National Basketball Association playoffs are wide open _ for once

ImageCreditPeter and Maria Hoey

No matter how unpredictable the regular season was, however, many still expect to see yet another NBA Finals rematch.

The 2018 NBA Playoffs could be the most wide open playoffs for several years.

The Warriors (58-24) are coming into the playoffs banged up without star point guard Steph Curry.

Wade buried two big buckets down the stretch that pushed back the Sixers and tied the series as it shifts to Miami for Game 3 on Thursday.

In the eastern conference, there is the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Toronto Raptors, and the steaming hot Philadelphia 76ers.

NBA Philippines chief Carlo Singson said the game is another step by the league to grow interest. Three 76ers scored over 20-points, and it looks like they are back as serious contenders since the days of Allan Iverson. Assuming they get past Minnesota, the Rockets could be derailed in the second round by the Oklahoma City Thunder, a perplexing squad that has pretty much spent all season trying to figure out how to mesh the huge talents of Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. Game 1 should have answered some of those questions.

The game will not only allow fans to choose the winners of all the playoff duels all the way to the NBA Finals, but they can also predict how long each series will go. They have gone 17-wins in a row and are not merely beating teams; they are embarrassing their opposition.

The nightcap was Game 2 between the Spurs and Warriors out in Oakland. The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers have developed a great rivalry since LeBron James returned home, and when it's all said and done, we are most likely going to see these two teams battle once again. After a decisive win in Game 1, Betfair Sports still has Golden State as the favorites for Game 2 at 1.20, while the Spurs are at 5.00. This all makes for exhilarating match ups and potential upsets. Additionally, the Raptors have a big support system from the city of Toronto. But the Sixers have more up-front talent and depth, and they should wear Boston down. The Raptors and the Wizards were once peers in development, but today, it's not even close to the same story with Toronto taking over the Eastern Conference this season.

All this despite the Cavs enduring a torrid regular season, with a roster overhaul at the trade deadline and head coach Tyronn Lue's health forcing him to hand over duties to assistant Larry Drew for nine games. It won't be a shock to see the Celtics go far. I would hope that an at times shaky Cleveland defense and an inspiring Pacers' offense that hopefully they can get by Cleveland, so I pick the Pacers in seven games. The Celtics won due to a 14-8 performance in extra-time, and if the Bucks don't sort things out in the clutch, their chances at the next round will be over sooner rather than later.

Embiid won't be back for Game 2 on Monday night, as he'll continue to sit with his facial fracture.

The seed lucky enough to draw the injury-ravaged Celtics is Milwaukee.

The Pelicans had a great showing from their frontcourt talent, which was ultimately the difference in Game 1. It's practically every team one would think should be in there.

Game 3 is Thursday as the series shifts to San Antonio.

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. Cleveland is down, but not yet out, though it does look that way.

In the off-season they added a future Hall-of-Famer in Carmelo Anthony and one of the top two-way players in Paul George.

Tatum finished Game 1 with 19 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, three steals and a block, showing that he may have found a new gear. Game 2 is on Thursday Night at 00:00 GMT. The Cavs were beaten like a drum by the Pacers all day yesterday. Utah needs to execute better in Game 2, and also needs to keep the Thunder from dictating how it plays.

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