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NBA Playoffs 2016: Schedule, Game Times and Predictions for 1st-Round Bracket

Mike Norris@@MikeNorrisBRFeatured ColumnistApril 17, 2016

Apr 11, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) slam dunks against the Atlanta Hawks during the first quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA playoffs are back.

Four games kicked off the slate on Saturday with two blowouts, two close contests and an upset.

LeBron James has yet to hit the court, but there was plenty of star power on the hardwood Saturday with Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook proving why they are some of the best players in the league.

The Warriors were in domination mode but had to be holding their breath when Curry left the game with an injury. 

The Boston Celtics nearly erased a 19-point deficit to earn a road victory, and the Oklahoma City Thunder shut down any questions regarding the fourth quarter by leading the Dallas Mavericks by 42 through three quarters.

Here's a look at schedules, game times and predictions for every remaining series of the first round.

East

(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (8) Detroit Pistons

Cavaliers vs. Pistons Schedule
GameDateLocationTime (ET)Prediction
1April 17Cleveland3 p.m.Cleveland
2April 20Cleveland8 p.m.Cleveland
3April 22Detroit7 p.m.Detroit
4April 24Detroit8:30 p.m.Cleveland
5*April 26ClevelandTBDCleveland
6*April 28DetroitTBDN/A
7*April 30ClevelandTBDN/A
NBA.com/*If necessary

The Pistons are in the playoffs for the first time since 2009, but don't expect their stay to last long.

Center Andre Drummond (16.2 PPG, 14.8 RPG) has had a great season for Detroit, but the Pistons roster is just not deep enough to contend with James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and Co.

James, who averaged at least 25 points per game for the sixth straight season, seems like he is ready to put the regular season in the rearview mirror, per Tom Withers of the Associated Press (h/t the Denver Post).

"I'm in that mode right now," James said. "I'm where I want to be."

Detroit beat the Cavaliers—with James resting—by two in overtime in the regular-season finale and improved to 3-1 against Cleveland this season. However, as James said, he's in playoff mode, and that's bad news for the Pistons, considering he's never lost a first-round playoff series. 

(2) Toronto Raptors vs. (7) Indiana Pacers

Raptors vs. Pacers Schedule
GameDateLocationTime (ET)Prediction
1April 16TorontoN/AIndiana W, 100-90
2April 18Toronto7 p.m.Toronto
3April 21Indiana7:30 p.m.Indiana
4April 23Indiana3 p.m.Toronto
5*April 26TorontoTBDToronto
6*April 29IndianaTBDToronto
7*May 1TorontoTBDN/A
NBA.com/*If necessary

The Pacers pulled off the first upset of the playoffs in the first game of the postseason Saturday, winning by double digits in Toronto. 

Paul George led the way for Indiana with 33 points, but don't expect that kind of performance four games in a row.

Toronto, which won a franchise-high 56 games this season, will bounce back behind leading scorer DeMar DeRozan to win Game 2. The Raptors only lost nine home games during the regular season and won't lose anymore this series. 

They also tied Cleveland for most road wins in the East with 24, while Indiana was tied with Detroit for the fewest home wins among East playoff teams with just 26. 

(3) Miami Heat vs. (6) Charlotte Hornets

Heat vs. Hornets Schedule
GameDateLocationTime (ET)Prediction
1April 17Miami5:30 p.m.Miami
2April 20Miami7 p.m.Miami
3April 23Charlotte5:30 p.m.Charlotte
4April 25CharlotteTBDCharlotte
5*April 27MiamiTBDMiami
6*April 29CharlotteTBDMiami
7*May 1MiamiTBDN/A
NBA.com/*If necessary

The Heat and Hornets are two of four teams in the East with identical 48-34 records. Although the talent levels aren't that different, the Heat have the edge in experience.

It would help the Heat if power forward, and emotional leader, Chris Bosh were not sidelined with an undisclosed medical condition. However, he gave an inspiring speech to his teammates on Friday, per ESPN.com.

"Chris talked today to us, as a team," fellow Heat All-Star Dwyane Wade said after practice. "The biggest message is someone who lived for this moment, someone who envisioned these moments especially after last year, he doesn't have the ability to be in it."

Wade has three championships under his belt with the Heat and is still good enough to carry his team to at least one series win by himself. Look for the experience to come into play in Game 6 when Wade and the Heat steal one in Charlotte to wrap up the series.

(4) Atlanta Hawks vs. (5) Boston Celtics

Hawks vs. Celtics Schedule
GameDateLocationTime (ET)Prediction
1April 16AtlantaN/AAtlanta W, 102-101
2April 19Atlanta7 p.m.Atlanta
3April 22Boston8 p.m.Boston
4April 24Boston6 p.m.Boston
5*April 26AtlantaTBDAtlanta
6*April 28BostonTBDBoston
7*April 30AtlantaTBDAtlanta
NBA.com/*If necessary

Atlanta and Boston are the other two teams with 48 victories, and they should play a close series.

Third-year head coach Brad Stevens has drastically improved Boston's win totals the past two years, from 25 to 40 last season, before nearly winning 50 games this year.

Point guard Isaiah Thomas played in all 82 games and led the team in scoring (22.2) and assists (6.2). He has been a huge spark plug for a team that looks to be on the rise.

