Published: Sun, April 16, 2017
Sport | By Desiree Waters

LeBron confident as the real season begins for reigning champs

LeBron James believes the Cleveland Cavaliers are ready to defend their National Basketball Association crown as the post-season gets underway this weekend with the Golden State Warriors desperate to reclaim their throne. With Kevin Durant on board, the 67-15 Warriors are once again the NBA's best regular-season team and are a heavy favorite to reach the Finals for a third-straight summer. Not during the 1960s, when the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers reigned supreme.

The race for the final two spots was more complicated.

It should be a great 1st round of games in the Eastern Conference.

Among the certainties of life these days: Death, taxes and the Golden State Warriors as favorites to win the National Basketball Association championship.

The West first round saw a sweep with Golden State inching out 4 straight, close games over POR. 2 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Without Kawhi Leonard, the San Antonio Spurs still make the playoffs.

San Antonio is in the postseason for the 20th consecutive year.

A lot of old school tradition in this matchup.

Home court advantage may not seem like a big deal so early in the playoffs, but considering that these teams split their regular-season games, with each team winning both games at home, it could be the difference between moving along and a shocking upset. Leading the league in assists and finishing second in scoring, Harden led the Houston Rockets to a 55-win regular season, which would have been good enough for the No.1 seed in the East.

"We've been here before", Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said. Then he wasn't even the best player on his team when the Warriors lost in the finals, and he won't get one MVP vote this season.

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He doubled the advantage by tapping home the rebound after Luis Suarez's shot was saved, before Inigo Martinez pulled one back. As the hour mark approached, Jose found himself in space on the edge of the penalty area, but could not get his shot away.

This is going to be a great series.

Though most believe the Warriors and Cavs have a good chance to meet up in the NBA Finals, let's not forget about the all of the first-round matchups, as here are predictions of which teams will win in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.

In particular, the Los Angeles Clippers will face a unique foe in the Utah Jazz. The Hawks also rank fourth in defensive efficiency rating. Yes, more than a Chris Paul, a John Wall, a Russell Westbrook. If they succeed in that, they may put the final nails in the coffin of the Lob City contention window. After beating the Celtics in Boston to recapture the No 1 seed, the Cavaliers dropped their final four games and finished second in the conference. "There's no question about that". And he might not have much of an on-court role - if any - in the playoffs, though his leadership and playoff experience will surely be valued.

Unfortunately, all we get is a potential seven-game series between this season's two best players.

Cleveland chose to rest its stars on the final day of the season, essentially conceding the No. 1 seed to Boston. The more anxious teams are about closing in on Thompson's three-point shot, the more the lane opens for Draymond Green to drive and do his thing. It will probably not be this year, but if there is a switch that needs to be flipped to get Cleveland going, Cavaliers fans better hope that James & Co. spent their time off on Wednesday flipping it.

No. 3 Toronto Raptors vs.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee's supersize point guard, is worth the price of admission all by himself on a nightly basis, putting up statistical lines that seem nearly impossible until you see him move on the court, at which point you will believe he is capable of that and more. He has improved his offensive game to the point where not only is he one of the most clutch performers in the entire league, but he is also someone that can score in any way and attack you from any angle on the offensive end.

Out for an extended period after wrist surgery, Lowry had only a few games to play himself back into shape and has quite a task in trying to draw some attention to himself so the Bucks' defenders can not focus on DeMar DeRozan. 4 Washington Wizards vs. Raptors have had 14 games since all-star break where they've committed more than 12 turnovers.

On the other side, a battle-tested and focused Cavs team was set to defend what they earned last season.

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