NBA playoffs 2022 – What it’s essential know concerning the 16 groups nonetheless standing

The NBA postseason is right here, and the seventy fifth season in league historical past might ship one in all its most wide-open chases to the title.

The Phoenix Suns ran away with the league's finest regular-season file — eight video games higher than their closest challenger — however can Devin Booker and Chris Paul lead a second straight run to the Finals? They will should take care of a bunch of Western Convention contenders, together with Luka Doncic and the damaging Dallas Mavericks, reigning MVP and present award favourite Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets and Ja Morant and the younger however daring Memphis Grizzlies.

Oh, and the Golden State Warriors are again within the playoffs for the primary time since reaching the Finals in 2019.

Within the Japanese Convention, the bracket was so tightly packed that the Nos. 1 by 10 seeds have been separated by simply 10 video games. Based on ESPN Stats & Data analysis, it is the closest for any convention because the NBA-ABA merger in 1976-77.

The Miami Heat prepared the ground, however Giannis Antetokounmpo and the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and the surging Boston Celtics and Joel Embiid, James Harden and the revamped Philadelphia 76ers have been on Miami's heels all through the second half.

And we did not even point out the Brooklyn Nets, who, after an injury- and drama-filled season, are lurking because the East's seven seed.

Let's break down what it's essential know concerning the 16 groups nonetheless enjoying for a title, together with storylines, stats and stars you may't miss this postseason.

Observe: 2022 NBA title odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook.

NBA playoffs 2022 - What it's essential know concerning the 16 groups nonetheless standingNBA playoffs 2022 - What it's essential know concerning the 16 groups nonetheless standing

WESTERN CONFERENCE


NBA playoffs 2022 - What it's essential know concerning the 16 groups nonetheless standing

The Phoenix Suns are on a redemption tour

The Suns are attempting to develop into the fifteenth workforce in league historical past to lose within the NBA Finals after which win the championship the next season. The final workforce to take action was the Warriors in 2016-17, who added Kevin Durant after their 73-win workforce fell quick towards the Cavaliers in Sport 7 of the 2016 Finals.


Booker is perhaps probably the most under-the-radar MVP candidate ever

Devin Booker averaged 26.8 factors, 5.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists on the league's No. 1 workforce. Whereas Booker did not examine all three bins, all 12 gamers in NBA historical past to common 25 factors, 5 rebounds and 5 assists for the workforce with the most effective file within the league went on to win MVP that season. Booker seems to be a protracted shot for the award, and the snub might inspire him even additional within the playoffs. “I am not too caught up in that,” he instructed ESPN. “I am caught up in enjoying the precise manner.”


The Level God is heading off Father Time

Ought to Phoenix make it again to the Finals, Chris Paul might be simply one in all seven gamers age 37 or older to start out a Finals recreation because the NBA formally began monitoring beginning lineups in 1970-71, becoming a member of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tim Duncan, Ray Allen, Jason Kidd, Karl Malone and David Robinson.


The Suns' pregame huddle is must-watch ridiculousness

JaVale McGee has been identified to get down on all fours and bark like a canine. Cameron Payne and Mikal Bridges dance like they seem to be a budding act on “America's Acquired Expertise.” It is a factor. And it's a whole lot of fun for NBA-best Phoenix.

— Dave McMenamin

NBA playoffs 2022 - What it's essential know concerning the 16 groups nonetheless standingNBA playoffs 2022 - What it's essential know concerning the 16 groups nonetheless standing

The Memphis Grizzlies‘ Ja Morant is about to hit his largest stage

Morant, who has chastised networks for not giving the Grizzlies sufficient nationwide TV time, loves the brilliant lights. And he has produced in strain conditions throughout his younger NBA profession. Memphis bowed out in 5 video games to the Jazz in final 12 months's first spherical, however Morant averaged 30.2 factors within the sequence, together with a franchise-record 47 in Sport 2. He additionally had a pair of 35-point performances in play-in duels towards Damian Lillard and Stephen Curry.


