Half of the teams have already advanced to the next round of the 2018 NBA playoffs—the New Orleans Pelicans shocked the Portland Trail Blazers (4-0), the Philadelphia 76ers out-scrapped the Miami Heat (4-1), the Golden State Warriors dismantled the San Antonio Spurs (4-1), and the Houston Rockets sent the Minnesota Timberwolves packing (4-1).
Earlier today, the Milwaukee Bucks forced a Game 7 against the Boston Celtics, courtesy of 34 points and 14 rebounds from Giannis Antetokounmpo. Meanwhile, the Toronto Raptors, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Utah Jazz lead their respective matchups, 3-2, and are hoping to close out the series tomorrow.
The question is, can the Washington Wizards, the Indiana Pacers, and the Oklahoma City Thunder recover from their deficit and extend their postseason?
NOT QUITE: Washington Wizards over Toronto Raptors
This one is as easy to understand as the recurring theme in the series: each team has won convincingly (by an average of 11.2 points) on their own floor, so far. And with the Raptors carrying homecourt advantage as the No. 1 seed, one could very well give them the leverage in the matchup. The Wizards stealing Games 3 and 4 isn't enough for us to lose faith in Dwane Casey's boys, but rather a testament to how DeMar DeRozan (28.8 ppg 5 apg 2 3pg) and Kyle Lowry (15.8 ppg 8.8 apg 2.2 spg 2.8 3pg) are still getting used to Toronto's deepest lineup ever. The same can't be said about Washington's painfully underperforming starters and reserves, especially Otto Porter (10 ppg 6.2 rpg) and Markief Morris (9.4 ppg 5 rpg).
MORE LIKELY: Oklahoma City Thunder over Utah Jazz
The writing was on the wall: Utah was up by 25 points early in the third quarter of Game 5, and Russell Westbrook was 5-of-16 from the field in the first half. The Jazz was poised to complete its Cinderella run in the first round of the playoffs, against a squad that was considered to be among the favorites to win it all until Westbrook (26 ppg 12.4 rpg 8 apg) took matters into his own hands, finishing with 45 points, 15 rebounds, and seven assists to salvage what has been a disappointing season. While we don't expect coach Quin Snyder, Donovan Mitchell (26.6 ppg 7.8 rpg 2.2 3pg), and the rest of Utah to blow another huge lead, Russ seemed to have re-established himself as alpha dog. All they need is for Carmelo Anthony (16.2 ppg 5.8 rpg 40 fg%) to wake up.
BET ON IT: Indiana Pacers over Cleveland Cavaliers
Indiana was a goaltending call and a missed three-point shot away from being closer to the Eastern Conference semifinals. Save for LeBron James, each Pacer has visibly outplayed his counterpart, particularly Victor Oladipo who is having his way against anyone from Cleveland (20.2 ppg 6.6 rpg 5.2 apg 2 spg 2.6 3pg). Don't be fooled by how tight the contests have been—except for the 18-point blowout in Game 1, every match was decided by an average of three points. Lance Stephenson and his teammates have a clear edge over their listless opponents (only Kevin Love is averaging double-digit scoring other than LeBron with 11.8 ppg), both mentally and physically. In the end, one (super)man stands in their way: The King (34.8 ppg 11.4 rpg 8 apg).