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)
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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.


Liverpool edge past Ajax to show they can cope without Van Dijk

Updated 46 min 40 sec ago

Liverpool edge past Ajax to show they can cope without Van Dijk

AMSTERDAM: Liverpool proved they can cope without Virgil van Dijk as Nicolas Tagliafico’s own goal sealed a 1-0 win at Ajax in the opening game of their Champions League campaign on Wednesday.
Jurgen Klopp’s side are likely to be without Van Dijk for the rest of the season after the influential Dutch center-back suffered anterior cruciate ligament damage against Everton last weekend.
Critics have claimed Liverpool will struggle without Van Dijk, but Brazilian midfielder Fabinho filled in impressively alongside Joe Gomez at the heart of the defense.
While Liverpool weren’t at their best and rode their luck at times, never more so than when Tagliafico diverted Sadio Mane’s scuffed effort into his own net in the first half, it was an encouraging Group D opener for Klopp.
There was enough spirit about the 2019 Champions League winners to suggest they will use the Van Dijk blow to fuel their Premier League title defense and European challenge.
Van Dijk will need knee surgery after being pole-axed by Everton keeper Jordan Pickford’s ugly foul and his injury came at a time when Liverpool looked vulnerable after losing 7-2 at Aston Villa before the international break.
Against that backdrop, keeping a clean-sheet for just the third time this season was a big lift for Liverpool, who won for the first time in three games despite also being without defender Joel Matip and midfielder Thiago Alcantara after the brutal Merseyside derby.
Liverpool were playing Ajax in Amsterdam for the first time since losing to the great Johan Cruyff’s side in the 1966 European Cup.
As the only fit center-back, Gomez was under the spotlight and the 23-year-old provided an early scare when he got in a muddle with Liverpool keeper Adrian over a backpass.
Ajax couldn’t take advantage on that occasion, but Liverpool found it hard to establish any momentum.
Their makeshift defense was easily carved open when Quincy Promes advanced down the left and found Dusan Tadic, who set up Ryan Gravenberch for a fierce strike that flashed just wide.
There was another major scare moments later as David Neres’ pass found the unmarked Promes six yards from goal, but he shot straight at Adrian to let Liverpool off the hook.
Making the most of that escape, Liverpool took the lead in bizarre fashion in the 35th minute.
Mane eluded Perr Schuurs as he broke into the Ajax area but when the Senegal forward went to shoot, he stubbed his foot into the turf, sending a miscued effort toward Tagliafico, who lost his balance and prodded the ball into his own net under no pressure.
Klopp has been fostering a siege mentality among his players since the Everton game and their backs to the wall spirit was on full display when Fabinho raced back to clear Tadic’s lob off the line with a superb overhead kick.
Van Dijk couldn’t have done it better himself, but while Fabinho was impressing, Ajax still carried a threat.
Taking aim from the edge of the area, Davy Klaassen smashed a fierce strike off the far post in the first minute of the second half.
Ajax went close again when Noussair Mazraoui took a Neres cutback and forced Adrian into a fine save.
Klopp responded to their lethargy by taking off Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Mane, with the latter needing ice on his right leg as he sat on the bench.
Takumi Minamino, one of Klopp’s substitutes, nearly had an instant impact when his shot was almost spilled into the net by Andre Onana.
Jurgen Ekkelenkamp almost snatched a late equalizer after a mistake from Adrian, but Liverpool held their nerve to provide a morale-boosting start to life without Van Dijk.