The regular season came down to the very last day as several matchups hung in the balance, but at long last, the playoff picture has come into focus.
With the nearby scent of postseason basketball wafting over like freshly-popped, buttery popcorn, now is the time to begin your total Round 1 handbook.
The Los Angeles Lakers narrowly avoided missing the playoffs completely, salvaging one of the more disappointing seasons in league history by somehow nabbing the seventh seed in Game 82. Had things gone differently, a ninth-place finish might have caused the team to be dismantled.
Such is the drama of the NBA playoffs. It's merely a starting point for the better teams but stamping your ticket to the postseason is easier said than done.
For the most part, the rich have gotten richer, as each one of last year's conference semifinalists look like good bets to return there (well, except the Boston Celtics), but beware the fallacy of the predetermined outcome.
First things come first, and getting past the measly conference quarterfinals is just Phase No. 1 in a grueling slog to claim the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
Here's everything you need to know about Round 1—what to watch for, key matchups, big question marks and statistics that spell disaster.
Complete predictions have been included too, so please direct all furious objections to the comments section below.