EASTERN CONFERENCE ROUND 1
#5 Chicago Bulls vs. #4 Brooklyn Nets
The Nets have qualified for the playoffs during their first year in Brooklyn. How you doin’? Will D-Rose make his return this week? Bulls’ medical staff may be the key to this series for Chicago.
#6 Atlanta Hawks vs. # 3 Indiana Pacers
These evenly matched adversaries split the season series. The Pacers can bring the pain on D and spread you out on O, so the Hawks will need to play a very physical game to improve on last season’s first-round elimination.
#7 Boston Celtics vs. #2 New York Knicks
The first step in New York’s quest to end their 40-year championship drought begins on Saturday in Manhattan against a historic foe, Boston. This postseason will be the last gasp for the aging Green group assembled to win the 2008 title five years ago.
#8 Milwaukee Bucks vs. #1 Miami Heat
The Bucks were six games under .500 and made the playoffs in the lesser East. The Heat were six games from tying the 1996 Bulls for all-time wins, and they’re rolling into the playoffs on an 8-game W streak. Do the math.
WESTERN CONFERENCE ROUND 1
#5 Memphis Grizzlies vs. #4 Los Angeles Clippers
The 56-26 Griz take on the 56-26 Cips in a rematch of last year’s first round 7-gamer. Both teams are better this season, so expect an intense series.
#6 Golden State Warriors vs. #3 Denver Nuggets
This best Nuggets team in eons is fast-paced and unbeatable in Denver (38-3). However losing Gallinari to a torn ACL was a huge blow. The Warriors backcourt can keep them in games with their historic 3-point production.
#7 Los Angeles Lakers vs. #2 San Antonio Spurs
The Lakers scrapped (both among themselves and their opponents) this spring to make the playoffs after a declaration of dominance in the preseason. The Spurs channel will likely cancel this Kobe-less soap opera, but the series should be entertaining.
#8 Houston Rockets vs. #1 Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder want to make it back to the finals after a trial run against LeBron and friends last year. However, the key to the championship trophy for OKC may be wearing a Houston uniform in this series. Jettisoned Rocket James Harden will be out to upset his former team.