These Grizzlies are younger — and out to make historical past

The Grizzlies' common age, weighted by enjoying time, is 24.4 years previous. They're the youngest workforce to complete with a top-two file since minutes turned official in 1951-52, in accordance with ESPN Stats & Data analysis. By that metric, the Grizzlies might develop into the youngest workforce ever to make the NBA Finals, a distinction at the moment held by the 1976-77 Path Blazers (24.99).


They discovered one of many largest steals of the 2020 draft

Most NBA groups did not assume Desmond Bane had lots of upside after enjoying all 4 seasons in school, a rarity today for draft prospects. The Grizzlies famous that Bane obtained considerably higher every year at TCU and projected that growth to proceed. Bane, who performed in summer season league final 12 months regardless of being a second-team All-Rookie choice, has emerged as a main offensive possibility and a significant purpose Memphis went 20-5 when Morant wasn't accessible.


One in every of their finest younger stars lastly stayed wholesome

Jaren Jackson Jr. staying wholesome might need been probably the most encouraging growth of an everyday season through which the Grizzlies made clear that they'd be a long-term menace within the West. Jackson had his first three years interrupted by knee points, limiting him to only 11 video games final season. He performed all however three video games this season, changing into a Defensive Participant of the 12 months candidate and galvanizing confidence he might be a franchise cornerstone.


Morant may pull off one thing like this:

— Tim MacMahon

NBA playoffs 2022 - What it's essential know concerning the 16 groups nonetheless standingNBA playoffs 2022 - What it's essential know concerning the 16 groups nonetheless standing

The Golden State Warriors‘ massive three shared the court docket for … 11 minutes

When Klay Thompson returned to the Warriors' lineup in January, that was imagined to be the ultimate piece to Golden State's puzzle. That was wishful considering. The day Thompson got here again, Draymond Green went out for 2 months with a again damage. The day Inexperienced got here again, Stephen Curry sprained his foot. The Warriors' massive three have performed simply 11 minutes collectively this season. (Their projected typical beginning lineup of them with Andrew Wiggins and Kevon Looney has performed simply seven seconds.) In these 11 minutes, the Warriors had offensive and defensive rankings of 92.3 and 85.2, respectively.

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Kendrick Perkins states that the Warriors are lacking key parts to take all of them the way in which within the playoffs.


Jordan Poole performed greater than 11 minutes — and had a breakout season

When Thompson was working his manner again from his accidents, Poole stepped in because the beginning 2-guard and obtained off to a sizzling begin originally of the season. Now with Curry out, he has been plugged into Curry's spot and has excelled but once more. Poole dominated in March, averaging 25.4 factors, 4.9 assists and three.9 rebounds all through 19 video games, scoring 20 or extra factors in 17 consecutive video games and main the league in made 3s (67).


The Splash Brothers might need a number of cousins

Over the previous 10 years, the Warriors and 3-pointers have develop into synonymous. This season, they added much more taking pictures to the roster. The mixture of Thompson, Poole and Curry will current a defensive conundrum for defenses, particularly with Looney and Inexperienced as threats down low. And Nemanja Bjelica and Otto Porter Jr. have been dependable bigs who can unfold the ground, whereas Wiggins has additionally supplied some well timed buckets. Even Gary Payton II may be counted on to knock down pictures from deep. Golden State is averaging 14.3 made 3s per recreation — third within the NBA — and the Warriors are one in all simply 4 groups to have 4 gamers (Curry, Thompson, Poole and Wiggins) making not less than two 3s per recreation and taking pictures 35% or higher from lengthy vary.


Golden State's protection began sturdy however slipped late

By way of the primary three months of the season, the Warriors' protection sat atop the league with a 102.2 ranking. However round February, it took a devastating tumble. It is not a coincidence that this occurred across the similar time Inexperienced was sidelined with a again damage. Within the two months Inexperienced was out, Golden State's defensive ranking plummeted to 110.4, nonetheless ok for eighth within the NBA. However now that Inexperienced is again, the Warriors wish to reassert their defensive mindset.

