In order of current Premier League standings, let this handy guide help you decide based on your Premier League team of choice. And Norwich, because they’re almost in the Premier League already.
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Weekend playoff schedule
- Brooklyn Nets @ Philadelphia 76ers, Saturday 7:30pm, live on Sky Sports Arena
- Orlando Magic @ Toronto Raptors, Saturday 10pm, free live stream on skysports.com, app and YouTube
- Los Angeles Clippers @ Golden State Warriors, Sunday 1am
- San Antonio Spurs @ Denver Nuggets, Sunday 3:30am
- Indiana Pacers @ Boston Celtics, Sunday 6pm, live on Sky Sports Arena
- Oklahoma City Thunder @ Portland Trail Blazers, Sunday 8:30pm, live on Sky Sports Arena
- Detroit Pistons @ Milwaukee Bucks, Monday 12am
- Utah Jazz @ Houston Rockets, Monday 2:30am
Apologies to the five Premier League teams not featured. There are only 16 teams in the playoffs and your NBA equivalents are rubbish.
If you’re a Liverpool fan, support the Milwaukee Bucks
When the Bucks won their only previous NBA title in 1971, Bournemouth were still known as ‘Bournemouth and Boscombe Athletic’ and they finished runners-up in the old Fourth Division. But this year, led by probable league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks have been the best team in the league.
Liverpool's Roberto Firmino celebrates a goal
They finished the season with the best record (60-22) and will have home court advantage throughout the playoffs all the way to the Finals, should they get there. There are still question marks about them in the clutch moments, but this looks like a wonderful chance to end a long wait for the big prize.
If you’re a Manchester City fan, support the Golden State Warriors
The Warriors have won three of the last four NBA titles and the year they didn’t win – in 2016 – they lost to the LeBron-inspired Cleveland Cavaliers in the Finals.
Steph Curry recorded a stunning assist in the Golden State Warriors’ game against Los Angeles Lakers
Their response to that defeat was to go out and get perhaps the league’s most complete player in Kevin Durant from the Thunder, ensuring they had compiled the most complete collection of superstars in the league. Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green will earn a combined £104m between them this season. They’re also really good and should make it four out of five this year.
If you’re a Chelsea fan, support the Houston Rockets
For Eden Hazard, read James Harden, because the Houston Rockets are defined by one man, known as The Beard. There isn’t another team in the league that relies more on one player than the Rockets. Whether he wins the MVP ahead of Giannis we will have to see – and there are legitimate arguments for both players – but Harden is having an MVP year.
Watch James Harden’s very best plays of the 2018/19 NBA season
He averaged an astonishing 36.1 points per game over the regular season – more than eight PPG more than any other player in the league. His step back and jump shot is almost unguardable and he has almost single-handedly dragged Houston to the No 4 seed in the West. They’re not always the most exciting team to watch, but Harden makes them a genuine threat.
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If you’re a Tottenham fan, support the Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors are a legit contender. They play entertaining, free-flowing basketball overseen by an enterprising coach who loves to mix it up and they have a couple of bona-fide stars in Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry.
Tottenham's Toby Alderweireld fires up the crowd
The similarities don’t end there. In Pau Gasol they have a big man up front who is famed for his passing ability and vision, while Pascal Siakam is the most improved player in the league this season. Moussa Sissoko anyone? And to cap it off, they’re probably going to fall agonisingly short of the big prize. Perfect for Spurs fans.
If you’re an Arsenal fan, support the Philadelphia 76ers
When the 76ers added Tobias Harris to their roster in February, he joined Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick as part of a formidable starting line-up in Philly. On paper, that’s as talented a front five as anything in the league.
Watch the emphatic dunks and blistering blocks that defined Joel Embiid’s 2018/19 season
And yet, knowing how to deploy them is the problem for coach Brett Brown. How does he get them all out on the court at the same time in a system that allows them all to flourish and play to their strengths? His approach so far seems to have been just throw them all out there and let them figure it out and for the most part it works. On their day, the 76ers can beat anyone, but when it’s not their day, they can lose to anyone too.
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If you’re a Manchester United fan, support the Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics are the most storied franchise in the NBA. They’ve won 17 Finals, albeit only one since 1987, and have only failed to make the playoffs once in the last 12 years.
Manchester United star Paul Pogba
Ironically, the Celtics’ only sustained period of failure between 1993 and 2007 – during which time they made the playoffs just once – coincided with United’s period of Premier League dominance, but now the two teams find themselves on similar paths, sprinkled with stars and desperately trying to rediscover the formula that brought them so much success. You suspect Kyrie Irving would get on with ex-United boss Jose Mourinho too, given his penchant for throwing underperforming team-mates under the bus.
If you’re a Leicester fan, support the Portland Trail Blazers
The Trail Blazers’ run in 1977 was a surprise, albeit not one of Leicester proportions. But still, the franchise was only seven years old and was making its first appearance in the playoffs when it beat the much-fancied 76ers in the Finals.
James Vardy celebrates after finding the net for Leicester
These days, the Trail Blazers are led by the heavy lifting of Damien Lillard, who regularly puts up 50-point nights and is very much the Jamie Vardy-shaped talisman of the team. The two teams even have their own horrific injury story. While Leicester lost Daniel Amartey to a broken ankle that has kept him out since October, Portland, who made a very late run to overhaul the Rockets and take the 3rd seed in the West, will be hurt by the absence of center Josuf Nurkic, who suffered ‘devastating’ compound fractures to his leg on the same night the team secured its playoff spot.
If you’re an Everton fan, support the Indiana Pacers
While Everton are assumed to be the best of the rest outside the Premier League ‘big six’, so the Pacers are the best of the rest in the East, especially since the season-ending injury to Victor Oladipo.
