Western Conference Opening Round

1. Houston Rockets vs. 8. Minnesota Timberwolves

The Houston Rockets have been the NBA’s best team in 2017-18, and they should be almost impervious to any first-round matchups. Drawing the Minnesota Timberwolves is the least appealing option out of the candidates that existed during the season’s final week, but James Harden and Co. cheap nfl jerseys china still match up nicely against their opening foes.

Even with Jimmy Butler back on the court, the T-Wolves aren’t a great defensive team. They allow 105.1 points per 100 possessions when he’s logging minutes (the best mark of any rotation member), but that would still be just the No. 12 defensive rating in the season-long standings. Plus, Butler isn’t going to play 48 minutes per game throughout an entire postseason series, despite Tom Thibodeau’s enduring presence as Minnesota’s head coach. authentic nfl jerseys

A team with defense as its primary weakness isn’t going to topple the top-seeded juggernaut that’s climbed to its perch on the shoulders of historic offensive efforts. Harden and Chris Paul are going to have a field day, easily overcoming the absence of Luc Mbah a Moute as he tries to recover from a dislocated shoulder in time for the second round.nfl jerseys wholesale

Prediction: Rockets in five.b10b7f075e280e5ea410090f87232ccd_crop_exact

2. Golden State Warriors vs. 7. San Antonio Spurs

Watching the Golden State Warriors over the last few weeks, you get the sense they’re just biding their time and waiting to flip the proverbial switch at the most opportune moment. Injuries have decimated their rotation at times, but they still boast the services of three healthy wholesale nfl jerseys All-Stars in Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. Beyond that, their bench is filled with useful veterans who understand their roles, as well as some high-upside youngsters. nfl jerseys china

But the Dubs aren’t the same without Stephen Curry, who isn’t likely to be available for this first-round clash with the San Antonio Spurs. On the season, they’ve notched a 2.9 net rating sans their star point guard (easily the worst mark on the roster), and that dropped to minus-2.7 since his second-to-last injury on March 8.

This is concerning. The defending champions are vulnerable until their floor general returns, no matter how impressive nfl jerseys from china Quinn Cook has been while capitalizing on this unforeseen opportunity.

However, the Spurs aren’t suited to pull off the upset. Head coach Gregg Popovich will milk as much production from his troops as humanly possible, but San Antonio is outclassed without Kawhi Leonard. It overachieved throughout the season with a roster filled of middling talents and downward-trending veterans, but it now has to deal with its leading offensive star (LaMarcus Aldridge) lining up against Golden State’s premier individual stopper (Green).

NBA Playoff Bracket 2018: Round-by-Round Predictions

You can now breathe.

The end of the NBA’s 2017-18 regular season featured one twist after another as myriad squads battled for playoff positioning in both conferences. We saw a de facto play-in game between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets that wasn’t necessarily just for the No. 8 seed because of the jam-packed nature of the standings. We witnessed the Philadelphia 76ers winning roughly 43 games in a row to steal away the East’s No. 3 spot.nfl jersey

So on and so forth.

But now the playoff field is set. After weeks of breathless speculation, we know all of the first-round matchups.

Let’s see what’s going to happen next—not just in the opening round, but in every one that would follow authentic nfl jerseys . From the Houston Rockets’ defense of the West’s No. 1 seed against the dangerous Timberwolves to the conclusion of the NBA Finals, we’ve peered into the crystal ball and figured it all out. f46ef5b4f7cd485579959c5728c3aa17_crop_exact

1. Toronto Raptors vs. 8. Washington Wizards

Though the Toronto Raptors cooled off at the end of the regular season, that’s understandable. cheap nfl jerseys china They had been operating in sole possession of the No. 1 seed for quite some time, and complacency was bound to set in for an outfit so universally focused on doing away with the unfortunate reputation it’s earned over the last few postseasons.

Why focus on meaningless regular-season contests when the playoffs are all that matters? wholesale nfl jerseys

Toronto has struggled to gain momentum during prior opening rounds, but that won’t be the case in 2018. This team is built for the playoffs, as it no longer relies as heavily on isolation proclivities. Instead, the Raptors share the ball and make the most of a wealth of secondary talents. While Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan remain the leading contributors, they haven’t had the luxury of operating alongside a wide range of talented running mates quite like this. nfl jerseys wholesale

Benches typically aren’t as effective in the playoffs. The Washington Wizards, for example, will lean heavily on their starting five and attempt to minimize the minutes of any secondary contributors not named Tomas Satoransky or Kelly Oubre Jr. But reserves still matter, and Toronto’s have been the best in the league (8.3 net rating).

Netherlands Shock Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal 3-0 in International Friendly

The Netherlands defeated Portugal in an international friendly on Monday night, as the Dutch won 3-0 in Geneva, Switzerland.

Memphis Depay gave the Oranje a surprise lead after 11 minutes, and the advantage was doubled as Ryan Babel found the back of the net after 32 minutes.

The crowd were stunned as Virgil van Dijk’s half-volley found the bottom corner, giving the Dutch a 3-0 lead at half-time.

Portugal failed to make an impression in the second half, with Cristiano Ronaldo substituted early, and the Netherlands were comfortable winners in the end.