— Kendra Andrews

NBA playoffs 2022 - What it's essential know concerning the 16 groups nonetheless standingNBA playoffs 2022 - What it's essential know concerning the 16 groups nonetheless standing

The Dallas Mavericks‘ Luka Doncic hits one other stage in massive video games

Doncic had a protracted monitor file of performing when the stakes have been excessive when he arrived within the NBA as a youngster. He had gained a number of championships with Actual Madrid, incomes MVP of the EuroLeague's Ultimate 4 in his final act earlier than making the leap to the NBA, and starred for Slovenia throughout its Cinderella run to a EuroBasket title. The Mavs have but to advance previous the primary spherical with Doncic, however he has been a dominant postseason power, averaging 33.5 factors, 8.8 rebounds and 9.5 assists in two aggressive sequence towards the Clippers. Doncic will miss Game 1 towards the Jazz with a calf pressure.


The Mavs went from worst to first in a single clutch stat

Dallas ranked lifeless final in clutch-time effectivity — minus-34.5 factors per 100 possessions — after a Feb. 2 time beyond regulation loss to Oklahoma Metropolis. The Mavs are an NBA-best plus-41.6 in clutch web ranking since. Two main elements within the Mavs' clutch metamorphosis: Doncic enjoying his manner into form and Spencer Dinwiddie‘s arrival on the commerce deadline within the Kristaps Porzingis deal.


Their playoff protection might be value watching

A drastically improved protection keyed Dallas' climb to home-court benefit within the first spherical. The Mavs went 20-7 throughout the first two months of 2022, holding groups to 105.7 factors per 100 possessions throughout that span. The Mavs have continued successful regardless of slipping considerably on that finish of the ground since, because the defensive ranking spiked to 113.8 from March 1 on. “We've to get again to the small print of our protection,” Jason Kidd stated. “That is what we're constructed on.”


Jalen Brunson has one thing to show

Brunson has positioned himself for a giant payday — considerably greater than the four-year, $55 million extension the Mavs can provide earlier than he turns into a free agent — however he nonetheless has rather a lot to show within the playoffs. Brunson missed the bubble playoffs after present process shoulder surgical procedure and had a disappointing postseason debut final 12 months, when his enjoying time decreased over the course of the sequence. “It sat with me all summer season,” Brunson stated firstly of coaching camp.

— MacMahon

NBA playoffs 2022 - What it's essential know concerning the 16 groups nonetheless standingNBA playoffs 2022 - What it's essential know concerning the 16 groups nonetheless standing

The Utah Jazz‘ Donovan Mitchell pours within the playoff factors

Donovan Mitchell has established himself as one of many premier playoff scorers in NBA historical past. He ranks fifth all-time in playoff factors per recreation at 28.9 (minimal 25 video games), behind solely Kevin Durant amongst lively gamers. But it surely's but to lead to a deep playoff run. Dominique Wilkins is the one different participant among the many prime 20 in profession playoff factors per recreation to by no means seem in a convention finals.


Small ball is not their factor …

The hope was that the free company signing of Rudy Gay — or maybe the commerce for Mitchell's childhood buddy Eric Paschall — would supply coach Quin Snyder the choice of enjoying small-ball lineups. That hasn't occurred. The Jazz's lineups with out a conventional heart have been horrible, getting outscored by 16.7 factors per 100 possessions in 440 minutes this season, in accordance with ESPN Stats & Data analysis. These teams have allowed opponents to shoot 68.1% on dunks and layups, which might rank final within the league by a big margin.


… They usually have a behavior of blowing massive leads

Snyder took exception lately to the notion that the Jazz are particularly vulnerable to blowing massive leads. However notion is certainly actuality on this case. Utah has misplaced six video games this season through which they held a double-digit lead within the fourth quarter, probably the most within the league. The Jazz have blown second-half leads of 25 and 21 to the Clippers and Warriors, respectively, over the previous few weeks. It is a painful topic, in fact, bringing again haunting recollections of the Jazz's elimination-game collapse towards the Clippers final 12 months.


The way forward for the franchise might be at stake

There was widespread hypothesis all through the league that something however a deep playoff run might result in drastic modifications for the Jazz. In different phrases, the tip of the Mitchell-Rudy Gobert partnership might be on the horizon. “On the finish of the day, we've a chance at the moment,” Gobert stated on ESPN's NBA In the present day. “For us, an important factor to do is embrace that. When the season is over, the season is over. It is the NBA; nobody performs collectively for 20 years. We all know the way it works.”

