NBA playoffs 2022: Our experts answer the big questions of the first round

The NBA playoffs have begun with four first-round games on Saturday and Sunday.

All eyes will be on East Asia. Boston Celtics vs. Brooklyn NetsAs series Kevin Durant Kyrie IrvingLook to upset the No. The No. 2 seed Celtics are not injured in the center Robert Williams IIIIn what should be a highly competitive series.

Injuries could determine which teams advance in the West. Dallas MavericksStar Luka DoncicWill not be able to attend Saturday's 1st Game against the Utah JazzBecause of a strained left calfAccording to Tim MacMahon and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, it is. And Golden State WarriorsGuard Stephen Curryis listed as probable in Game 1 against the Denver NuggetsAfter suffering a left foot injury, I missed the 12 remaining games of the regular season.

Which returning player could make the most impact? Which higher seed cannot afford to lose Game 1 of this weekend's NBA Finals? Our NBA experts breakdown the top stories from the first round.

MORE: What to know for the NBA postseason | Schedules


1. Which series is the most competitive in its first round?

Kevin Pelton:Boston and Brooklyn. As I described in my series previewThe Nets' record has been better than their overall record, with Kevin Durant available and Kyrie Irving alongside him. However, the Celtics aren’t as dominant without Robert Williams III, who is still injured. These teams are surprising even for the No. These teams look amazing even for the No. 7 seeds.

Tim Bontemps: Many will probably say Nets-Celtics, given the star power involved, but I'm going to go with another Eastern Conference series: Philadelphia-Toronto. The 76ers are the most successful team in the series, with a substantial amount of players. Joel Embiid. Toronto, Philadelphia and other cities should not have this advantage. Matisse ThybulleThe Raptors have the ideal mix of long, athletic, long-serving players to take advantage Philadelphia's lackluster athleticism while also making the Raptors the best team for the three Toronto games. James HardenIt is extremely difficult for him to live. Embiid ShouldPhiladelphia could win this series by winning the remaining three games. This should prove to be a difficult test. Philly could easily win seven games.

Kevin Arnovitz: Dallas-Utah. Both the 4-5 matchups offer strong potential for seven-game play, but the Mavericks as well as Jazz should be extremely competitive. Although it's been quite some time since Utah had a sustained run of dominating basketball, the Jazz remain the league's best-ranked offense. Dallas is one of the most exciting stories of 2022. Luka is Luka when he's healthy. Spencer DinwiddieThis has given the team the edge they needed, and the defense has been strong throughout the season. Both teams have been disappointing in postseasons, and one will again be so when the series ends.

Ramona Shelburne:Even without Luka Docic missing Game 1, I believed the Mavericks series with the Jazz was going to be tight. Although I understand that many people are negative about the Jazz due to their past playoff failures and I believe they can still pull it off one year if they get a few breaks.

Jamal Collier Boston-Brooklyn. I don't believe a team featuring Durant and Irving will go out quietly. This series feels seven-game with the possibility of several games going down to the wire. These are two dangerous players to try and outdo in clutch performances. It's difficult for me to imagine the Nets playing and defending at a level high enough to win this series in four of seven games. But it will be entertaining to watch.


2. Which player could be the most affected by a return to the game after an injury?

Pelton:Doncic recovering from a calf strain. Curry's timetable for Curry is much clearer, even though Stephen Curry is just as important to his team. Our ESPN colleague Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Doncic will not be able to return to the court in Game 2. he'll miss at least the first gameThe series between the Mavericks and the Jazz. The speed at which he recovers will play a significant role in determining the outcome.

Bontemps:Before Doncic injured his calf in their regular-season finale, I thought Dallas was Phoenix's biggest threat in the Western Conference. Utah is the likely favorite to win, even though we don't know how Doncic can play or how efficient he will be. The young star could be out of the running for a deep postseason run.

Arnovitz:Doncic is the Mavericks offense's engine, fuel, torque, and the heart of their offense. He is more important than any other player in the West. Dinwiddie and Jalen BrunsonWhile it is possible to run a good pick-and roll attack, not everyone has the creative ability to make everyone on the floor a threat. Dallas' defense has been effective, and that should not change given Doncic's shortcomings on this end of the floor.

Collier: Doncic. Doncic. I don't believe there's an NBA team whose success can be attributed to just one player. Dallas cannot win this series if Doncic isn't playing or isn't 100%.

Shelburne:Although the Warriors may win a few games with Curry out, they aren't the Warriors if Curry isn't there. Although it will take him some games to get things moving, once he does, it's a complete change in the dynamic of the team.


