NBA Playoffs Schedule 2013: When and Where to Watch Top Superstars in Round 1

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistApril 19, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 04:  Ray Allen #34, Dwyane Wade #3, LeBron James #6 and Chris Bosh #1 of the Miami Heat talk at half court during the fourth quarter of their 105-101 loss to the Washington Wizards at Verizon Center on December 4, 2012 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

There are two ways to succeed in the NBA playoffs. One is depth, as the Denver Nuggets and Indiana Pacers will attempt to prove in the coming weeks. The more popular option is star power, which helped power the Miami Heat to last season's title.

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh carried the Heat through the playoffs and are gearing up to make another deep run after posting the top record during the regular season.

Fans will soon find out whether any team has the depth or star power necessary to slow them down.

James once again headlines the superstars preparing to begin their playoff journey this weekend. Here's a look at all the important schedule information for the postseason followed by the top players to watch throughout the opening round.


2013 NBA Playoffs Schedule

When: Playoffs begin Saturday, April 20


First Round: Click here for all dates, times and TV info

Complete Listing: Full Postseason Schedule (via Sports Media Watch)


Top Players to Watch in Round 1

LeBron James, Miami Heat

Early in his career, when James was constantly falling short of his first championship, questions arose about his ability to lead a team to a title. If he's able to capture the Larry O'Brien Trophy for a second straight year, those questions should fade away forever.

The run starts with a matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks.

The three-time Most Valuable Player, who's a very strong candidate to win the award once again, was unstoppable for extended stretches during the regular season. All told, he averaged 27 points, eight rebounds and seven assists per game to pace the defending champs.

The biggest difference over the past couple of seasons has been his assertiveness, especially on the offensive end of the floor. Perhaps it's due to a more accomplished supporting cast. But whatever the reason, he knows when it's time to take over a game and usually does.

For a complete look at Miami's first-round schedule, click here.


Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

Durant, like James, is an ultimate competitor, so it's no surprise to see his game continue to develop as he attempts to keep pace with his Heat counterpart. They met in the NBA Finals last season and a rematch wouldn't be a shock.

First, the Thunder must get past the Houston Rockets.

There are two areas to watch where Durant has improved markedly since he arrived in the NBA. The first is his shot selection. He's become a lot more adept at attacking a defense's weakness and it helped him shoot above 50 percent in a season for the first time.

The other is his court vision, which directly relates to his increased assist totals. He started as a tremendous pure shooter and could have had a long NBA career in that role, but he's become the second-most complete player in the league and will prove it throughout Round 1.

For a complete look at Oklahoma City's first-round schedule, click here.


Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks

While James and Durant are the game's top two players right now, they both have big stars playing by their side. Anthony, the regular-season scoring champion, doesn't have that luxury. If he has an off night, the Knicks' chances of winning plummet.

The Syracuse product finished the season less than a point ahead of Durant at just shy of 29 per game. It included a last surge that saw him pour in 37 PPG in April. That's the type of performance the Knicks are going to need from him in the playoffs.

Since the Heat and Thunder should cruise through their respective series, Anthony might be able to assume top billing for awhile. New York faces a high-profile matchup with the Boston Celtics, which will surely generate a lot of attention. He won't shy away from the big stage.

For a complete look at New York's first-round schedule, click here.