— MacMahon

NBA playoffs 2022 - What it's essential know concerning the 16 groups nonetheless standingNBA playoffs 2022 - What it's essential know concerning the 16 groups nonetheless standing

The Denver Nuggets‘ Nikola Jokic is even higher than final season … when he gained MVP

Jokic has put up some historic numbers this season — he turned the primary participant in NBA historical past with 2,000 factors, 1,000 rebounds 500 assists in a season, and his 32.92 Participant Effectivity Score (PER) set the league's all-time file — whereas carrying everything of the Nuggets offense with Jamal Murray (ACL) and Michael Porter Jr. (again) sidelined. Jokic hopes to have some assist for the playoffs, but when he would not, the reigning MVP will look to proceed the varieties of performances the league hasn't seen from a middle since Corridor of Famer Wilt Chamberlain. Jokic averaged 29.8 factors, 11.6 rebounds and 5.0 assists final postseason, however he heads into these playoffs having posted large numbers in March and April — 31.6 factors, 13.7 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 62.3% taking pictures. He did so whereas successful significant video games down the stretch as Denver fought to remain out of the West play-in.

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Brian Windhorst breaks down how votes have shifted following the most recent NBA MVP straw ballot carried out by ESPN's Tim Bontemps.


Reinforcements might be on their manner

The one-year anniversary of Murray tearing the ACL in his left knee is Tuesday. The 25-year-old guard has been ramping up his activity, however the Nuggets might be very cautious with a possible return. The identical goes for Porter Jr., who has missed all however 9 video games this season after present process lumbar spine surgery in early December. If the Nuggets get one or each gamers again, nobody will wish to face Jokic with one other offensive weapon by his facet.


Denver could have discovered its prompt the bench

It has been no secret the Nuggets have struggled when Jokic rests — Denver is 16.4 factors per 100 possessions higher with him on the court docket — and coach Michael Malone has tried to search out the correct mix to maintain the Nuggets afloat whereas their MVP will get a breather. He could have discovered it in rookie Bones Hyland. The No. 26 total decide in 2021 averaged 14.3 factors in March, together with three 20-plus level performances, and the Nuggets will want that sort of offensive punch off the bench.

— Ohm Youngmisuk

NBA playoffs 2022 - What it's essential know concerning the 16 groups nonetheless standingNBA playoffs 2022 - What it's essential know concerning the 16 groups nonetheless standing

The Minnesota Timberwolves might need the best-shooting massive man … ever

After becoming a member of Dirk Nowitzki as the 2 tallest 3-point contest winners, the 6-foot-11 Karl-Anthony Towns declared himself “the best massive man shooter of all time.” No participant taller than 6-foot-10 has matched Cities' 39.7% profession accuracy with greater than 50 3-point makes an attempt, per Stathead.com. Professional Basketball Speak famous he also matches Nowitzki on long 2s. Nonetheless, Dirk's edges in foul taking pictures (88% to 83%) and quantity (1,982 profession 3s) may give him the nod … for now.


The Wolves' beginning 5 is frightening good

The Timberwolves' main beginning 5 (Patrick Beverley and D'Angelo Russell at guard, Anthony Edwards and Jarred Vanderbilt at ahead and Cities at heart) is in lofty firm as one in all simply seven lineups leaguewide to outscore opponents by not less than 100 factors whereas on the court docket, per NBA Superior Stats. Will probably be fascinating to see whether or not coach Chris Finch leans extra closely on this group within the postseason and if that success carries over.


Love the play-in match? The Wolves did it earlier than it was cool

You'll be able to most likely thank Minnesota, together with the Nuggets, for serving to exhibit the viability of the play-in match. Again in 2018, the Timberwolves snapped a 13-year playoff drought by beating the Nuggets on the season's last evening to say the eighth seed in entrance of a nationwide TV viewers. Now, Minnesota is headed to the play-in to attempt to get again within the playoffs for the primary time since then.


Ant-Man is on the market bending the legal guidelines of physics

As a result of Edwards, the No. 1 decide of the 2020 draft, has stated he is not concerned about getting into the dunk contest as an “in-game dunker,” the postseason would be the finest alternative for a nationwide viewers to see him take flight. However Edwards' finest throwdown this season did not rely; he powered over Miami's Gabe Vincent in November however was called for a charge.

