NBA sees seven of the eight first-round matchups set

Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat play during the first half of an NBA basketball game on Aug. 12, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. (Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo via AP)
Short Url
Updated 13 August 2020

NBA sees seven of the eight first-round matchups set

  • In the Western Conference: Houston and Oklahoma City will meet in the first round
  • In the East, Miami and Indiana will meet in the first round

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida: The NBA playoff bracket is nearly set.
Wednesday’s results filled in five of what were the six unknown matchups for Round 1 of the postseason, which starts next week at Walt Disney World.
In the Western Conference: Houston and Oklahoma City will meet in the first round, meaning Rockets guard Russell Westbrook and Thunder guard Chris Paul get the chance to face their former teams.
“It’ll be interesting,” Paul said. “Two teams that know a lot about each other. We’ll prepare, get ready and we’ll see what’s what.”
Other West matchups that got clinched on Wednesday include the second-seeded Los Angeles Clippers against No. 7 Dallas, and No. 3 Denver against No. 6 Utah.
In the East, Miami and Indiana will meet in the first round — after the clubs close the regular season on Friday against one another to decide which team will be seeded No. 4 and which will be No. 5.
Indiana’s win over Houston on Wednesday set what had been the last two unknown series on the East bracket. No. 3 Boston will play No. 6 Philadelphia in a meeting between longtime rivals, and the Pacers are now locked into an East opening series against the Heat — with the potential of those teams playing nine times in a span of 10 games.
Miami beat Indiana on Monday. The teams meet again Friday then face off in Game 1 to begin a best-of-seven series early next week.
That means, for just the second time since 2011, teams that end the regular season against one another will open the postseason against one another. The last time it happened was 2016, when Cleveland faced Detroit.
“It’s good to know that we play them,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Just need to figure out what uniform we’re wearing.”
That will be decided Friday, when home-uniform advantage gets decided.
“We’ve got to match Miami’s energy,” Indiana’s Edmond Sumner said. “That’s a team that’s going to play hard for 48 minutes.”
The other East matchups were known previously: No. 1 Milwaukee plays No. 8 Orlando, and No. 2 Toronto plays No. 7 Brooklyn.
In the West, Houston and Oklahoma City will be in the 4-5 matchup and Utah will be the No. 6 seed. The Jazz were locked into that slot by the Thunder defeating Miami, and Denver became the No. 3 seed when they lost to the Clippers.
The full list of matchups won’t be known until at least Saturday, when the West play-in series begins with Portland, Memphis, Phoenix and San Antonio bidding for those two spots. The winner of that series will take on the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers in the first round, the only matchup that’s yet to be determined.


Guardiola under pressure as City chase elusive crown

Updated 20 October 2020

Guardiola under pressure as City chase elusive crown

  • Despite all their domestic success in recent years, City have never gone beyond the semifinals of the Champions League

LONDON: Pep Guardiola starts his latest bid to lead Manchester City to Champions League glory with the shadows of past failures casting doubt on his ability to secure that elusive title.

City host Porto in their opening Champions League group match on Wednesday with Guardiola's failing in the tournament weighing heavily on both the Spanish boss and his club.

Despite all their domestic success in recent years, City have never gone beyond the semifinals of the Champions League and Guardiola has found the competition equally vexing for much of the last decade.

Since he won the Champions League as Barcelona boss for the second time in 2011, Guardiola has failed to return to the final of Europe's elite club competition.

That nine-year drought includes four years of frustration since he took charge at City in 2016.

In that time, Guardiola has seen City beaten by Monaco in the last 16 and Liverpool, Tottenham and Lyon in the quarterfinals.

He also lost in three semifinals during his time as Bayern Munich manager before moving to City.

Last season's shock 3-1 defeat against Lyon in Lisbon was especially galling as City were heavy favorites against the French side.

Guardiola deserved a large portion of the blame for that letdown after his tactical tinkering appeared to unsettle his players and did nothing to tilt the tie in City's favor.

Interpreted by Guardiola's critics as further proof that his Champions League success at Barcelona was due to the presence of the great Lionel Messi's presence, the only bright side of the Lyon loss was that it was not their farewell to Europe for a while.

For several months last season, it appeared City would not even be competing in the Champions League this term after UEFA gave them a two-year ban from European competitions for Financial Fairplay breaches.

City's legal dream team won that battle and the suspension was eventually thrown out on appeal.

Whether Guardiola can be as successful in Europe as City's Abu Dhabi-based owners were in the court room remains far from certain.

Adding to the unease around City ahead of their European campaign is the unresolved issue of Guardiola's future.

Guardiola is out of contract at the end of the season and has yet to agree on a new deal amid speculation that he may decide to leave the Etihad Stadium in 2021.

For now, Guardiola will focus on Porto's visit to Manchester rather than entertaining questions about his long-term plans.

The 49-year-old insists he has to earn a prolonged stay at City by improving on last season's disappointment, which saw them surrender the Premier League to Liverpool and win only the League Cup.

There have been some worrying signs already as Leicester thrashed City 5-2, while Saturday's 1-0 win against Arsenal was far from convincing.

Significantly, Guardiola was able to welcome back Sergio Aguero last weekend as City's record goalscorer made his first appearance for four months after knee surgery.

City have lacked a cutting edge in Aguero's absence and Guardiola's hopes of a serious Champions League challenge hinge on the Argentine striker staying fit.

"The important thing is that Sergio comes back in good physical condition, starts to get his rhythm, doesn't get more injuries and plays good," Guardiola said.

"We know what he means for us, we know how we appreciate him, but now he has to show like every one of us, me first, that we deserve to continue here and playing good and winning games."