The Dutch set up with a firm core in a 5-3-2, allowing Depay and Babel plenty of freedom to stream forward as opportunity presented itself.

Portugal dominated the ball in the early stages but failed to produce a cheap nfl jerseys from china threat as they quickly fell behind.

Depay was ecstatic as he gave the Netherlands an early lead, linking with Donny van de Beek to clinical effect.

Portugal attempted a swift comeback, with Ronaldo tumbling in the box as he searched for a penalty, but when the incident was ignored, the Real Madrid icon showed his displeasure.

Moments later, it was 2-0 to the Netherlands, as Babel’s header hit the back of the net at pace.nfl cheap jerseys hi-res-c4dca2bd1cc59cbf5fabcbf5139a7fcd_crop_north

The Portuguese were clearly despondent as their opponents were far from dangerous, but worse was yet to come.

Poor marking saw the Dutch once again strike, with Liverpool centre-back Van Dijk showing his prowess with a controlled finish.

The 26-year-old smashed his shot into the bottom corner with style, and the half-time lead was a shock to the system.

The Netherlands have failed to display a clinical edge in nfl jerseys cheap china recent months as they failed to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, but the first shoots of recovery were present in the first half.

Portugal failed to put their foot on the gas in the second half and were down to 10 men as Joao Cancelo was shown red for a late tackle.

The 23-year-old was dismissed in the 61st minute for a second bookable offence, as his side appeared on their knees.authentic nfl jerseys

Ronaldo was taken off moments later as Portugal attempted to give minutes to their squad, with the Dutch in firm control of the contest.

The match petered out as the Portuguese accepted defeat, and the Dutch were rewarded with a much-needed victory against a major nation.

Portugal will need to play much better than this in the weeks ahead wholesale nfl jerseys , and the European Championship holders cannot simply rely on Ronaldo to take them through to the knockouts in Russia.

Kevin Durant Out at Least 2 Weeks After Rib Injury Diagnosed as Fracture

Kevin Durant is the latest Golden State Warriors star to be sidelined by an injury.

The 2014 NBA MVP had already nfl jerseys for cheap  been ruled out of Friday’s game against the Sacramento Kings due to sore ribs, but it apparently isn’t only a day-to-day injury. According to Connor Letourneau of  nfl jerseys cheap china the San Francisco Chronicle, Durant will miss at least two weeks due to an incomplete rib cartilage fracture.
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Durant explained to reporters Friday how he suffered the injury, via The Athletic’s Anthony Slater:

Earlier this season, Durant missed time due to a sprained ankle and a cheap nfl jerseys china  right calf strain. However, he had played in each of Golden State’s past 27 games heading into Friday.

The 2017 NBA Finals MVP is enjoying another fine season, averaging 26.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.9 blocks per game.

While having Durant, Curry and Thompson each sidelined by  authentic nfl jerseys injuries is hardly ideal, Golden State can do without them for the rest of the regular season. The Warriors have already clinched their fourth straight Pacific Division title and are all but locked into a top-two seed for the postseason at 52-16. They may not catch the Houston Rockets for the No. 1 seed, wholesale nfl jerseys but home-court advantage isn’t crucial for the defending champions.

Instead, Golden State’s top priority over the next month is to get everyone healthy for the playoffs.

‘I Don’t See It’: NBA Scouts, Execs Doubting Trae Young After NCAA Tourney Exit

NBA scouts are turning on Oklahoma’s Trae Young, whose historic freshman season ended with an 83-78 overtime loss to Rhode Island in the NCAA tournament.

“I would not take him in the lottery,” one scout responded after the game.cheap nfl jerseys china

“Not a fan,” replied an Eastern Conference executive. “Love his passion and dedication, but he must learn to be more efficient.”

“I don’t see it with him,” said an executive from the Western Conference. “He’s erratic with the ball, and he’s a teaser. Volume shooter. I have concerns on him.”hi-res-677cf0f405406c996fa6110ed6e7ffbd_crop_north

Despite leading the country in scoring and assists, questions have popped up over the legitimacy of his production, style of play, plummeting efficiency and defensive effort.

“As he matures, he’s going to have to balance out his impulsive play, authentic nfl jerseys because while that’s flashy and all of us love to see it when he’s hot, it’s not going to take you very far as a team,” added another scout. “Defensively, he has to be better, plain and simple.”

Despite going for 28 points, seven assists and five rebounds in the first round, Young showed unsettling negatives as well, including questionable 30-foot hero shots in crunch time, careless passing (six turnovers) and hands-down defense on shooters.

“I believe he had only had one such game, versus Kansas, that was a winning effort,”wholesale nfl jerseys  said the first executive.

At 6’2”, 180 pounds and with short arms, minimal explosiveness and a heavy reliance on threes (10.3 attempts per game, 36.1 percent) and free throws (8.6 attempts per game), Young has size and scoring limitations that concern scouts.

“I believe only 15.0 percent of his field-goal attempts are in the mid-range,”nfl jerseys wholesale  said the executive, who pointed out the need to be able to stop and pop inside the arc. “Can he get his shot off versus quality defense?”

Young was far less effective this season when his jumper was contested around the perimeter.