— Kevin Pelton

NBA playoffs 2022 - What it's essential know concerning the 16 groups nonetheless standingNBA playoffs 2022 - What it's essential know concerning the 16 groups nonetheless standing

The New Orleans Pelicans‘ stars have discovered their groove

After a 1-4 begin, the Pelicans have gained eight of 10 video games through which CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram have performed collectively. Ingram has missed time with a hamstring damage, however the two have found a chemistry on the court docket. The Pelicans have a 116.9 offensive rating with those two on the court, the third-best ranking on the workforce amongst two-man lineups with not less than 200 minutes. The one two higher are McCollum with two different starters: Jonas Valanciunas (119.0) and Herb Jones (117.5).


Jose Alvarado is taking individuals's cookies

Take your eyes off the ball and the Pelicans rookie level guard might trigger havoc within the backcourt. Alvarado has perfected the hide-in-the-corner-and-chase-you-down steal this season. Actually, in accordance with Second Spectrum monitoring, he leads the league with 19 backcourt steals regardless of enjoying solely 812 minutes.


The 3s aren't falling in The Large Straightforward

One of many causes the Pelicans made the deadline deal for McCollum was to enhance their outdoors taking pictures. This season, the Pelicans rank final in 3-pointers made (859) and twenty seventh in 3-point proportion (33.2%). The one different postseason workforce within the league's backside 10 in 3-point proportion is the Mavericks at twenty first total. After buying McCollum, New Orleans did not enhance a lot from behind the arc, rising to only twenty sixth in 3-point proportion (34.1%) and dipping to twenty eighth in made 3s (280) with the previous Portland Path Blazers sharpshooter on the roster.

— Andrew Lopez

NBA playoffs 2022 - What it's essential know concerning the 16 groups nonetheless standing

EASTERN CONFERENCE


NBA playoffs 2022 - What it's essential know concerning the 16 groups nonetheless standing

The Miami Heat and the curious case of Jimmy Butler‘s 3s

Heading into the final month of the season, Butler's splits from past the arc have been … not nice:

  • October: 0.5 makes on 1.3 makes an attempt per recreation

  • November: 0.3 makes on 2.0 makes an attempt per recreation

  • December: 0.5 makes on 1.3 makes an attempt per recreation

  • January: 0.5 makes on 2.4 makes an attempt per recreation

  • February: 0.2 makes on 1.8 makes an attempt per recreation

  • March: 0.6 makes on 2.4 makes an attempt per recreation

Then got here April, and Butler, whereas noting his teammates have been telling him to shoot more from distance — recorded 1.3 makes on 3.0 makes an attempt per recreation. It is a pattern the Warmth want to stay within the playoffs.


They've the runaway Sixth Man of the 12 months favourite …

Tyler Herro has had a terrific season off the bench, averaging 20.7 factors, 5.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists per recreation. He's a key purpose the Warmth vaulted all the way in which again to the highest of the East this season. The 22-year-old's capability to keep up that manufacturing within the postseason might be essential to the Warmth's success — particularly given how poorly he shot in final season's East quarterfinals towards the Bucks. Herro averaged simply 9.3 factors on 31.6% taking pictures in Milwaukee's sweep.


… They usually have one other secret weapon off the bench

Max Strus had a breakout season in Miami — averaging 10.6 factors a recreation whereas taking pictures 41% from past the arc. The 26-year-old confirmed he might present stable minutes when referred to as upon and figures to see some vital ones when the Warmth must stretch the ground. Strus, Herro and Duncan Robinson have the offensive capability to create loads of matchup points.

— Nick Friedell

NBA playoffs 2022 - What it's essential know concerning the 16 groups nonetheless standingNBA playoffs 2022 - What it's essential know concerning the 16 groups nonetheless standing

The Boston Celtics have been a brand new workforce since late January

Previous to going to Washington on Jan. 23, Boston was a .500 workforce barely outscoring its opponents. Since then, the Celtics have clearly been the most effective workforce within the East, outscoring groups by greater than 14 factors per 100 possessions whereas rocketing up the standings from the underside of the play-in match morass to claiming home-court benefit within the first spherical and establishing themselves as reliable title contenders.