3. Who are your top picks for the breakout player in the playoffs

Pelton: Bruce BrownHe has been playing at a high standard for the past two weeks. After the All-Star break Brown had an average of 14.7 PPG, 5.9RPG and 3.7APG. This made him a great player to support Durant and Irving while also serving as the Nets' best perimeter defender. He has attempted triple-doubles in Brooklyn's past two games. The Nets will need Brown to perform at this level to make it deep into the playoffs after the play-in.

Bontemps: Jaren Jackson Jr. Evidently, everyone thinks of the Memphis GrizzliesThey think of you as the first person they see. Ja MorantJackson is rightfully so. Jackson has made an impressive defensive leap this season and is now All-Defense Player of the Year. Jackson and Morant have the opportunity to showcase why the Grizzlies are a formidable two-two punch in Memphis, with the Grizzlies poised to make a deep playoff run.

Arnovitz:Memphis Grizzlies were guardians for two seasons Desmond BaneHe is a steal at No. With his career 3-point percentage of 43.5%, Bane is a steal at No. 30 in the 2020 draft. Bane's floor game is improving and can have a significant impact on the game from both sides. Minnesota is unable to handle a large number of 3-point attempts. Bane, however, will be paying a lot more attention to Morant. This allows Bane to pose a serious threat to the Grizzlies' second-side.

Shelburne: Does Morant count? Because I think he will surpass all expectations for him and his team, the Grizzlies. A few months back, a trusted executive told me that Memphis might be the best team within the league. I find myself agreeing with him more and more as I reflect on it.

Collier: Anthony Edwards. Edwards' first appearance on the national stage will benefit him more than any other player, both on and off court. Edwards will be the player everyone talks about, even if his team doesn't win the series.


4. Which seed is the least likely to lose Game 1?

Pelton: Philadelphia. The Sixers are in an unusual position because Thybulle's immunization status means that they will be shorthanded for road games in Toronto. Philly would have to lose Game 1 in order to win the remaining road games. This would put additional pressure on their other defensive options.

Bontemps:Philadelphia because Thybulle won’t be available in road matches and to set the tone for this series with a strong start. Dallas could be affected by Doncic's unspecified health and the Golden State Warriors' injuries.

Arnovitz:The Philadelphia 76ers. Anyone who has been to Scotiabank Arena in the spring knows that the Raptors are hostile to anyone visiting. The Sixers will face more dangers in Toronto if Thybulle is not with them. The Sixers also lost some of their depth by the deadline. Meanwhile, the Raptors gained some. OG AnunobyJust returned is a two-way threat called ‘Justin'.

Shelburne:Due to the Raptors' depth and length, Philadelphia was always going to face Toronto. The Sixers now have to play in Toronto without Thybulle, which makes it more crucial to keep serve at home.

Collier: Philly. Overreactions from Game 1 are an important part of the playoffs. It's hard to believe that everyone will accept the Sixers laying an egg at home. This is especially true when they play in Toronto with a short roster.


5. What is your bold prediction for round one?

Pelton:Brooklyn had 50 points, and Game 3 was won by Brooklyn. Jayson TatumWill break the Celtics' single-game playoff record. John HavlicekBy scoring at least 55 against them.

Bontemps:I'll tell you, it's that. Atlanta HawksGet two games on the Miami HeatThe first round is much more competitive than the 1-8 bloodbath that is the Western Conference version. It's been a strange season for Atlanta, but they have a talented team that has playoff experience from last years run. They also have a player. Trae YoungHe has shown that he is capable of winning a playoff game on his own.

Arnovitz: Denver takes Golden State to seven games. Curry controls the Warriors' destiny — no exceptions. It's far easier for them to defend when they are limited in their mobility and minutes. The Nuggets have the most offensive player in the series and can create high-percentage looks on the half court. This means that the Warriors' renowned D will need to perform at its best. It's going be a nip-and-tuck affair.

Shelburne:It is quite bold to suggest that the East's second-seeded team wins their first round playoff matchup. Because Boston will beat the star-crossed Nets. While I'm sure Irving and Durant are great, the Nets are asking them to do a lot. This is especially true against a strong defensive team like Boston.

Collier: Ben SimmonsHe will make his season debut. I feel that eventually there will be fire, despite the smoke surrounding a possible return. It would be strange, but it would also be fitting for this never-ending tale: Simmons returns to Brooklyn during the playoffs to play in a home match in Brooklyn one year after his last.

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