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NBA Playoffs 2018: Known Schedule, Bracket Format and Dangerous Teams

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistApril 10, 2018

Minnesota Timberwolves' Jimmy Butler (23) goes to the basket past Orlando Magic's Bismack Biyombo, right, during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
John Raoux/Associated Press

The NBA playoffs begin Saturday, but there are still no first-round matchups set.

Due to the congestion in the middle of the Eastern and Western Conferences, we must wait until after Wednesday's contests to drool over the potential showdowns in the opening round.

The only guarantees about playoff seeding come at the top of each conference, as Houston and Golden State top the West, while Toronto and Boston are atop the East.

The lack of time to prepare for a first-round opponent could wreak havoc on the opening days of the first round, which are Saturday and Sunday.

With lower-seeded teams coming in with momentum, and the unknown lingering until at least Wednesday, a few dangerous teams could churn up surprises in the first round.

        

Bracket Format

The No. 1 team in each conference faces the No. 8 seed, with the winner of that series facing either the No. 4 or No. 5 seed. 

The bottom half of the bracket pits the No. 2 and No. 7 seeds against each other, as well as the No. 3 and No. 6 seeds, with the winners of those matchups facing off in the conference semifinal.

One team from each half of the bracket advances to the conference final, where the NBA Finals representative is determined.

               

Dangerous Teams

Milwaukee

Any team in possession of a superstar such as Giannis Antetokounmpo has a chance entering the postseason.

The forward, who averages 27.1 points, 10 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game, will be a matchup nightmare for any first-round opponent as long as he is close to 100 percent after missing Milwaukee's last two games with an ankle injury.

MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 05:  Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks dribbles the ball while being guarded by Caris LeVert #22 of the Brooklyn Nets in the second quarter at the Bradley Center on April 5, 2018 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER:
Dylan Buell/Getty Images

With Antetokounmpo occupying the frontcourt, the Bucks need to have their backcourt players show up throughout the postseason, and that's where Malcolm Brogdon fits in perfectly.

The Rookie of the Year from a season ago returned to the court Monday after a six-week injury layoff, and although his minutes were limited, it's still a big boost to the team heading into the postseason.

Brogdon provides the Bucks with a reliable scoring option alongside Eric Bledsoe, which forces opposing defenses to commit to the perimeter while also keeping an eye on Antetokounmpo.

MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 09:  Malcolm Brogdon #13 of the Milwaukee Bucks attempts a shot past D.J. Augustin #14 of the Orlando Magic in the second quarter at the Bradley Center on April 9, 2018 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledg
Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The X-factor for Milwaukee could be John Henson, who averages 8.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.

With much of the focus on the team's top scorers, the center could find pockets of space down low to record a few baskets in key stretches of games.

As one of the lower three seeds in the East, the Bucks won't have an ideal matchup against Toronto, Boston or Philadelphia, but it could do damage against the Celtics because of Kyrie Irving's absence.

         

Minnesota

Minnesota is in a similar position to Milwaukee entering the playoffs, as it received a boost last week when of its stars returned.

With leading scorer Jimmy Butler back in the fold, the Timberwolves should be able to outmuscle Denver for the final position in the West.

The Wolves won't be your typical No. 8 seed, as the combination of Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Butler could wreak havoc on the top-seeded Houston Rockets.

While it's not a guarantee the Wolves spring one of the biggest first-round upsets in recent memory, they will at least put a scare in the Rockets with their versatility.

The Wolves are the fifth-best shooting team in the league at 47.6 percent, with only Golden State, New Orleans, Milwaukee and Cleveland recording better marks.

Jim Mone/Associated Press

If Butler continues to assimilate back into the team with ease, the Wolves will enter the postseason on something of a hot streak.

While most of the focus is going to be on the big three of Towns, Wiggins and Butler, the Wolves have experienced pieces in Jamal Crawford, Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson who provide intangibles necessary in a seven-game series.

What also makes the Wolves dangerous is they have a point to prove after losing to the Rockets four times in the regular season, which is going to lead most to believe they'll get swept or maybe win one game.

If the Wolves rally around the underdog mentality with Butler back on the court, head coach Tom Thibodeau could work some postseason magic.

       

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90

Statistics obtained from NBA.com

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