They misplaced their defensive anchor in March

Robert Williams III has been one of many NBA's most improved gamers this season and a linchpin of Boston's league-leading protection. With out him for not less than the primary spherical of the playoffs, the Celtics might be counting on the mix of Al Horford, Daniel Theis and Grant Williams to carry the fort till Robert Williams is able to return after present process meniscus surgical procedure on March 30.


Top-of-the-line deadline additions had an up-and-down second half

Derrick White‘s arrival in Boston on the commerce deadline has performed a giant position within the workforce's resurgence, as he's each a fast decision-maker offensively and a stout defender. However as groups lock into their opponents extra intently within the playoffs, White's 3-point taking pictures — he hit simply 30.6% from deep in a Celtics uniform — might be a key to look at alongside the playmaking of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.


Marcus Smart might finish the DPOY domination by massive males

Good is likely one of the main candidates for Defensive Participant of the 12 months and says his versatility is a giant purpose he ought to develop into the primary level guard to win the award since Gary Payton in 1996. Based on ESPN Stats & Data analysis and Second Spectrum monitoring, Good has switched 422 occasions because the ball-handler defender towards on-ball screens this season, the third most within the NBA. The Celtics have allowed 0.89 factors per probability on these performs — the league common is 0.95.

— Tim Bontemps

NBA playoffs 2022 - What it's essential know concerning the 16 groups nonetheless standingNBA playoffs 2022 - What it's essential know concerning the 16 groups nonetheless standing

The Milwaukee Bucks‘ Giannis Antetokounmpo simply put up one other MVP-worthy marketing campaign …

Antetokounmpo is a contender to win his third MVP after one other dominant season main the defending champs. He is spent stretches this season as their main playmaker and spent extra time at heart than ever earlier than, all whereas difficult for the scoring title at 29.9 factors per recreation (third within the NBA) and being a contender for the Defensive Participant of the 12 months award.


… And Antetokounmpo will get even higher in crunch time

When the sport is on the road, Antetokounmpo has been at his finest. He has scored 528 factors in 526 fourth-quarter minutes, one in all solely 5 gamers within the play-by-play period (since 1996-97) to common not less than one level per fourth-quarter minute. He additionally turned the primary participant previously 25 years to common not less than eight factors on 55% taking pictures within the fourth quarter throughout a single season.


Brook is again, and simply in time

The Bucks performed virtually the complete season with out beginning heart Brook Lopez, who wanted back surgery on Dec. 2 and has appeared in simply 11 video games this season. However Lopez has come again precisely because the rim protector Milwaukee remembers, holding opponents to 12-for-40 taking pictures (30%) on the rim. Final season, Lopez ranked second in area objective proportion allowed on the rim, trailing solely Warriors ahead Draymond Green.


Milwaukee's protection slipped, however historical past is on its facet

Protection has been the calling card in Milwaukee every year below coach Mike Budenholzer, however for the primary time throughout his four-year tenure, the Bucks completed outdoors the highest 10 in defensive effectivity, dropping to 14th. En path to the championship final 12 months, the Bucks' protection went from No. 9 throughout the common season to No. 1 within the playoffs, so they are going to be relying on an identical step as much as carry them by their repeat pursuit.

— Jamal Collier

NBA playoffs 2022 - What it's essential know concerning the 16 groups nonetheless standingNBA playoffs 2022 - What it's essential know concerning the 16 groups nonetheless standing

The Philadelphia 76ers cannot be stopped when Harden and Embiid share the court docket

Since pairing Harden and Embiid on the commerce deadline, Philadelphia has seen the brand new celebrity duo dominate. Philadelphia outscored groups by 15.9 factors per 100 possessions with their two All-Stars sharing the court docket, the second-best mark amongst NBA duos with not less than 600 minutes enjoying collectively.


Tyrese Maxey might need gained the Ben Simmons commerce

Whereas Simmons waited to be traded, Maxey entered his sophomore season having been handed the keys to Philadelphia's offense as its place to begin guard. All he did was common 17.4 factors per recreation and shoot 43.3% from 3-point vary. That taking pictures enchancment, coupled with Maxey's blinding pace, has made him an amazing discover for the 76ers late within the 2020 draft and a core piece of their future.


