NBA playoffs appear wide open for once

This will be the Playoffs with most worldwide presence ever: an National Basketball Association record of the number of non-american players and nationalities.

These are the kinds of maddeningly inconsistent mental moments the Wizards have had all season - the reason they are the eighth seed, instead of the fifth or sixth as they should have been. To start in the East, everyone knew seed five and below don't hold a chance.

No.1 seed Toronto Raptors, will host the No. 8 seed Washington Wizards.

Tom Van Arsdale (929) is the record-holder for most regular-season games without seeing postseason play, followed by Otto Moore (682), Nate Williams (642), Sebastian Telfair (564), then Casspi and Cousins. The Trail Blazers are a hungry team looking to make a run for a championship as they play against No. 6, New Orleans Pelicans that made a surprising run in second half to get here.

Players in their 15th year tend to be winding down their careers, but a 33-year-old LeBron James is somehow stepping his up further.

The Miami Heat have the same issue. While Giannis Antetokounmpo will present a mismatch for the Celtics as the best player on the floor, Brad Stevens could present an equal mismatch in game planning and preparation against Joe Prunty.

During the playoffs the game tends to slow down and it will vastly benefit the Bucks on defence. This is why without Wall, the Wizards barely survived for a playoff spot.

Unfortunately, the first-day wasn't as entertaining as everybody expected.

Kevin McHale, a Hall of Famer who teamed with Larry Bird and Robert Parish on the Boston Celtics for three championship runs, thinks there is definitely merit to those discussions when trying to sort out the best of the best, but that the players in the thick of it would be wise to try to tune out the discussion. Sadly, the reason they can not compete is because of injuries.

In Game 1, neither star reached his scoring average for the regular season, but both impacted the game positively in a number of ways.

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They have not been healthy all year and will not be able to challenge James with simply young talent.

The Raptors have the talent, but no experience past the first round.

Most notably, the bench helped carry the offensive load on an afternoon when the team's All-Star backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan had an off night (just 28 points combined).

BOSTON (AP) - Al Horford had 24 points and 12 rebounds and Boston overcame Khris Middleton's long 3 that beat the fourth-quarter buzzer to top Milwaukee in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference series. The 76ers are going into the playoffs on a 16-game winning streak.

Out West, it's No. 1 Houston meeting No. 8 Minnesota - which earned its berth by topping Denver in the NBA's first win-and-get-in, lose-and-go-home regular-season finale in 21 years.

As we've seen in the past, the Warriors know well how to harass James enough to make his nights hard, and this time around, he has an uncertain supporting group. Led by likely NBA MVP James Harden, the Rockets won a franchise-record 65 games and could have reached 70 if they didn't let up late in the season with the top seed clinched.

The West is a different monster all together.

IN has had a surprising season behind the vast improvement of Victor Oladipo, who jumped from 15.9 to 23.1 points per game this year.

Finally, more than the 50% of the total European players will be in the Playoffs (36/64). MVP candidate Anthony Davis, Jrue Holliday and playoff Rajon Rondo is a cast that can compete in the east.

Hats off to the Rockets for refusing to fold in the face of the Warriors juggernaut this season and instead making a bold move to get Chris Paul and bring in defensive-minded guys like P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute. They've won 11 of their last 13 games but their defence has been pathetic, finishing 29th in defensive rating. Every playoff team will receive at least $298,485 - and the payouts keep rising as teams keep advancing.

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