The 2014 NBA playoffs are finally here and Saturday marks the start of what should be eight epic series. These best-of-seven matchups will ultimately chop the field of 16 title hopefuls in half.
This is an ideal time to familiarize yourself with all of the series, check out the odds for each team to advance to the conference semifinals and look over the schedule to pick out at least a few games you plan to watch.
Keep reading to find all that, plus a playoff bracket, picks for the first-round winners and much more.
|Eastern Conference Matchups and Odds||Prediction|
|No.1 Indiana Pacers (-560) vs. No.8 Atlanta Hawks (+480)||Pacers in five|
|No.2 Miami Heat (-2000) vs. No.7 Charlotte Bobcats (+1200)||Heat in four|
|No.3 Toronto Raptors (+110) vs. No.6 Brooklyn Nets (-130)||Raptors in seven|
|No.4 Chicago Bulls (-190) vs. No.5 Washington Wizards (+170)||Bulls in six|
|Western Conference Matchups and Odds|
|No.1 San Antonio Spurs (-675) vs. No.8 Dallas Mavericks (+550)||Spurs in five|
|No.2 Oklahoma City Thunder (-350) vs. No.7 Memphis Grizzlies (+300)||Thunder in six|
|No.3 Los Angeles Clippers (-350) vs. No.6 Golden State Warriors (+300)||Clippers in six|
|No.4 Houston Rockets (-190) vs. No.5 Portland Trail Blazers (+170)||Rockets in seven|
RJ Bell of Pregame.com via Twitter (@RJinVegas)
The NBA Playoffs have finally arrived. Here's a helpful guide for your next two months. pic.twitter.com/MEgJYK0aVs— ESPN (@espn) April 17, 2014
|4/20||(8) Mavericks vs. (1) Spurs||1 p.m.||TNT|
|4/23||(8) Mavericks vs. (1) Spurs||8 p.m.||NBATV|
|4/26||(1) Spurs vs. (8) Mavericks||4:30 p.m.||TNT|
|4/28||(1) Spurs vs. (8) Mavericks||9:30 p.m.||TNT|
|4/30||(8) Mavericks vs. (1) Spurs||TBD||TBD|
|5/2||(1) Spurs vs. (8) Mavericks||TBD||TBD|
|5/4||(8) Mavericks vs. (1) Spurs||TBD||TBD|
|4/19||(7) Grizzlies vs. (2) Thunder||9:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|4/21||(7) Grizzlies vs. (2) Thunder||8 p.m.||TNT|
|4/24||(2) Thunder vs. Grizzlies||8 p.m.||TNT|
|4/26||(2) Thunder vs. Grizzlies||9:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|4/29||(7) Grizzlies vs. (2) Thunder||TBD||TBD|
|5/1||(2) Thunder vs. Grizzlies||TBD||TBD|
|5/3||(7) Grizzlies vs. (2) Thunder||TBD||TNT|
|4/19||(6) Warriors vs. (3) Clippers||3:30 p.m.||ABC|
|4/21||(6) Warriors vs. (3) Clippers||10:30 p.m.||TNT|
|4/24||(3) Clippers vs. (6) Warriors||10:30 p.m.||TNT|
|4/27||(3) Clippers vs. (6) Warriors||3:30 p.m.||ABC|
|4/29||(6) Warriors vs. (3) Clippers||TBD||TBD|
|5/1||(3) Clippers vs. (6) Warriors||TBD||TBD|
|5/3||(6) Warriors vs. (3) Clippers||TBD||TNT|
|4/20||(5) Trail Blazers vs. (4) Rockets||9:30 p.m.||TNT|
|4/23||(5) Trail Blazers vs. (4) Rockets||9:30 p.m.||TNT|
|4/25||(4) Rockets vs. (5) Trail Blazers||10:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|4/27||(4) Rockets vs. (5) Trail Blazers||9:30 p.m.||TNT|
|4/30||(5) Trail Blazers vs. (4) Rockets||TBD||TBD|
|5/2||(4) Rockets vs. (5) Trail Blazers||TBD||TBD|
|5/4||(5) Trail Blazers vs. (4) Rockets||TBD||TBD|
|4/19||(8) Hawks vs. (1) Pacers||7 p.m.||ESPN|
|4/22||(8) Hawks vs. (1) Pacers||7 p.m.||TNT|
|4/24||(1) Pacers vs. (8) Hawks||7 p.m.||NBATV|
|4/26||(1) Pacers vs. (8) Hawks||2 p.m.||TNT|
|4/28||(8) Hawks vs. (1) Pacers||8 p.m.||NBATV|
|5/1||(1) Pacers vs. (8) Hawks||TBD||TBD|
|5/3||(8) Hawks vs. (1) Pacers||TBD||TNT|
|4/20||(7) Bobcats vs. (2) Heat||3:30 p.m.||ABC|
|4/23||(7) Bobcats vs. (2) Heat||7 p.m.||TNT|
|4/26||(2) Heat vs. (7) Bobcats||7 p.m.||ESPN|
|4/28||(2) Heat vs. (7) Bobcats||7 p.m.||TNT|
|4/30||(7) Bobcats vs. (2) Heat||TBD||TBD|
|5/2||(2) Heat vs. (7) Bobcats||TBD||TBD|
|5/4||(7) Bobcats vs. (2) Heat||TBD||ABC|
|4/19||(6) Nets vs. (3) Raptors||12:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|4/22||(6) Nets vs. (3) Raptors||8 p.m.||NBATV|
