There’s no LeBron James in these playoffs, so the NBA Finals will have a distinctly new look for the first time in nine years.
There’s no Tony Parker, for the first time in nearly two decades.
There’s no Dwyane Wade, and he’ll never play a playoff game again.
San Antonio is in the postseason for a record-tying 22nd consecutive season. Brooklyn, Denver, Detroit, Orlando and the Los Angeles Clippers got into these playoffs after watching the postseason last year.
As always at playoff time, there are some familiar things and some not-so-familiar things. With the postseason set to begin Saturday, here are 10 things to know going into the best time of the NBA year:
Drive for five
Golden State is trying to reach the NBA Finals for the fifth consecutive season.
If the Warriors get there, they would be the second franchise with such a streak – joining only the Boston Celtics, who went there in 10 straight seasons from 1957-66.
The Warriors are one of five franchises with a streak of four straight NBA Finals trips: the Los Angeles Lakers did it from 1982-85, the Celtics also did it from 1984-87, the Miami Heat did it from 2011-14 and the Cleveland Cavaliers did it from 2015-18.
Golden State is also seeking its seventh championship in franchise history. That would put the Warriors in sole possession of third place on the NBA’s most-titles list, behind Boston (17) and the Lakers (16).
The Warriors and Chicago are tied for third with six championships each.
Milwaukee had 45 double-digit wins this season, the most in the NBA.
That’s a good omen for the Bucks.
Only four teams in NBA history have posted more double-digit wins in a regular season than the Bucks this year. Those clubs are the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers (50), the 2016-17 Golden State Warriors (48), the 1970-71 Bucks (47) and the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls (46).
All four of those teams went on to win the NBA championship.
Houston’s James Harden scored 2,818 points in the regular season, which puts him on the cusp of joining an elite club.
If Harden scores 182 in the playoffs, that will give him a total of 3,000 – and he would be the 10th player in NBA history to score that many in a full season, postseason included. The others: Michael Jordan (10 times), Wilt Chamberlain (five times), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Rick Barry, Elgin Baylor, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Bob McAdoo and Shaquille O’Neal.
Durant was the last to do it, in 2013-14.
James almost got into the club last year, coming as close as humanly possible – he scored 2,999 points for Cleveland.
Kawhi Leonard’s last postseason appearance ended earlier than planned, when he hurt his left ankle while taking a jumper over Golden State’s Zaza Pachulia in Game 1 of the 2017 Western Conference finals. Pachulia closed out aggressively, Leonard didn’t have space to land safely and he missed the rest of that series.
When Leonard left the game, he and San Antonio were up by 23. The Spurs lost that lead, lost the game, lost the series and Leonard never played a postseason second with the Spurs again after that bad landing.
Toronto is hoping that Leonard can rekindle his typical postseason magic in his playoff return.
Leonard enters these playoffs with a 32-game streak of double-digit postseason outings, averaging 24.1 points in those contests.
Warriors guard Stephen Curry is on pace to catch Ray Allen and become the NBA’s all-time 3-point leader sometime in the 2020-21 season.
That stat only takes regular-season games into account. In the postseason, Curry is about to become No. 1.
Curry has 378 career postseason 3s, good for No. 2 on the NBA’s all-time playoff list. Allen is No. 1, with 385.
The 16 playoff teams are playing for the Larry O’Brien Trophy, for rings, for a parade … and for a stake of $21,676,510.
That’s the amount of this year’s NBA Playoff Pool – a record.
Every playoff team is assured of some of the pie, which is often used to fund bonuses for players and team staff.
So far, all 16 teams are due at least $323,506 each. Most have already clinched much more because finishing in the top six spots in each conference also comes with a bonus. For example, Milwaukee – because it had the best record in the NBA – is already due $1,495,750.
Teams get an additional $384,930 for winning a first-round series. Conference finalists get another $638,094. The losing team in the NBA Finals gets another $2,543,681 and the NBA champs get one more payout of $3,838,798.
Add it all up, and the Bucks could get $6,355,572 if they win the title. No other team can win that much.
Houston, a problem?
Houston is the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference, and faces No. 5 seed Utah in the first round.
History suggests the Rockets are in trouble.
In each of the last seven seasons, and nine of the last 10, the No. 5 team in the West has beaten the No. 4 team in the first round.
Utah has won each of its last five appearances in a 4-versus-5 series. The fifth-seeded Jazz knocked off Oklahoma City in 2018, the Los Angeles Clippers in 2017 and Denver in 2010. The Jazz were seeded No. 4 when they won a 4-versus-5 series in 2007 and 2008 – both of those coming against Houston.
DeMarcus Cousins is No. 1 on a list that nobody wants to lead.
By this weekend, he’ll be off the list entirely.
Cousins has played in 565 regular-season games and zero postseason games. That’ll change this weekend when he and Golden State play host to the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 1 of a Western Conference first-round series.
No active NBA player has been in more regular-season games without a playoff appearance than Cousins. When he plays for the Warriors this weekend, and when Kyle O’Quinn – No. 2 on the list with 443 regular-season games without a postseason minute – plays for Indiana, the new active leader in games played without a postseason appearance will be Brandon Knight.
He’s played in 421 and is still looking for his first playoff outing.
Sometime in the next couple of months, the 4,000th playoff game in NBA history will be played.
There have been 3,934 postseason contests so far. Based on the way last season went, the milestone game will come late in the conference-semifinal round or early in the conference-final round.
This season’s NBA Finals start May 30. It’ll be the earliest Game 1 of the title series since 1986, when Boston and Houston opened their series on May 26.
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