The Sixers cannot guard anybody in transition

Per ESPN Stats & Data analysis, since Harden arrived in Philadelphia on the commerce deadline, 76ers opponents have shot 64.9% in transition, the worst area objective proportion allowed throughout that span. Earlier than the deadline, it was 55.7%, good for twentieth within the NBA. Make no mistake: Groups might be working on Philly.


They're additionally caught in a backup heart carousel

After Andre Drummond was included within the Simmons commerce to Brooklyn, 76ers coach Doc Rivers has been mixing and matching his backup heart choices, usually going with DeAndre Jordan — although he notably went with Paul Millsap towards Milwaukee late within the common season. Each veterans have struggled, persevering with an annual pattern through which Philadelphia performs poorly each time Embiid hits the bench; the Sixers' web ranking drops virtually 12 factors per 100 possessions when he sits.

— Bontemps

NBA playoffs 2022 - What it's essential know concerning the 16 groups nonetheless standingNBA playoffs 2022 - What it's essential know concerning the 16 groups nonetheless standing

The Toronto Raptors have a bench — they only do not use it fairly often

At a time when managing participant well being is extra vital than ever, Toronto's willingness to play its starters heavy minutes is a throwback. Every Raptors starter — Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes and Gary Trent Jr. — is inside the highest 30 within the NBA in minutes per recreation, with VanVleet and Siakam on the prime of that listing, each averaging 37.9. Will probably be fascinating to see how Toronto's ceiling adjusts within the playoffs as different groups play their prime gamers as a lot because the Raptors already are.


Barnes is the actual deal

If Barnes, the fourth total decide in 2021, would not win Rookie of the 12 months, it is solely as a result of it is a traditionally sturdy rookie class, with Cleveland's Evan Mobley and Detroit's Cade Cunningham additionally making sturdy circumstances for the award. However Toronto unquestionably has a keeper in Barnes, a 6-foot-7 wing who's averaging 15.4 factors and seven.6 rebounds and performs with an infectious power. It is uncommon for a rookie like this to land on a playoff workforce, however it is going to be enjoyable to see how Barnes performs on the massive stage.


The Raptor … uh … finds a manner

Devin Booker took difficulty with Toronto's trouble-making mascot in January for its antics throughout Booker's free throws late in what turned a Phoenix win. What participant might decide up that mantle of feuding with The Raptor within the playoffs?

— Bontemps

NBA playoffs 2022 - What it's essential know concerning the 16 groups nonetheless standingNBA playoffs 2022 - What it's essential know concerning the 16 groups nonetheless standing

The Chicago BullsDeMar DeRozan is the brand new king within the fourth

DeRozan has carried the Bulls to some shut wins this season by being glorious within the clutch. This season, he has scored 157 factors on 53.5% taking pictures in clutch time — outlined as the ultimate 5 minutes of the fourth quarter or time beyond regulation with the rating inside 5 factors — changing into solely the fourth participant previously 10 years to drag it off, becoming a member of Damian Lillard final season, LeBron James in 2017-18 and CJ McCollum in 2016-17.


They could not beat the East's finest — which appears problematic in, you understand, the East playoffs

The Bulls began the season competing for one of many prime seeds within the East however fell again within the standings as a result of they'd little or no success towards the opposite playoff groups. Chicago completed the season 1-14 towards the highest 4 groups within the convention, the second worst successful proportion by a playoff workforce towards the highest 4 of their convention since 1984. Solely the 2019-20 Orlando Magic, who went 0-14, have been worse.


No “Chi Slamma Jamma” within the postseason

One of many staples of the Bulls' shocking begin have been cross-court, fast-break lasers from Lonzo Ball, usually adopted by an alley-oop dunk from Zach LaVine. Ball completed third in transition assists per recreation on passes that traveled not less than 40 ft, in accordance with Second Spectrum monitoring, one of many extra enjoyable parts to a Chicago offense that has been misplaced after his left knee damage. Ball will not return this season.


