Unlike the NCAA tournament, the NBA playoffs aren't a battle of survival but instead a campaign of attrition, where teams aim to assert their will and wear down an opponent over the course of a grueling seven-game series.
With all eight first-round playoff series under way, let's take a closer look at how all 16 teams are faring through the first three days of postseason play.
Below is the updated 2014 playoff bracket.
2014 NBA Playoff Bracket (as of Tuesday, April 22 at 5 p.m. ET)
|First Round||Conference Semifinals||Conference Finals||NBA Finals|
|(1) Indiana Pacers - 0|
|(8) Atlanta Hawks - 1|
|(4) Chicago Bulls - 0|
|(5) Washington Wizards - 1|
|(3) Toronto Raptors - 0|
|(6) Brooklyn Nets - 1|
|(2) Miami Heat - 1|
|(7) Charlotte Bobcats - 0|
|(1) San Antonio Spurs - 1|
|(8) Dallas Mavericks - 0|
|(4) Houston Rockets - 0|
|(5) Portland Trail Blazers - 1|
|(3) Los Angeles Clippers - 1|
|(6) Golden State Warriors - 1|
|(2) Oklahoma City Thunder - 1|
|(7) Memphis Grizzlies - 1|
Under-the-Radar Teams to Watch
A lack of playoff experience is one of the biggest reasons why people are overlooking the Washington Wizards this postseason. While the Chicago Bulls, their first-round opponent, have become a postseason mainstay, the Wiz are new to the party.
However, Washington's impressive come-from-behind win over Chicago in Game 1 on Sunday highlighted a key strength that could potentially lead the Wiz into the Eastern Conference Finals, assuming the Indiana Pacers continue to struggle. Washington's frontcourt is dynamic. Veteran big men Nene and Marcin Gortat combined for 39 points and 21 rebounds in Game 1.
The two bigs play well together and are a tremendous complement to John Wall and Bradley Beal in the backcourt. Wall and Beal combined to shoot just 7-of-25 from the floor in Game 1, but they should settle in as the series wears on. Remember, it's their first go-around in the playoffs.
Another factor to keep in mind is that Washington tied for the best road record in the Eastern Conference during the regular season, winning 22 games—the same number as Miami and one more than Indiana.
Moving forward, Washington's X-factor will be veteran forward Trevor Ariza, who scored 18 points on just eight field-goal attempts in Game 1, as pointed out by head coach Randy Wittman, via The Washington Post's Michael Lee:
He was steady. That’s how he plays. He’s just steady. You look at it, and you’re like 18 [points]? How did he get 18? Just steady, staying in the moment and contributing here, there, over a period of time. He’s been big for us this year, there is no question. In terms of what he’s done for the offense, but obviously, what he does defensively.
Ariza doesn't need to average 18 points per game in this series for the Wizards to win, but contributions on defense and leadership will be critical. The 28-year-old won an NBA title with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009 and is no stranger to the big stage.
With Nene and Gortat coming on strong and Wall and Beal providing playmaking and scoring in the backcourt, there's no doubt this Wizards team is a force to be reckoned with in an advantageous Eastern Conference.
The Memphis Grizzlies may have sneaked into the playoffs with a late-season push, but they reached the Western Conference Finals a year ago and play a style favorable for success this time of year.
Through two first-round playoff games, the Grizzlies are tied 1-1 with the heavily favored Oklahoma City Thunder. And defense is a huge reason why. Sure, Memphis surrendered 100 points in its Game 1 loss and 105 points in its Game 2 overtime victory, but in both of those games, the Thunder were unable to either shut the door on the Grizzlies or pull away thanks to Memphis' stingy D.
In Monday's Game 2 win, the Grizzlies held the Thunder to 39.8 percent shooting from the field as a team. What's more, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined to shoot 23-of-56 from the field (41 percent) after going 21-of-44 from the floor (48 percent) in Game 1.
Grizzlies veteran Tony Allen is the difference-maker to watch for on the defensive end. In addition to providing Memphis with a boost on the defensive glass, he has frustrated Durant on defense, forcing him into tough shots and preventing him from getting into a rhythm.
Offensively, the Grizzlies get production from a lot of different places but are at their best when Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol are feasting on the interior, as noted by NBA Courtside on Twitter:
Even better, the Grizzlies don't live and die by the three-point shot, and they won Game 2 despite making only four threes as a team. Mike Miller accounted for three of those long-range makes.
As the series shifts to Memphis, watch for the Grizzlies to continue to play through their bigs and compete with unrivaled energy in an effort to make life miserable for the Thunder. Oklahoma City is accustomed to scoring plenty of points, and if Memphis can continue to deflate the Thunder's shooting percentages, the Grizzlies will have the upper hand.
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