Ranking the 4 second-round matchups in the 2024 NBA playoffs

The winners will move onto the conference finals.

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A ticket to the conference finals is on the line.

The second round of the 2024 NBA playoffs got underway with Game 1 between the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Denver Nuggets, a feisty matchup resulting in a win for the former over the defending champions.

The first round didn't feature any surprising upsets, unless the Indiana Pacers eliminating an injury-riddled Milwaukee Bucks side counts.

Will the second round remain straightforward or will there will be a sprinkle of drama? Let's rank the four matchups from least to most intriguing:

4. Boston Celtics vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

The top-seeded Celtics completed a gentleman's sweep over the Miami Heat, and there's a plausible chance that could happen again in the second round.

Cleveland, the No. 4 seed, beat the fifth-seeded Orlando Magic in seven games but doesn't possess the quality needed to conquer Boston. Donovan Mitchell will get his numbers, but it's tough to envision any other Cavalier doing the same over the course of the series. Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley, Max Strus and Caris LeVert are the supporting cast around Mitchell.

Boston, even though it may not have Kristaps Porzingis, boasts Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Jrue Holiday, Derrick White and Al Horford. Sam Hauser and Payton Pritchard have logged role-playing minutes in what's quite a shallow bench, but the Celtics have too much talent at the top to quell any doubt about depth. The Celtics should get this done in at least five.

3. New York Knicks vs. Indiana Pacers

The No. 2-seeded Knicks outlasted the Philadelphia 76ers in six games, but it'll be interesting to see if not having Julius Randle's production catches up to them. So far it's been all Jalen Brunson, but Josh Hart, OG Anunoby, Donte DiVincenzo, Miles McBride and Isaiah Hartenstein have stepped up. Bojan Bogdanovic, though, is undergoing foot surgery, so the Knicks will miss his shooting presence. New York is playing with tremendous grit and chemistry that'll make them a tough out in this round.

Indiana, the No. 6 seed, eliminated a Bucks squad in six games that didn't have Giannis Antetokounmpo at all while other key players, like Damian Lillard, also missed time. The Pacers are anchored by Pascal Siakam, Tyrese Haliburton and Myles Turner, with Andrew Nembhard, Obi Toppin, Aaron Nesmith and T.J. McConnell serving as the imperative role players. Indiana possesses the better top-end talent on paper and could advance in six, but don't count out New York doing the same or in seven.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Dallas Mavericks

Top-seeded Oklahoma City easily swept the Zion Williamson-less New Orleans Pelicans, but the Thunder could announce themselves as legitimate contenders by taking down a stronger Mavericks side.

Dallas ended the regular season in form to finish as the No. 5 seed and eliminated the No. 4-seeded Los Angeles Clippers in six games. Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving are the two superstars leading the way, with P.J. Washington, Dereck Lively II, Derrick Jones Jr. and Daniel Gafford the main role players. Maxi Kleber, however, will be out indefinitely with a dislocated shoulder while Tim Hardaway Jr., another important floor spacer, has been dealing with an ankle injury.

The Thunder are led by MVP candidate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, with youngsters Jalen Williams, Chet Holmgren, Josh Giddey and Lu Dort all stepping up in their first postseason run together. This could very well be a seven-game series, but if Oklahoma City can withstand Doncic and Irving if Dallas' role players are limited, then the Thunder can advance sooner.

1. Denver Nuggets vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

Even before Game 1, this matchup had the most quality on both sides. No. 2 Denver, of course, is the reigning champion led by stars Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. Aaron Gordon and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are their best role players.

Minnesota, the No. 3 seed, is led by rising phenomenon Anthony Edwards. The former 2020 No. 1 overall pick is supported by stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert, while Mike Conley, Naz Reid, Kyle Anderson, Jaden McDaniels and Nickeil Alexander-Walker round out a robust role-playing group.

Jokic and Edwards will get their numbers, so it'll likely come down to how everyone else fares. The Nuggets have the experience with their key players, but the Timberwolves are showing immense hunger and are getting better production from their role players that could swing the series. This has the potential to need a Game 7.

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