how all the pieces fit together. But there’s nobody in the basketball world better equipped at that particular act of on-the-fly problem-solving than James, who’s producing at an unprecedented level for a player in his 15th pro season, who ended the season on a rampage, and who looks poised to offer his annual late-spring/early-summer reminder that all of us who’d seriously consider others to be this league’s most valuable player are, on some level, kidding ourselves.

Standing in James’ way: a Pacers team that nobody expected to be part of the East’s top eight when they traded away franchise player Paul George on the eve of free agency. But then, we didn’t know that Victor Oladipo was about to make the quantum leap from “pretty good player who hasn’t really put it all together yet” to “deserving All-Star, legitimate No. 1 scoring option and top perimeter defender, clutch monster and possible All-NBA guard.” (If we had known, we probably could’ve made a lot of money on that extremely specific future bet.)

The Pacers don’t play fast, they don’t bomb away from deep, and they don’t have a whole lot of players most casual fans could pick out of a lineup. What they do have, though, are pieces that fit together — guys who move without the ball, get hands in passing lanes, get out in transition, and make you earn it. They’ve been one of the league’s best stories, and best-kept secrets, all year long, and they’re capable of ruining your day if you don’t take them seriously. Unfortunately for them, LeBron doesn’t tend to lose focus too often this time of year.

• Game 1 @CLE: 3:30 p.m. ET, Sunday, April 15 (ABC)
• Game 2 @CLE: 7 p.m. ET, Wednesday, April 18 (TNT)
• Game 3 @IND: 7 p.m. ET, Friday, April 20 (ESPN)
• Game 4 @IND: 8:30 p.m. ET, Sunday, April 22 (TNT)
• Game 5 @CLE: TBD, Wednesday, April 25 (TBD)*
• Game 6 @IND: TBD, Friday, April 27 (TBD)*
• Game 7 @CLE: TBD, Sunday, April 29 (TBD)*

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Dan Devine is a writer and editor for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@oath.com or follow him on Twitter!

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