NBA Playoffs Schedule 2013: Highlighting Can't-Miss First-Round Games

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NBA Playoffs Schedule 2013: Highlighting Can't-Miss First-Round Games
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Highlighting how the NBA postseason will turn out is never easy. 

With almost all of the expected matchups in the books, pending the results of Wednesday night's regular season finales, we can start looking ahead to how each of the eight first-round 2013 NBA playoff series will shake out. 

The postseason is where legends are born and goats are remembered forever, and the in the NBA that saying fits hand in hand with what each of the 16 playoff teams are looking to accomplish—an NBA finals victory. 

While some teams (Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers) are coming into the postseason hot, others (San Antonio Spurs and Milwaukee Bucks) are coming in limping. While that dynamic is important to a title run, sometimes one game can decide a series if the momentum and emotion all match up at the right time. 

Keeping in mind what one game can do to turn a series around, here's a look at three games from the first round that should have you glued to the TV as things heat up in the NBA postseason. 

 

2013 NBA Playoff Schedule

What: Best-of-seven format (all rounds)

When: Playoff series begin Saturday, April 20 (view what we know courtesy of SportsMediaWatch.com)

Where: Home court advantage to higher seed, 2-2-1-1-1 format for first three rounds, 2-3-2 format in NBA Finals

Watch: ABC, ESPN, TNT, NBA TV (Check local listings after matchups are official)

 

First-Round Games To Watch

Miami Heat at Milwakee Bucks, Game 3 

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

While the Heat have wrapped up two relatively easy wins over the Bucks this year by stopping guard Monta Ellis, the fact remains that Milwaukee is one of only 16 teams to beat Miami this season (heading into Wednesday night). 

And they did so at home. 

Although that win was all the way back in December, Milwaukee found a way to beat the mighty Heat by limiting the Miami bench to just five points in what turned out to be decisive early-season victory. 

How many games will Milwaukee win?

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Things have changed since then, as Miami went on its epic winning streak and beat the Bucks two-straight times since that fateful December matchup. However, at this point in the series, this could be a turning point for both teams. 

If Miami is up 2-0 when this game occurs (as many expect), this could be the final stand for Milwaukee at home for the first time in the series. Conversely, a 1-1 series score when it happens could mean a turning point for either team. 

Either way, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will have revenge on their minds before heading to Milwaukee, and if you've seen the Heat play at all over the past two seasons, that's never a good thing. 

 

Memphis Grizzlies at Los Angeles Clippers, Game 1

The playoffs will pick back up for the Grizzlies and Clippers where they left off for Memphis in 2012, as the two teams played a thrilling, back-and-forth contest that went to seven games and sucked the life right out of the Clippers for Round 2. 

Expect similar fireworks in the next battle between these two Western Conference juggernauts. 

Memphis leads the league in points allowed per game at 89.5, while the Clippers have more depth than ever before and can add cohesiveness to their list of team strengths after another full season of the Chris Paul-Blake Griffin combo. 

Additionally, who do you take in a matchup of four of the best bigs in the game?

Blake Griffin being defended by Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph having to contend with Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and the rest of the stingy Clipper guards should make this opening matchup one that could decide the series. 

After Memphis won Game 1 last year, the Clippers stormed back to force the seventh game—which they would win in Memphis. How will Memphis respond on the other side of this matchup this time around when the roles are reversed?

If it's anything like last season, it's going to be fun to watch. 

 

Boston Celtics at New York Knicks, Game 1

USA TODAY Sports

It's old-fashioned defense versus new-age offense in this matchup, as the Knicks and Celtics will renew their regular season rivalry with postseason implications on the line. 

Throw in the Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Garnett spat (h/t New York Daily News), and all bets are off. 

At Madison Square Garden, both the Celtics and Knicks will try to avoid the reality that long-term success with their current core likely isn't sustainable. It may come as a shock to Knicks fans after a stellar season and probably doesn't to Boston after a struggle to stay afloat, but the aging rosters these two teams possess won't be around forever. 

While both squads will be without stars (Amar'e Stoudemire and Rajon Rondo) both of these coaches and teams know a thing or two about winning. 

In Game 1, everything is going to be on the line. 

That means Garnett trash-talking, Paul Pierce taking over on offense and Steve Novak three-pointers are all likely to be in full swing by midway through the second quarter. Factor in Anthony, on an un-worldly pace right now averaged 36.9 points per game in the month of April, and it's hard to pinpoint a game with more intrigue on both sides than this one. 

New York will be on upset watch in some previews and Boston will be on rebuilding mode in some others, but it's foolish to count either team out before the series begins. Game 1 should cement that. 

 

Los Angeles Lakers (if Lakers win) at Oklahoma City Thunder, Game 5

Depending on the results of Wednesday night's game, we might or might not see the Lakers in the playoffs. There are several ways to get in the postseason, and another play-in game against Houston is coming if the Lakers can win against the Rockets on Wednesday. 

That being the case, this fantasy matchup between the Lakers and the No. 1 Oklahoma City Thunder would keep LA in the No. 8 seed. 

It's not the most favorable matchup of the two teams LA could catch (San Antonio being the other), but we've already seen these two teams go head-to-head in playoffs series past to exciting results. 

Which top seed is on upset alert the most?

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Would another be in order again?

Without Kobe Bryant the easy answer is no, but the Lakers still have two stars in Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and a third in Steve Nash if the two-time MVP can regain enough health to suit up for a potential postseason run. 

The Thunder have stars of their own in tow, most-namely Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. How LA responds to the challenge of stopping those two stars without its best player will be an interesting strategy from Mike D'Antoni, indeed. 

In any event, the Thunder might be able to out-athlete the Lakers, but the presence of Howard and Gasol alone working in tandem might be enough to cause problems—maybe even to the tune of a 2-2 split when this (potential) series returns to Oklahoma City. 

We all know how crucial Game 5's are—and this one is no exception. The Lakers have been a preseason favorite all year, but it's time they put their reputation on the line against the West's best team. 

As you can see, there's more must-see matchups than ever in the NBA first round. On a game-by-game basis, there's even more action, making April 20th the Mecca of basketball for those still coming off the NCAA tournament kick. 

 

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