Only a week has passed since the first round of playoffs, and it already packs a lot of intrigue. The Boston CelticsThey were the first team to reach the second round after completing a sweep of the Brooklyn NetsMonday
If the champion is defending Milwaukee BucksYou win the 5th game against the Chicago BullsThey will punch their ticket to a second round meeting with the Celtics on Wednesday.
MVP candidate elsewhere in the East Joel EmbiidA thumb injury meant that I couldn't take the lead, but I persevered. Philadelphia 76ersBeyond the immediate Toronto RaptorsMonday night. The series will return to Toronto on Wednesday, where the Raptors hope to send the series to Game 7.
Former teammate of Embiid, Jimmy ButlerThe, and Miami HeatYou have the chance to close it Atlanta Hawkson Tuesday night to set up a second-round series with Philadelphia
The Western Conference series are a bit closer than the others, with the No. 1 Phoenix SunsHead home to watch Tuesday's Game 5 tie with the New Orleans Pelicansat 2-2. Most Improved Player Ja MorantThe No. 2 Memphis GrizzliesHead home for Game 5 on Tuesday, tied at two games each with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The No. 3 Golden State WarriorsMeanwhile, the will try to send the Denver NuggetsAfter nearly achieving a sweep Sunday, Wednesday will be home.
Are You Stephen CurryAre the Warriors returning? Are the Celtics still the favorite in the East? Can injuries have scuttled the chance of a Suns/Bucks Finals match? The biggest questions from round one are answered by our insiders.
MORE: Complete first-round matchups, schedules and news
1. Fact or fiction? We were wrong to believe that the Warriors were the title contenders in the fall.
Kevin Pelton: Fact. Fact. Draymond GreenBoth were on the court. They are at the most crucial time of the season.
Jamal Collier Fact. Curry is back. Green appears to be the best defender in league. Their death line has changed. Their path to the conference finals will see them face a younger team that is making it to the second round. Golden State seems to be putting everything together in the right moment.
Tim MacMahon:As long as Curry, Green and the rest of the team are healthy, it's a fact. While it wasn't something that happened often in the regular season. Golden State was able to outscore opponents by 14.8 points for every 100 possessions with Curry, Green and Green together. This was second among the duos that played at least 775 minutes each, behind Curry and Splash Brother. Jordan Poole. Curry and Green together in the playoffs so far. A cool plus-29.3 net rating.
Andrew Lopez: Fact. Curry is the greatest sixth man in league history, but it's not enough. The Warriors need to get well. Curry looks like Curry. Klay Thompson looks like Klay Thompson. Green is doing Green Things. Oh, and Poole averages 24.3 points per game.
Israel Gutierrez:Although they are probably not the same as we thought, the fact is that they were. It was an idea back then. Andrew WigginsThompson could play an important role. He wouldn't even have to be his former self. James WisemanThis would allow for some much-needed rim protection as well as easy buckets inside. Poole's offense seems to be more important than any Wiggins'. Thompson may well need to play some classic Thompson games. The 5-spot is going be ol’ reliable, Green. However, this recipe still retains a championship flavor.
2. Fact or fiction? The East is the favorite to win by the Celtics
Gutierrez:Fait, especially now Robert Williams IIICan give the Celtics at least a few minutes of relief. It's not the defense they've played in January; it's their comfort level. Jayson TatumAnd Jaylen BrownThey must be able to find their shot while still working within the offensive. You can see the confidence Tatum has and that it will only grow as he dominates. Kevin Durantfor a series — looks to be at the highest level of his career. It will be fascinating to see how much he does. Giannis AntetokounmpoThis can impact the confidence of the second round matchup.
Pelton: Fact. It's a fact. After beating the Nets in Game 1, the Celtics are now comfortably ahead. The Bulls are still in control of the Bulls, but the Bucks remain the dominant team. Khris MiddletonBecause of his injury, Williams' absence against Boston would be even more concerning. Williams' return to action means that he needs to get rid of any rust before the series begins.
MacMahon: Fact. Other East Asians didn't want the Nets in their first round. They took action (or inaction) in the final week of regular season to avoid them. The Celtics took the second seed and they don't regret it. Boston boasts the NBA's most effective defense as well as Tatum and Brown, two go-to players who have shown playoff skills.
Lopez: Fiction. Milwaukee is still the favorite in East, even though the defending champions are still there. The Celtics have been the most impressive team in the first round. They have proven they are the NBA's best defense this season.
