The 2020 NBA playoffs are barely a week old, and already three teams have been sent packing.
After the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics completed their respective sweeps of the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday, the Miami Heat finished their 4-0 knockout of the Indiana Pacers on Monday.
The Utah Jazz have a chance to be the next conference semifinalists, as they take a 3-1 lead into Tuesday's tilt with the Denver Nuggets. The only other matchup on the docket will break the 2-2 tie between the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks.
Will the Jazz punch their second-round ticket, or can the Nuggets live to fight another day? Will Luka Doncic power the Mavericks to a second straight win, or can Paul George awaken in time to help the Clippers right the ship?
Find those answers, the latest championship odds from Caesars Palace and an updated playoff bracket below.
NBA Championship Odds
Los Angeles Lakers: +275
Milwaukee Bucks: +300
Los Angeles Clippers: +325
Toronto Raptors: +750
Boston Celtics: +800
Houston Rockets: +1300
Miami Heat: +1800
Dallas Mavericks: +2200
Utah Jazz: +2500
Oklahoma City Thunder: +5000
Denver Nuggets: +12500
Portland Trail Blazers: +50000
Orlando Magic: +100000
NBA Playoff Bracket
No. 1 Milwaukee Bucks lead No. 8 Orlando Magic 3-1
No. 5 Miami Heat eliminated No. 4 Indiana Pacers 4-0
No. 3 Boston Celtics eliminated No. 6 Philadelphia 76ers 4-0
No. 2 Toronto Raptors eliminated No. 7 Brooklyn Nets 4-0
No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers lead No. 8 Portland Trail Blazers 3-1
No. 4 Houston Rockets tied with No. 5 Oklahoma City Thunder 2-2
No. 6 Utah Jazz lead No. 3 Denver Nuggets 3-1
No. 2 Los Angeles Clippers tied with No. 7 Denver Nuggets 2-2
Tuesday NBA Playoff Schedule and Predictions
Utah Jazz vs. Denver Nuggets: 6:30 p.m. ET on TNT
This series seemed like a coin flip on paper, quite possibly the most competitive of the opening round. There are two reasons that hasn't come to fruition, as Utah not only has a 3-1 lead, it also has the round's second-best advantage in cumulative scoring (502-454, or plus-48).
The first is that the Nuggets are shorthanded. Will Barton is out of the bubble getting treatment on his injured knee. Gary Harris hasn't suited up in Orlando due to a hip injury.
Despite having a superstar in Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets are a whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts type of team. Denver isn't built to withstand the losses of two starters—is anyone?—and its defense has been especially vulnerable. For all the offensive flashes Michael Porter Jr. has shown, his defense almost renders him unplayable. His matchups are shooting 57.5 percent in this series.
That gets to the other part of this equation: The Jazz are playing out of their minds on offense.
Donovan Mitchell might be in the middle of a superstar leap (39.5 points per game on 56.3/51.4/95.5 shooting). Rudy Gobert can't miss (75.0 field-goal percentage). Neither can Mike Conley (65.4 percent from the field, 68.8 from three). Even Jordan Clarkson, who can be a quantity-over-quality contributor at times, is splashing half of his 15 shots per night.
"Clearly said, this team has lifted itself to a different level since the playoffs started," Gordon Monson wrote for the Salt Lake Tribune. "Conley. Clarkson. Joe Ingles. And the rest. There had been glimpses of this kind of play during the regular season, including extended win streaks at various junctures, but the confidence with which they are competing now is surprising."
The Jazz, winners of three straight, have the Nuggets on the ropes and the power-punchers needed to throw the knockout blow. Utah won't mess around on Tuesday.
Prediction: Utah Jazz 122, Denver Nuggets 114
Dallas Mavericks vs. Los Angeles Clippers: 9 p.m. ET on TNT
With all due respect to the Rockets and Thunder, this is the best series of the first round by a wide margin.
The back-and-forth between Doncic and Kawhi Leonard has been basketball brilliance at its best. Doncic's last outing was a cornucopia of statistical marvels, as he punctuated a 43-point, 17-rebound, 13-assist triple-double by burying a buzzer-beater on a bad ankle.
"Look, we know this kid has got a flair for the dramatic," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle told reporters. "He's a performer as well as a great player. He's a guy that lives for these moments and is completely fearless."
The same could be said of Leonard, who heroically steered the Toronto Raptors to last year's title and is doing everything he can to do the same for the Clippers. He's averaging 33.0 points on 50.0 percent shooting (92.5 percent from the line), plus 10.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.0 steals in 41.1 minutes.
The stars are essentially canceling each other out, and so are the supporting cast. Four games into the series, there's no separation between the squads. All told, the Clippers lead this series by a single point: 495-494.
Assuming Doncic and Leonard maintain their levels of play, this could come down to the co-stars: Kristaps Porzingis and Paul George. The former is battling knee soreness that kept him out of Game 4. The latter is frantically searching for his shooting stroke amid a frigid three-game stretch (11.3 points on 21.3 percent shooting).
Given that Porzingis has a history of knee ailments, and George has a history of shot-making, the safe money is probably on the Clippers to prevail in Game 5 and take control of this series. Having said that, Doncic is a miracle-worker, so it hardly feels safe (or smart) picking against him.
Prediction: Clippers 127, Mavericks 121