Defending champions Cavaliers and LeBron James in bullish mood for the play-offs

In the Western Conference, the Portland Trail Blazers made the playoffs with a record of.500, and the Memphis Grizzlies made it with a record of four games over.500, as the eighth and seventh seeds, respectively.

I've flip-flopped so many times on that Cavaliers-Raptors second-round series that I have now picked the Cavs in some places and the Raps in others, which probably violates some code of handicapping if not journalism.

David West (3) of the Golden State Warriors looks into the crowd during the fourth quarter of his NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif. on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017.

Nah, Steve Kerr refuses to think about it that way.

Rockets in 6: Could be an entertaining series, but the Rockets will be able to gameplan for Westbrook and the Thunder don't have enough around him to win more than a couple of games.

Q: Why was now a good time to bring Lance Stephenson back, and what are your thoughts about what he's done the last six games? "You can't account for that stuff". "I'm going to play next year as hard as I can and see how the body responds after that and we can all make a decision after that, and you guys will be the last ones to know".

"We're chasing something - we're not protecting anything this year", Curry said.

The Golden State Warriors are still getting made fun of for last year's NBA Finals collapse - a series in which they built up a 3-1 lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers before falling apart and watching LeBron James and company win the series in seven games. I just think it's been a great year of competition.

THOMPSON: Are there are other teams? There's really no pressure. So, all right, the last two minutes go differently and we win a championship and I'm Finals MVP, great. "Nothing is guaranteed. Just how important every possession is". That mark is his lowest since his rookie season when he averaged nine points a game.

All of that is in the past, Durant assures.

Last year's champions have been sleepwalking for the past month.

The team explains, "Interested in how we do it?" Is that all because of rest and trying to get ready to turn the switch on, as people say they're waiting to do? The Warriors have managed to reinvent themselves and get better in midst of one of the most dominant three-year runs in league history.

So, here we go again? If the Jazz can clamp down defensively, they could have a very good shot of beating the Clippers.

It's true that usually defence trumps offense in the postseason, and Utah's big man and DPOY candidate Rudy Gobert will be the catalyst of that defensive arsenal. Portland hopes to regain the services of center Jusuf Nurkic, who missed the final seven games with a non-displaced fracture of his right leg.

Portland must pick who to try to stop, and that's a daunting task with the Warriors' loaded lineup. He enters this postseason No. 4 at 5,572 points — behind only No. 3 Kobe Bryant (5,640), No. 2 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (5,762) and No. 1 Michael Jordan (5,987). Win it in OKC KD.

The Blazers would prefer to forget that 135-90 debacle of a defeat at Oracle on December 17 - the largest Warriors' margin of victory in the rivalry.

Keep your eye on the point guard battle between Stephen Curry (Warriors) and Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers) which will ensure some three-point fireworks from both ends.

The Western Conference features four coaches who have won NBA Coach of the Year, including the reigning victor, Steve Kerr. His teams went 2-2 in his first four, and are 42-5 since — including 17-0 since May 6, 2012. Kyrie Irving sat out the final few games of the season, but it was his admission that his surgically repaired knee was bothing him a lot lately that is most concerning.

That was 2016, when the actions of Green - he of two connections to Steven Adams' groin and one to that of LeBron James, the latter costing Green Game 5 of the Finals - became the headline, and a daily topic of social media debate.

"We want to redeem ourselves and we have a golden opportunity", Thompson said. That year, it was brand new. Nonetheless, we'll get to see Kawhi be Kawhi, and that's usually exciting enough on its own.