Collier: Fiction. I will admit that I was a Celtics skeptic right up until this series started. But, watching how they have defended Kevin Durant as well as Kyrie Irving has convinced me. As defending champs, the Bucks appear to be the right team and I'd still consider them a slight favorite if they can get Middleton on the court in the next round. We are in for some 86-82 final scores, aren’t we?
3. Fact or fiction? The playoffs' best big three are the 76ers
MacMahon: Fiction. Golden State's trio Curry, Green and Thompson. I will choose Poole and Thompson. Or Milwaukee's three biggest players, if Middleton is able to return from his knee injury. Embiid, a dominant force who deserves to be voted MVP candidate, is now in serious condition with a thumb injury. James HardenHe is not an All-NBA Player anymore, and he did not have the best playoff record when he was.
Lopez: Fiction. Curry and Thompson are still leading the best big three in playoffs, regardless of whether you put Poole or Green in that role. Antetokounmpo might be Philadelphia's best big three. Jrue HolidayMiddleton, if healthy, could win that crown.
Pelton: Fiction. Although that may be true in this series so far, the Sixers will face teams more equipped to defend their perimeter players against the Raptors early in the second round against Miami Heat. Philadelphia might be better if we focus on the top-four. Tobias HarrisHe continues to play the same role as he did in the playoffs for both the Sixers and the other team.
Gutierrez: Fiction. It's not because of Embiid. Harden has in fact been a role-playing point defense. Tyrese MaxeyWhile he's a great third wheel, it can be limiting when you rely on his scoring too heavily. Golden State has a better team. Phoenix is also a better choice. Devin Booker get healthy.
Collier:Fiction. I'm interested to see what happens if a team attempts to force Harden into more scoring. I will ride with the Warriors (any combination of Curry, Thompson Green, or Poole) until then. Maxey certainly puts Philly in the conversation, though.
4. Fact or fiction? Injuries may prevent the Bucks or Suns from participating in a Finals rematch
Pelton:More fact than fiction. Before the playoffs, I would have picked Milwaukee and Phoenix. However, that has changed since the injuries to Booker & Middleton. It's not impossible to see that it's as much the result of other teams (Boston, Golden State) becoming healthier as their own problems. I would prefer to see the full strength Celtics than the full strength Bucks.
Collier: Fiction. Fiction.
MacMahon: Fiction. This is where I am trying to be optimistic. I hope Booker and Middleton will be back for at most the conference semifinals. If that is true, I would argue we shouldn't hold them responsible for their injuries if they lose. I chose a Suns-Bucks match with Phoenix winning the Finals. Because Boston is so strong, I have backed off.
Lopez: Fiction. Booker should return to Phoenix for the conference semifinals series if the Suns are able to defeat the Pelicans. New Orleans isn't going away without a fight. Milwaukee could win one more against Chicago and get Middleton back to the conference semifinals. Although the road to the Finals rematch was more difficult for both teams than it used to be, there are still some options.
Gutierrez: Fact. The fact. Booker's hamstring injury means that there is always the possibility of it recurring, should he ever return. The injury is unlikely to occur, given the amount of basketball played by these two teams over the past two years.
5. Fact or fiction? The Heat are getting slept upon
Gutierrez: Fiction. There is plenty to worry about in Miami, particularly late-game offense. Heat players are also playing with fire. Kyle LowryIs experiencing a hamstring issue. Bam AdebayoWe've seen Butler miss games this season due to injuries to his ankles. However, this defense is championship-level.
Pelton:This is a fact, but it's a good thing. This is the first round of the playoffs. There are eight series. We talk about the top seeds because they seem to be at risk of being upset. Miami is not.
Collier: Fact. Fact. Trae Young defensively. Butler has found his offensive touch, and I can see Miami making a run to validate its accomplishments in the bubble. It will be fun to see Butler return to Philly to play in a playoff series.
Lopez: Fact. Fact. The Eastern Conference Standings are at the top with the No. 1 spot. Butler is playing his best basketball this season, and is undoubtedly the MVP of the playoffs. Butler is scoring over 30 points per game in the playoffs. The Heat have no other player over 14 points per game but this hasn't been necessary due to the roster's balance.
MacMahon: Fact. Fact. Miami is No. No. 1 seed, which made the recent Finals run with a pair champions (Lowry & P.J. TuckerSince then, the Heat have added ( ) to their mix. Young can tell you if the Heat are a genuine contender.