NBA Playoffs Schedule 2013: Guide to Saturday's Series Openers
The Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics, Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors will attempt to steal home-court advantage from their opponents in Saturday's series openers on Day 1 of the NBA postseason.
Chicago will be in the Barclays Center to take on the Brooklyn Nets, while the Grizzlies will have a rematch against the Los Angeles Clippers in a series that went seven games in 2012.
The Celtics will take to Madison Square Garden to battle the New York Knicks. The Warriors return to the postseason by visiting the Mile High City against the Denver Nuggets.
Expect hard-fought basketball highlighted by intriguing matchups in all four games on the NBA ledger. Fans and teams have waited all season for this.
Now it is time to show and prove on the grandest stage.
Catching the first day of the postseason is a must, even if your team doesn't begin its series until Sunday. Here's how you can watch Saturday's action and the rest of the NBA playoffs.
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)
Here's a look at the matchups that could decide Saturday's winners.
Bulls vs. Nets
Season Series - Bulls took three of four
Jimmy Butler Must Play Big against Joe Johnson
There have been rumblings that the Chicago Bulls seemingly endless search for a 2-guard could be coming to an end.
Butler's development over the last year have many believing he could be the answer at shooting guard. Check the poll in the article by ESPN's Nick Friedell.
I think it is a possibility, but I reserve final judgement on the matter until I see him play alongside Derrick Rose.
Can Jimmy Butler officially claim the title of 2-guard of the future for the Bulls in the playoffs?
At the very least, I believe he could be the guy who makes Luol Deng expendable for the cash-strapped Bulls.
If Butler is to ascend to either of those posts, he needs to build on a strong 2012-13 regular season with a solid postseason. That starts on Saturday, and he won't have an easy assignment.
The Nets' Joe Johnson is one of the game's best one-on-one scorers. Butler's calling card is defense, and he'll certainly be challenged here.
But more than his normal contribution as a defender, Butler's offense will be most important. He must assert himself as a scorer to make Johnson work on the other end.
During the regular season, Butler averaged 10.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game against the Nets. Johnson averaged just 13 points against the Bulls this season, which is three below his average.
That is a big reason the Bulls took three of four from the Nets. But that was the regular season, and it stands to reason, Johnson will be better. In turn, Butler must also raise his game.
If he is effective in scoring, the Bulls will win Game 1 and this series.
Celtics vs. Knicks
Season Series: Knicks took three of four
Can Paul Pierce Summon a Legendary Performance to Outgun Carmelo Anthony?
Melo has played a lot of power forward this season. In an effort to match up and give Jeff Green a break, the Celtics will likely have to put Pierce on him at some point.
Who is a better matchup for Carmelo Anthony?
Because of the way Anthony can shoot the three, someone who can guard him on the perimeter, as well as the post, is the best solution.
Pierce's physical game on the offensive end could also be a factor in slowing Melo. The Knicks would be better off keeping the NBA's leading scorer away from a matchup with Pierce defensively.
They need his energy for offense, and Pierce's physicality can drain defenders.
He usually embraces the challenge of facing other elite swingmen, and I expect him to be at his best in this series.
Because the Celtics are so overmatched at other positions, it probably won't matter, though. But a scoring duel between the two would be fun to see.
Grizzlies vs. Clippers
Season Series: Clippers took three of four
Mike Conley Must Compete with Chris Paul If Grizzlies Are Going to Have a Shot
In last year's series against the Clippers, Conley was good but not great. He averaged 14 points and seven assists per game, and the Grizzlies lost in seven.
What type of production do the Grizzlies need from Mike Conley to beat the Clippers?
That defeat was punctuated by a Game 7 defeat on their home floor.
In that game, Conley had just seven points and five assists on 2-of-13 shooting from the field. Paul had 19 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
The Grizzlies can't afford to have Conley's production dwarfed in that way again.
With O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay gone from Memphis, Conley needs to step up offensively. To beat the Clippers, he must play at or near Paul's level.
Defensively, the Grizzlies are one of the best teams in the NBA. But they need a perimeter player to step up and make big shots in the postseason.
Will Conley be the guy?
Warriors vs. Nuggets
Season Series: Nuggets took three of four
Can Andrew Bogut Assert Himself as a Force Inside Against Kosta Koufos and JaVale McGee?
We know the Warriors' Stephen Curry is amazing, and Ty Lawson is nearly as brilliant for the Nuggets.
How many games will the Warriors win in this series?
But Bogut's ability to get the Nuggets bigs in foul trouble could be the difference in this series. Bogut has the post-game to be a presence offensively, though injuries have slowed him quite a bit this season.
In the playoffs, the action usually slows down, and a post presence is invaluable. If Bogut can be that type of weapon, it'll only augment the effectiveness of the Warriors shooters.
Defensively, the Nuggets are relentless with taking the ball to the basket.
Bogut blocked 1.7 shots per game during the season, despite playing just 24.6 minutes per game. They'll need his talents as a rim protector to curtail the Nuggets' penetration.
Golden State didn't fare well against the Nuggets during the regular season. All of those games were early in the season, though, and Bogut missed all of them.
In this series, his presence could be the difference. I still favor the Nuggets here, but a strong effort from Bogut in Game 1 could create doubt in my mind.
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