Joe Paige | Sports Editor
It’s finally playoff time, the matchups are set, and the players are prepared, a lot of players are entering the post-season with pressure to prove themselves and their teams.
The Boston Celtics before the all-star break were 34-26 with the worst defensive rating in the league, now they’re 51-31 securing 2nd in the east and with the sixth best defense in the league. Jayson Tatum is playing at an MVP level averaging around 27 points and 8 rebounds, Marcus Smart and Robert Williams are both players who will get votes for defensive player of the year, plus Boston is clicking offensively at the right time. They will either be playing the Cleveland Cavaliers or the Brooklyn Nets in the first round, both teams will be a challenge to beat but if they do, they could really make some noise in the playoffs.
The Dallas Mavericks have had quite the interesting season, during the trade deadline they traded Center Kristaps Porziņģis for Washington Wizards guard Spencer Dinwiddie, the move was polarizing as Dinwiddie was having the worst season of his career while with the Wizards and Dallas really needed both the inside presence and the 3-level scoring Porziņģis provides. One of the biggest issues with Dallas is trying to find other reliable players who can hit clutch shots when needed other than Luka Dončić, Spencer Dinwiddie gives them that player who can knock down shots both off the dribble and in catch and shoot situations, he got two game winners as already as a Maverick as well. Their first-round matchup is the Utah Jazz, this is where losing Porziņģis comes back to haunt Dallas as now they need to find a way to deal with Rudy Gobert on both ends of the floor. We’ve seen small ball lineups work against Utah most proximately in last year's playoffs when they met the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round, LA went with a lineup without a traditional big and would kill Gobert in drive and kick situations constantly forcing him to decide whether to guard the paint or the corner three. The Mavericks run a similar smaller lineup and will most likely attempt to try this as well, it will be interesting to see where Dallas ends up at the end of the post-season.
Can the Milwaukee Bucks repeat. Giannis Antetokounmpo finished third in MVP voting and still looks to be an unstoppable force in the playoffs. They will play the Chicago Bulls in the first round who have had a fluctuating season trending downwards as the seasons ended, they’ve struggled greatly in the regular season against the elite teams in the league as they finish the season with a horrendous 2-18 record against teams with a winning percentage of .600 or better. The Bucks have won every game this season against this team and look to get a season sweep against Chicago for the second season in a row.