The Celtics could be without point guard Avery Bradley after he injured his hamstring in Game 1. 

Atlanta lost its last two games of the season but had won 15 of its 20 previous games. The Hawks have a talented point guard of their own in Jeff Teague, a star wing in Paul Millsap and another All-Star underneath in center Al Horford.  

Together, the trio has combined for eight All-Star appearances.

Atlanta has a slight edge in talentalong with home-court advantage and a 1-0 series leadwhich will put it over the top in the series.

West 

(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (8) Houston Rockets

Warriors vs. Rockets Schedule
GameDateLocationTime (ET)Prediction
1April 16Golden StateN/AGolden State W, 104-78
2April 18Golden State10:30 p.m.Golden State
3April 21Houston9:30 p.m.Golden State
4April 24Houston3:30 p.m.Golden State
5*April 27Golden StateTBDN/A
6*April 29HoustonTBDN/A
7*May 1Golden StateTBDN/A
NBA.com/*If necessary

Before the series started the Warriors—who set an NBA record with 73 victories this season—looked to have a huge advantage.

They proved that to be true with a 26-point victory over James Harden and the Rockets.

The only negative for the Warriors is the fact that Curry injured his ankle in the second quarter and is now questionable for Game 2, per Kenny Ducey of Sports Illustrated

That could be an issue for the Warriors but not in this series. 

Curry scored 24 points in just 20 minutes Saturday as Golden State proved it can advance in the first round without the likely MVP.

(2) San Antonio Spurs vs. (7) Memphis Grizzlies  

Spurs vs. Grizzlies Schedule
GameDateLocationTime (ET)Prediction
1April 17San Antonio8 p.m.San Antonio
2April 19San Antonio9:30 p.m.San Antonio
3April 22Memphis9:30 p.m.San Antonio
4April 24Memphis1 p.m.Memphis
5*April 26San AntonioTBDSan Antonio
6*April 28MemphisTBDN/A
7*April 30San AntonioTBDN/A
NBA.com/*If necessary

The Spurs are aging, tired and lost in the Warriors' shadow.

Oh, and they won 67 games this season.

Head coach Gregg Popovich rested his veterans down the stretch so they would be ready for the playoff run. If not for Golden State's historic season, the Spurs would have been the talk of the NBA this year.

The Spurs added talented power forward LaMarcus Aldridge to the roster this season to complement Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard. He averaged 18 points and a team-high 8.5 rebounds but is playing with a dislocated pinkie that has forced him to try to get used to an awkward tape job, per Melissa Rohlin of the San Antonio Express-News.

According to Rohlin, Aldridge says he's fine, which is a good sign for the Spurs. They may be playing second fiddle to the Warriors but not in the first round.

(3) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (6) Dallas Mavericks

Thunder vs. Mavericks Schedule
GameDateLocationTime (ET)Prediction
1April 16Oklahoma CityN/AOklahoma City W, 108-70
2April 18Oklahoma City8 p.m.Dallas
3April 21Dallas7 p.m.Oklahoma City
4April 23Dallas8 p.m.Dallas
5*April 25Oklahoma CityTBDOklahoma City
6*April 28DallasTBDOklahoma City
7*April 30Oklahoma CityTBDN/A
NBA.com/If necessary

When you have Durant and Westbrook on your team, you have the talent to win any series.

However, the biggest knock on the Thunder this season has nothing to do with talent. Instead, they were known for blowing fourth-quarter leads despite winning 55 games.

The playoffs are about finishing the game off in the fourth quarter, but it's not like Durant and Westbrook don't know what it takes to win in the postseason.

The duo is back in the playoffs this year after missing out last season for the first time since 2008-09. Oklahoma City is 8-5 in playoff series during that time and is finally healthy this season after injuries to both superstars plagued them the past three years.

It would be a great story for Dirk Nowitzki, who at 37 years old paces the Mavericks in scoring, to lead his team to a series win, but that stat is precisely why Dallas won't win.

The Mavericks average 102.3 points per game, but the Thunder score an extra eight points per contest, and a Dallas defense that allows 102.6 points will struggle to contain Durant and Westbrook.

That was proved true in Game 1 when the Thunder dominated in a 38-point victory.

(4) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (5) Portland Trail Blazers 

Clippers vs. Trail Blazers Schedule
GameDateLocationTime (ET)Prediction
1April 17Los Angeles10:30 p.m.Los Angeles
2April 20Los Angeles10:30 p.m.Los Angeles
3April 23Portland10:30 p.m.Portland
4April 25Portland10:30 p.m.Portland
5*April 27Los AngelesTBDPortland
6*April 29PortlandTBDLos Angeles
7*May 1Los AngelesTBDLos Angeles
NBA.com/*If Necessary

These two teams might be just one seed apart, but they were separated by nine wins during the regular season.

Damian Lillard (25.1 PPG, 6.8 APG, 4.0 RPG) is blossoming into a star for Portland. Shooting guard C.J. McCollum averages just over 20 points per contest, but no other Blazer scores more than 10.3. 

With Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan all playing in their primeand playing wellthe Clippers put arguably some of the best talent on the court in the NBA.

Had Griffin not played only 35 games due to a broken hand this season, the Clippers may have claimed the No. 3 seed. 

With some more talent around them, Lillard and McCollum could help lead Portland to a deep playoff run, it won't happen this season.

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