OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 24:  Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors gets tangled wth Patrick Beverley #21 of the LA Clippers after Green was called for an offensive foul during Game Five of the first round of the 2019 NBA Western Conference Playoffs at ORACLE Arena on April 24, 2019 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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With the San Antonio Spurs forcing a Game 7 against the Denver Nuggets with a convincing 120-103 win Thursday night on their home court, there’s plenty of evidence that the first round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs is still competitive.

Especially in the Western Conference.

All four teams (Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Raptors) in the Eastern Conference are ready to begin their respective second-round matchups, but for four teams in the West, progression is still up for grabs.

In addition to the winner-take-all final game between the Spurs and the Nuggets, there’s the no-love-lost battle between the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Clippers, who kept their playoff hopes alive with a big 129-121 win in Oracle Arena on Wednesday night.

Here’s the latest on the NBA playoff bracket, a guide for postseason television coverage (per Sports Media Watchand a quick look at Friday and Saturday’s big games.

         

NBA Playoff Bracket: Eastern Conference

First Round

No. 1 Milwaukee Bucks 4, No. 8 Detroit Pistons 0

No. 4 Boston Celtics 4, No. 5 Indiana Pacers 0

No. 3 Philadelphia 76ers 4, No. 6 Brooklyn Nets 1

No. 2 Toronto Raptors 4, No. 7 Orlando Magic 1

                  

Second Round

Milwaukee Bucks vs. Boston Celtics

Philadelphia 76ers vs. Toronto Raptors

                                

Conference Finals

Winners of second-round matchups face off. Higher seed has home-court advantage.

                         

NBA Playoff Bracket: Western Conference

First Round

No. 1 Golden State Warriors 3, No. 8 Los Angeles Clippers 2

No. 4 Houston Rockets 4, No. 5 Utah Jazz 1

No. 3 Portland Trailblazers 4, No. 6 Oklahoma City Thunder 1

No. 2 Denver Nuggets 3, No. 7 San Antonio Spurs 3

                   

Second Round

Portland vs. Denver/San Antonio winner

Houston vs. Golden State/L.A. winner

                          

Conference Finals

Winners of second-round matchups face off. Higher seed has home-court advantage.

                        

NBA Finals

Eastern Conference winner vs. Western Conference winner. Team with better regular-season record has home-court advantage.

      

NBA Playoff TV Schedule: Confirmed Games

Friday, April 26 at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN: Warriors at Clippers

Saturday, April 27 at 7:30 p.m. ET on TNT: Sixers at Raptors

Saturday, April 27 at 10:00 p.m. ET on TNT: Spurs at Nuggets

Sunday, April 28 at 1 p.m. on ABC: Celtics at Bucks

         

NBA Playoff TV Schedule: Unconfirmed Games

Sunday, April 28: Clippers at Warriors, Rockets at Warriors. Clippers at Warriors will be played on this day if necessary. Times have not been announced.

           

NBA Playoff Round Dates

Second Round: Saturday, April 27, through Monday, May 13 (if necessary)

Conference Finals: Tuesday, May 14, through Sunday, May 26 (if necessary)

NBA Finals: Thursday, May 30, through Sunday, June 16 (if necessary)

           

Game 6 Matchup Breakdown

Will Clippers Continue to Defy Expectations?

Somehow, someway, the Clippers are managing to find ways to get the better of the Warriors in these NBA playoffs.

On the same night that the Rockets advanced to the second round by dispatching the Jazz 4-1, L.A. staved off elimination by sending a message to Golden State on its own home court.

And the two biggest reasons why are the play of Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams.

It’s never happened in the history of the league, but this dynamic duo off the Clippers’ bench deserve to share the 2019 NBA Sixth Man of the Year award.

They ran a pick-and-roll clinic against the Warriors on Wednesday night and combined for 57 points and 12 assists.

For the series, Williams is averaging 24.4 points a contest, and Golden State seems to have no idea how to stop him from scoring.

Then there’s the mental battle that’s being waged and won by Patrick Beverley.

Beverley had a strong showing with 17 points and 14 rebounds, but it was his ability to frustrate and agitate Golden State that really made an impact. 

The former Arkansas guard normally tries to get in Kevin Durant‘s head, but he turned his focus to Draymond Green in Game 5, drawing a charge and goading him into a technical foul.

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr seems to have had enough of Beverley’s antics.

“I didn’t think it was a good call,” Kerr told reporters. “You know Beverley’s gonna flop in the paint, and Draymond turned—it looked like Mike Tyson punched him in the face.

“Beverley’s good at that. His head literally snaps back. I’m worried he’s gonna get whiplash on some of these flops. But he’s good at it.”

More than anything, though, it looks like Golden State has lost its composure and just aren’t playing at the championship level that many have grown accustomed to as the winners of three of the last four titles.

Durant, who had a game-high 45 points in Game 5, has played well, as has Klay Thompson.

But the subpar play of Stephen Curry has been evident.

The two-time MVP scored 32 points in Game 1, but just 22 points in Game 2 and 21 points in Game 3. He then laid an egg in Game 4 with just 12 points on 3-of-14 shooting from the floor.

“When we’re playing well and winning, the light shines bright,” Curry told Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle. “The same thing on the opposite end; you kind of take it on the chin and keep it moving.”

Curry managed to put up 24 points in Game 5, but it’s obvious that he’s having trouble with the Clippers’ trapping defense.

If the Warriors want to close out the series on Friday night, they’ll need Curry to have a monster bounce-back game.

         

Game 7 Matchup Breakdown

Can the Spurs Complete the Upset Over the Nuggets?

How do the Spurs do it?

Coming into the postseason as the No. 7 seed, there weren’t a lot of optimistic predictions for San Antonio to lean on.

The Nuggets were viewed as one of the hottest teams in the league going into the playoffs, and the Spurs, decimated by injuries early on, never quite got their mojo back.

But experience is always the best teacher.

Even when it looks like San Antonio is done for and the players’ backs are against the wall, they find a way to claw their way back into the picture for one simple reason: they have an all-time great coach in Gregg Popovich, who knows how to game plan and pull out the win in chess matches played in NBA arenas.

“And the chess match, listen, he’s Bobby Fischer,” Denver head coach Michael Malone said of Popovich, per The Denver Post’s Mike Singer. “He’s a savant. I’m not worried about matching wits with Gregg Popovich.”

Popovich and the Spurs showed their Fischer-like abilities once again on Thursday night, banding together in a do-or-die game at AT&T Center.

It was a tall order, too. They had to overcome an outstanding performance from Nuggets star Nikola Jokic, who stuffed the stat sheet with 43 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists.

But San Antonio overcame Jokic’s near triple-double with an incredible shooting night.

As a team, the Spurs shot 57.1 percent from the field (41.7 percent from behind the arc). They were led by DeMar DeRozan, who shot 75 percent from the floor and finished with 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. LaMarcus Aldridge had 26 points on 55.6 percent shooting, while Rudy Gay added 19 points on 63.6 percent shooting from the field.

Denver is a tough place to play, but if San Antonio can have another hot shooting night like it did on Thursday, it could deliver the first real upset of this year’s playoffs.

That’s easier said than done, though, as the Nuggets had the best home record in the NBA this season (34-7) and will be ready to play for their raucous fans in the Mile High City on Saturday night.

“Game 7—how much do you have to say?” Malone told ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk. “For us, we’re lucky we’re playing in front of our home crowd. … The hope is that we will respond in Game 7.”

This game should be must-see TV.

     

Follow Maurice Bobb on Twitter, @ReeseReport

Statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com  





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