The 2011 NBA Playoffs begin on Saturday, April 16, and basketball fans are chomping at the bit to have some of their big questions answered. Can the Los Angeles Lakers repeat? Do the Boston Celtics have enough left in the tank? Will the Knicks reward beleaguered New York fans’ patience? These questions and more will play out in the weeks ahead.
NBA Playoffs schedule: The match-ups
ESPN will carry the first round action. Here are your Eastern Conference and Western Conference match-ups, seed numbers included:
Chicago (1) vs. Indiana (8) —> 1 p.m. EST on ESPN, April 16
Boston (2) vs. New York (7) —> 7 p.m. EST on TNT, April 17
Miami (3) vs. Philadelphia (6) —> 3:30 p.m. EST on ABC, April 16
Orlando (4) vs. Atlanta (5) —>7 p.m. EST on ESPN, April 16
San Antonio (1) vs. Memphis (8) —> 1 p.m. EST on TNT, April 17
Los Angeles (2) vs. New Orleans (7) —>3:30 p.m. EST on ABC, April 17
Dallas (3) vs. Portland (6) —> 9:30 p.m. EST on ESPN, April 16
Oklahoma City (4) vs. Denver (5) —-> 1 p.m. EST on TNT, April 17
What to expect from first-round match-ups
Bleacher Report predicts that the Chicago Bulls should have little trouble with the Indiana Pacers, thanks to favored regular season MVP candidate Derrick Rose. The Bulls finished the regular season at 61-20 and won numerous games in dominant fashion, with plus players at nearly every position. The Pacers may have a legitimate All-Star in forward Danny Granger, but they finished the regular season at 37-44 and don’t have a deep bench.
In the other known NBA Playoff first round game, the Oklahoma City Thunder should be able to ride the dynamic talents of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to victory over a Denver Nuggets team whose offense was all but decimated by the trade of Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks in mid-season. However, if either of Oklahoma’s dynamic duo fails to produce, the scrappy Nuggets could sneak out with a victory.
What about the rest?
The Boston Celtics will likely rediscover their fire and give the Philadelphia 76ers more than they can handle – provided point guard Rajon Rondo doesn’t go into a funk. LeBron James and the Miami Heat will play a tight series with the resurgent Knicks, but the star power of the Heat will ultimately blind New York, despite the major talents of Anthony and Amare Stoudemire. Rounding out the Eastern Conference, Dwight Howard and the Magic should roll over the ever-battling Atlanta Hawks, unless Joe Johnson and Al Horford play the series of their lives.
In the Western Conference, the San Antonio Spurs will ride experience and some young blood over the Memphis Grizzlies, who are at least a few years away. The Dallas Mavericks have too much firepower for the Portland Trail Blazers, which leaves the Lakers versus the New Orleans Hornets. Despite the presence of all-world point guard Chris Paul in the Big Easy, the Lakers have all the pieces necessary to repeat. Plus, NBA.com reports that Andrew Bynum’s knee will be healed enough for him to play, which will seal L.A.’s interior defense and rebounding edge.
Enjoy the NBA Playoffs and stay tuned for more game schedules!
Bleacher Report: http://bit.ly/iefDlZ
JRSportsBrief’s take on the 2011 NBA Playoffs
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