The NBA playoffs get underway over the weekend as teams begin their pursuit of the Larry O'Brien Trophy. Everybody is chasing the Miami Heat, the defending champions and owners of the best regular-season record in the league.
Other top contenders include the San Antonio Spurs, the New York Knicks, and the Oklahoma City Thunder, who are hoping for another trip to the finals after falling short against the Heat last year. Although the Heat will be tough to beat, there are no guarantees in the postseason.
The story, which will unfold game-by-game over in the coming weeks, starts on Saturday. Here's a look at the schedule information, followed by a breakdown of important Game 1s that are on tap for the first weekend of playoff action.
2013 NBA Playoffs Schedule
When: Playoffs begin Saturday, April 20
Watch: ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, NBA TV
First Round: Click here for all dates, times and TV info
Complete Listing: Full Postseason Schedule (via Sports Media Watch)
Series Openers to Watch
Golden State Warriors at Denver Nuggets (Saturday at 5:30 p.m. on ESPN)
This could end up being the most exciting series of the first round. Two teams that love to get up and down the floor, feature multiple players capable of filling up the score sheet and played an overtime game during the regular season.
The Warriors are led by sharpshooter Stephen Curry, who averaged 23 points and seven assists during the regular season. He's joined by David Lee and Klay Thompson to create a very strong trio of scorers. Depth could be an issue, though.
Denver doesn't feature as much star power, but has a very deeper roster that rarely gets outworked. Along with leading the league in points per game, they ranked second in rebounding. Ty Lawson is the leading scorer, but make no mistake: A deep run is only possible through a complete team effort.
Gaining early momentum in a series that's going to feature plenty of high-scoring games will be key.
Memphis Grizzlies at Los Angeles Clippers (Saturday at 10:30 p.m. on ESPN)
Although the Grizzlies and Clippers finished the regular season with identical records, they took very different paths to that point. Memphis is a defense-first squad that led the NBA in points allowed while the Clippers relied on their high-flying athleticism and multiple scoring options.
Which of these road teams has the best chance in Game 1?
The internist is one area where the Grizzlies will need to dominate in order to win this series. Few teams in the league can match the combination of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph in the post. If they can slow down the "Lob City" approach, Memphis will be in good shape.
It's easier said than done, of course. Chris Paul's amazing efficiency running the point makes the Clippers offense nearly impossible to stop at times. If they can get rolling in Game 1, what should be a tight series could quickly be broken open.
Milwaukee Bucks at Miami Heat (Sunday at 7 p.m. on TNT)
The Bucks enter this series as major underdogs, and rightfully so. They finished the regular season with a losing record and are taking on the top team in the league. So Monta Ellis and Co. must try to alter their game plan enough to put some pressure on Miami.
Change is key. They can't expect to enter this series, play the same style of basketball they did all season and think it will trouble the Heat. Slowing the game down in an attempt to limit Miami's fast-break opportunities is their best option.
Ultimately, however, even an improved approach from Milwaukee probably won't be enough. The Heat are too talented, have James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to lead the way and should be able to survive the opening round. Taking care of business in Game 1 is the first step.