The Bulls had second-half 3-point woes — on either side of the ball

The absence of Ball exacerbated two of the largest points hindering the workforce within the second half — their dip defensively and taking pictures woes from 3-point vary. Chicago survived taking the fewest 3-pointers within the NBA this season as a result of they ranked within the prime 5 in 3-point proportion. Nonetheless, after the All-Star break, they ranked twenty third in 3-point proportion whereas nonetheless taking the fewest makes an attempt per recreation. Defensively, the Bulls have dropped from tenth within the league on Jan. 1 to twenty third.

— Collier

NBA playoffs 2022 - What it's essential know concerning the 16 groups nonetheless standingNBA playoffs 2022 - What it's essential know concerning the 16 groups nonetheless standing

The Brooklyn Nets‘ stars have overcome a porous protection

Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are two of probably the most dynamic offensive gamers in current NBA historical past. They'll get their very own shot seemingly each time they need and each gamers proceed to show their dominance, as evidenced by Durant's 55 factors in an April 2 loss to the Hawks and Irving's 60 factors in a March 15 win over the Magic. However will that offensive brilliance maintain up? The Nets' protection has been sliding since a powerful begin to the season — they arrive into the postseason ranked twentieth with a 112.3 defensive ranking.

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Jordan Cornette and Jay Williams get in a heated debate about how the Nets' season has unraveled given the way it began.


There might be a Ben Simmons sighting

Nets coach Steve Nash has been clear that he would not have a difficulty plugging Simmons right into a playoff recreation although the three-time All-Star hadn't performed all season. And whereas Simmons has been dominated out of the play-in match, the door is open for a possible debut later within the postseason. Sources told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski that Simmons' progress is fueling hope that he might debut someday within the first spherical.


Bruce Brown is Brooklyn's 6-foot-4 spark plug

The 25-year-old wing — who has been known to bang in the paint — ramped up his recreation in March, averaging 14.7 factors, 5.5 rebounds and three.7 assists. He additionally offers a defensive raise and has been open about how motivated he was to enhance this summer season after the way in which the Bucks defended him within the East semifinals final season.

The Nets obtained a second-round steal final summer season

Kessler Edwards performed so effectively down the stretch that he earned a standard contract after being on a two-way deal all season. Not solely has the 2021 second-round select of Pepperdine made a distinction along with his size and athleticism on the ground — however he shot a strong 47.4% from past the arc throughout 12 video games in March.

— Friedell

NBA playoffs 2022 - What it's essential know concerning the 16 groups nonetheless standingNBA playoffs 2022 - What it's essential know concerning the 16 groups nonetheless standing

The Atlanta Hawks are out to shock the NBA world once more

Final season, the Hawks surprised the league with their late-season turnaround and journey to the East finals. May they shock everybody once more? To take action this time, they will should win twice to make it out of the play-in match. However the Hawks have been distinctive at house this season (third-most house wins within the East) and any workforce with Trae Young within the playoffs can have an opportunity.

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Trae Younger discusses the Hawks' win over the Cavaliers and why he was in a position to get it going within the second half.


Trae set a “Tiny” file

It went all the way down to the ultimate week of the season, however Younger joined Nate “Tiny” Archibald in 1972-73 as the one gamers in NBA historical past to lead the league in total points and total assists. Younger handed DeMar DeRozan for the lead in factors late and held off Chris Paul for the lead in assists. General, Younger averaged 28.4 factors and 9.7 assists, ending fourth in scoring and third in assists.


The Hawks' elite 3-point taking pictures makes them a menace …

Younger has a status for being a wonderful high-volume 3-point shooter — he is sixth within the East with 8.0 makes an attempt per recreation with a 38.2% clip — however he is not Atlanta's solely deep menace. The Hawks are second within the NBA in 3-point proportion (37.4%) and have 10 gamers with not less than 100 3-point makes an attempt — the worst proportion amongst that group being Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot at 36.1%. That quantity remains to be higher than 19 NBA groups this season.


… However their protection might ship them house early

Atlanta ranks twenty sixth this season in defensive ranking (113.7 factors allowed per 100 possessions) however they nonetheless personal a optimistic web ranking. Atlanta is also backside 10 within the league in opponent area objective proportion (47.1%) and opponent 3-point proportion (36.4%).

— Lopez


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