When Oladipo went down with a serious knee injury at the end of January, the received wisdom was that the Pacers would gradually slide down the East, leaving the Bucks, Raptors, 76ers and Celtics to jostle for supremacy.
Edmond Sumner attacks the basket
But the Pacers have refused to slump without their star man. Indeed, they only finished a game back from the Celtics because in fact behind Oladipo, the Pacers have ‘a solid bunch of dudes’. They are a well-run franchise who do things the right way. Oh for Victor in the playoffs.
If you’re a Wolves fan, support the Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder are utterly reliant on Paul George this postseason. After a magnificent first half of the season which saw him included in the MVP conversation, George has struggled in recent weeks because of a shoulder injury and he needs to rediscover his best if the Thunder are to trouble the Trail Blazers. If he gets back, the Thunder can trouble anyone.
Paul George scored the dunk of the night with a windmill dunk for Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder also have Russell Westbrook, who became the first player in history to average a triple-double three seasons in a row, and on their day rely on a solid defence and a couple of star players to upset the big boys. Wolves fans should relate.
If you’re a West Ham fan, support the Detroit Pistons
The Pistons finished eighth in the East, the sort of position West Ham are familiar with. Hammers fans should relate to the Pistons, who are wildly unpredictable, capable of sweeping the high-flying Raptors in their three regular-season games while also dropping two games to the utterly dysfunctional Wizards.
Javier Hernandez celebrates after scoring for West Ham
Blake Griffin – the superstar of this Pistons side – spent much of his early career dunking on anyone in his way, but injuries have been the defining narrative of recent seasons (Andy Carroll anyone?). Coach Dwane Casey admitted he’s been playing on one knee lately. These two blue-collar towns are a match made in a disused factory since converted into an artisan coffee shop.
If you’re a Crystal Palace fan, support the San Antonio Spurs
This one is about the head coaches. Roy Hodgson might be the butt of jokes among some fans after his less-than-impressive stints with Liverpool and England, but there’s no doubting the 71-year-old’s longevity and pedigree. Likewise the Spurs are led – and have been since 1996 – by Gregg Popovich, who is a year younger than Hodgson but occupies the same elder statesman role among the league’s coaches. Like Hodgson, Pop is also often refreshingly vocal on societal issues.
Wilfried Zaha goes on the attack for Palace
Palace fans might want to find a second team to root for though. The Spurs face the Warriors in the first round and beating them is as likely as Iceland beating England at football.
If you’re a Bournemouth fan, support the Orlando Magic
A resort town not known for its sporting success, with its team going under the radar and always in the hunt for a giant-killing? Bournemouth, meet Orlando. No one expected the Magic to make the post-season this year and yet there they are, proud owners of a modest 42-40 record and yet top of the (lamentable) Southeast Division.
Terrence Ross in action for the Orlando Magic
They have one All-Star player on their roster in Nikola Vucevic and they are unlikely to pose the Raptors too many problems over a seven-game series, but just as Bournemouth has the pier and Peppa Pig World up the road, so the Magic players can forget their early exit with a trip to Disney World and Epcot. That’s the same, right?
If you’re a Burnley fan, support the Utah Jazz
Burnley doesn’t have a rich musical heritage, although it was the birthplace of Hollies’ bassist Eric Haycock, but its football team holds comparisons with the Jazz. Both are defensively solid and both like to lump it up to the big man. In Utah’s case, that big man is Rudy Gobert, a veteran French giant with a 7ft 9in wingspan who led the league in blocked shots in 2016/17.
Donovan Mitchell in action for the Utah Jazz
The Clippers’ Wilson Chandler recent said of the Jazz: “A rugged team, tough, play hard, persistent, consistent. It’s always a tough matchup. I just think they’re really well-coached and everybody knows their role.”
The Jazz take their uncompromising style to the Rockets in the first round. Ouch.
If you are a Newcastle fan, support the Denver Nuggets
This feels a little harsh on the Nuggets, who are a genuine contender and pushed the Warriors to the final couple of weeks of the season for the top seed in the West, but Newcastle fans deserve to have at least the promise of some success and there are some similarities between the teams.
Fabian Schar celebrates after scoring for Newcastle
For a start, both are horrible away from home, with the Nuggets below 50 per cent when away from the rarefied air of the Rockies. Newcastle have been similarly homesick, winning just twice away from St James’ Park. They’re also both sprinkled with good players and led by a big lad up front.
If you’re a Southampton fan, support the Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers have somehow made a habit of losing their best players and doing just fine thank you very much. After trading away Chris Paul and Blake Griffin over the past two seasons, and then letting DeAndre Jordan go in free agency last summer, LA’s ‘second’ team then proceeded to allow Tobias Harris move to the 76ers in a blockbuster deadline-day deal in February that brought some promising players and future picks to the west coast.
Danilo Gallinari drives to the basket
So was that that for the season? No chance, the Clippers defied all logic by finishing seventh in the ultra-competitive West under the brilliant tutelage of coach Doc Rivers. Like Saints, the Clippers seem to have the innate ability to rebuild on the fly and somehow survive and prosper. Given the dumpster fire of a season at the Lakers, they’re the city’s main team for now.
If you’re a Norwich fan, support the Brooklyn Nets
It’s safe to say these two aren’t likely to be twinned any time soon. The Prince of Wales road gets messy on a Saturday night, but it’s not exactly Flatbush Avenue. However, while Norwich were backed to finish in the bottom half of the Championship at the start of the season, so the Nets were given similarly short shrift in consideration of their playoff chances. And yet here we are in April, with both teams of young upstarts making fools of all who would make predictions.
Norwich's Marco Stiepermann celebrates a goal
Both teams are full of young, raw talent who have progressed quicker than expected, and while the next stage of their development is likely to bring some pain, there’s no doubting their achievement in getting to this point.
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