|4/25||(3) Raptors vs. (6) Nets||7 p.m.||ESPN 2|
|4/27||(3) Raptors vs. (6) Nets||7 p.m.||TNT|
|4/30||(6) Nets vs. (3) Raptors||TBD||TBD|
|5/2||(3) Raptors vs. (6) Nets||TBD||TBD|
|5/4||(6) Nets vs. (3) Raptors||TBD||TBD|
|4/20||(5) Wizards vs. (4) Bulls||7 p.m.||TNT|
|4/22||(5) Wizards vs. (4) Bulls||9:30 p.m.||TNT|
|4/25||(4) Bulls vs. (5) Wizards||8 p.m.||ESPN|
|4/27||(4) Bulls vs. (5) Wizards||1 p.m.||ABC|
|4/29||(5) Wizards vs. (4) Bulls||TBD||TBD|
|5/1||(4) Bulls vs. (5) Wizards||TBD||TBD|
|5/3||(5) Wizards vs. (4) Bulls||TBD||TBD|
Most Likely Upset: Toronto Raptors (+110) over Brooklyn Nets
The Raptors may be the higher seed in this matchup, but they have been made a slight underdog in the opening-round series against Brooklyn. That has to be bulletin board material for this young team and might just make the difference in what will surely be a back-and-forth battle.
However, it might be tough to find space on that bulletin board, especially after the Nets openly disrespected Toronto in the waning days of the regular season. Tony Mejia of ProBasketballNews.com pointed out the obvious:
Dwane Casey won't have to rely on bulletin board material given this well-executed strategic Nets tank. Brooklyn boldly calling out Raptors.— Tony Mejia (@TonyMejiaNBA) April 17, 2014
Brooklyn seemed content to lose its final two games, sliding into the No. 6 seed for this matchup instead of taking the No. 5 spot and earning a showdown with the Chicago Bulls.
While some may see that as a savvy move from an experienced squad, the Nets may have made a fatal mistake. The young Raptors may be devoid of much playoff experience (only two starters have participated in the postseason), but they have been playing as well as anyone in the conference after a rocky start to the 2013-14 campaign.
Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca pointed out that discrepancy in playoff experience between the starters on each team:
Games of playoff experience- Nets starting five: 399, Raps starting five: 24— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) April 17, 2014
However, the Raptors cobbled together an Eastern Conference-leading mark of 41-22 since trading Rudy Gay and rank in the top 10 in terms of both offensive and defensive efficiency this season. This isn’t a team to take lightly, which is what the Nets may be doing since they basically elected to tank the season’s final games in order to play Toronto.
Brooklyn’s head coach, Jason Kidd, noted that the teams split the season series and an intriguing battle is on the horizon, as per Tim Bontemps of the New York Post:
It will be a very hostile environment, they have great fans, and they’ve got a great team, a team that won the Atlantic and we had four pretty good games against them. We split the series with them, so it should be an exciting series.
Expect the Raptors to push the tempo and force the aging Nets to play their starters for extended minutes. Brooklyn will struggle to adapt in this scenario, especially considering some of their pivotal players have been on a minutes limit for quite some time.
Which team will win this series?
Kevin Garnett, Brooklyn’s cagey big man, hasn’t been on the floor for more than 20 minutes in one game since prior to the All-Star break. He’s also missed plenty of time with back spasms, an issue that could flare up if he’s forced to log considerably more time than he has in the latter portion of the campaign.
The Raptors may not be brimming with experience, but the players can definitely run and set the tempo in this series. It’s going to be tough for Brooklyn to slog through seven games, and ultimately their elder players will tire out at the end of this war.
Prediction: Raptors in seven.