Expert picks for each series from the first round

The Timberwolves-Suns series could go either way, according to NBA writers and analysts.

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Here are our TNT Sports experts' picks to advance after the first round:

(1) Boston vs. (8) Miami

Celtics in four. Boston is simply the much better team, especially since Butler is unlikely to play. While Miami was able to stifle the 19th-ranked Bulls' offense to get here, they now face a much tougher challenge. The Celtics are a machine and should not have much trouble reaching the conference semifinals for the seventh time in the last eight years. – John Schuman, who explains his choice and more.

(2) New York v. (7) Philadelphia

Knicks in seven. The unofficial analysis of New York City is that, like all Tom Thibodeau-coached teams before this one, it plays tougher during the regular season than many opponents. This advantage disappears when these competitors connect with the intensity of qualifying and the TIPS groups appear to lack additional equipment. But with OG Anunoby putting out the fires — they were 20-3 when he played — and Jalen Brunson as the young engine doing it, the Knicks should be happy they clawed their way to a high seed. – Steve Ashburner, from Explains his choice and more.

(3) Milwaukee v. (6) Indiana

Pacers in six. If Giannis Antetokounmpo is healthy, if he is certain to be ready for Game 2 or 3, or if the Bucks face a lesser opponent, he may still be the favorite here. But with only “hope” that he could return at some point in this series, it's hard to pick a team that hasn't been very good with its best players off the field. – John Schumann, who explains his choice and more.

(4) Cleveland vs. (5) Orlando

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Magic in seven. If this goes on long enough, Cleveland will get the final home game. The Cavs have more spring experience than Orlando — they were in the Play-In two years ago and lost to New York in the first round last spring. But it does not reach its peak at the right time. Since these two teams last met, the Cavaliers have gone 12-16. Orlando is 16-10 since that night, improving by 13 wins from last season to push Jamal Mosley into coach of the year conversations. – Steve Ashburner, who explains his choice and more.

(1) Oklahoma City vs. (8) New Orleans

Thunder in five. OKC was a top-five team offensively and defensively, and showed the balance that produced the top seed. There isn't really an exploitable area on this team – at least in this round – other than physicality in the paint. That, and with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander being the biggest talent on the floor, it all calls for a short stay in New Orleans. – Sean Powell, who explains his choice and more.

(2) Denver vs. (7) Los Angeles Lakers

Fragments in four. Nikola Jokic averaged a triple-double against Anthony Davis last year in the playoffs, and there's no reason to expect a relegation this time around. Los Angeles lacks the depth and firepower in its core to keep up with Denver's experienced core. The Nuggets finished the 2022-23 regular season in a slump. They get into this roll after the season ends. This won't be soon. – Michael C. Wright, who explains his choice and more

(3) Minnesota vs. (6) Phoenix

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Sun at six. The Wolves had the second-best season in franchise history and their “reward” is having the worst possible first-round matchup. They were spooked by the Suns, who have led by double digits during the second half of every meeting this season. Anthony Edwards will need an epic nightly performance just to keep it interesting. And he might do that. – Sean Powell, who explains his choice and more.

(4) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (5) Dallas

Mavericks in six. Luka Doncic and the Mavs had a 16-2 record near the end of the regular season before getting to the finish line for extra rest before the playoffs. However, Dallas carries real momentum into the postseason against the struggling Clippers. Yes, the Mavs are legit. They are quietly the team no one wants to see in these playoffs. – Michael C. Wright, who explains his choice and more

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The opinions expressed on this page do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the NBA, its clubs, or Warner Bros. Discovery

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