(Last week’s record in parenthesis [regular season games only]; last week’s ranking in brackets)
1) Houston Rockets (1-1) : Playing without Luc Mbah a Moute (separated shoulder) probably won’t matter against Minnesota in the first round, but the Rockets are going to need him deeper in the playoffs.
2) Toronto Raptors (1-1) : There are playoff demons to be slain. Can this crew provide the seraph blades?
4) Cleveland Cavaliers (1-1) : Need Playoff J.R. Smith (105-231, .455 on 3-pointers last two postseasons) to re-emerge.
6) Utah Jazz (1-1) : First back-to-back playoff appearances since 2008-10.
10) Oklahoma City Thunder (2-0) : Good to see Paul George’s shot came back, just in time for Game 1 Sunday against Utah.
13) Miami Heat (1-1) : The longtime beat writer for the Heat, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Ira Winderman, pointed out last week that the Heat, by making the playoffs rather than the Lottery, will surrender a much more benign first-round pick to Phoenix this year as part of the Goran Dragic trade than they could have. Miami still owes the Suns an unprotected first in 2021.
14) Milwaukee Bucks (1-1) : If I’m the Bucks, I honestly don’t know what I would do about Jabari Parker — what to pay him, if he’s the long-term small-ball answer at center. He’s talented, but is he a fit? I really don’t know.
15) Minnesota Timberwolves (2-0) : Wednesday’s overtime victory over Denver to clinch the final playoff spot was the biggest win for the franchise since May 19, 2004, when the Wolves beat Sacramento in Game 7 of the Western Conference semis, making the conference finals for the first — and, so far, only — time in franchise history.
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