NBA Playoff Schedule 2020: Round-by-Round Dates, TV and Live Stream Guide

Jake RillSenior Analyst IIIAugust 15, 2020

Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James (23) and Anthony Davis (3) celebrate after defeating the Denver Nuggets 124-121 during an NBA basketball game Monday, Aug. 10, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)
Ashley Landis/Associated Press

It's been a full decade since the Los Angeles Lakers have won the NBA title. The Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Clippers have never won it. Meanwhile, the Toronto Raptors will be looking to win championships in back-to-back years.

There's a lot of competition for this year's NBA title, and any one of 16 teams could end this unorthodox season by celebrating with the Larry O'Brien Trophy. On Monday, the path to get there begins as the NBA playoffs get underway at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World.

The playoff bracket isn't finalized yet, though, as the Portland Trail Blazers and Memphis Grizzlies are set to face off in a Western Conference play-in game on Saturday. And if the Grizzlies win, the teams will have to play again Sunday in a winner-take-all scenario. Portland would move on with just one win as the No. 8 seed.

After a look at the NBA playoffs schedule and upcoming matchups, we'll break down the top contenders to end this season by winning the NBA title.


NBA Playoffs Schedule

Aug. 15: Western Conference play-in game (Portland Trail Blazers vs. Memphis Grizzlies), 2:30 p.m. ET on ABC

Aug. 16: Potential second Western Conference play-in game, 4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN (if Memphis wins Saturday)

Aug. 17: Start of first round of playoffs

Aug. 31: Conference semifinals target date

Sept. 15: Conference finals target date

Sept. 30: NBA Finals target date

Oct. 13: Last possible date for final game of NBA Finals


Upcoming First-Round Schedule

Monday, Aug. 17

Game 1: No. 6 Utah Jazz at No. 3 Denver Nuggets, 1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Game 1: No. 7 Brooklyn Nets at No. 2 Toronto Raptors, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN

Game 1: No. 6 Philadelphia 76ers at No. 3 Boston Celtics, 6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Game 1: No. 7 Dallas Mavericks at No. 2 Los Angeles Clippers, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN


Tuesday, Aug. 18

Game 1: No. 8 Orlando Magic at No. 1 Milwaukee Bucks, 1:30 p.m. ET, TNT

Game 1: No. 5 Miami Heat at No. 4 Indiana Pacers, 4 p.m. ET, TNT

Game 1: No. 5 Oklahoma City Thunder at No. 4 Houston Rockets, 6:30 p.m. ET, TNT

Game 1: No. 8 Portland Trail Blazers/Memphis Grizzlies at No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers, 9 p.m. ET, TNT

Complete first-round schedule can be found at NBA.com. Games that air on ESPN and ABC can be streamed at ESPN+. Games that air on TNT can be streamed at Watch TNT.


Top NBA Title Contenders

Los Angeles Lakers

From 2000 to 2010, the Lakers won seven NBA titles, including three straight to end that stretch of dominance. But they haven't won a championship following that era, and this will be their first playoff appearance since 2013.

With LeBron James and Anthony Davis leading the way, Los Angeles is in a good position to end this atypical championship drought for the franchise. The Lakers won 52 games in the regular season, their most since 2010-11, despite going 3-5 in their seeding games after arriving at the NBA bubble.

Los Angeles had already nearly clinched the No. 1 seed by that point, though. Now, the stakes will be much higher, beginning with its first-round playoff series against either Portland or Memphis.

"I don't think our team is there personally, but we will be," James said, according to Erik Garcia Gundersen of Lebron Wire. "It's a different type of mindset that you have to be in, but you don't want to jump into it before you actually get there because it takes a lot. A lot of energy and a lot of effort."

James reached the NBA Finals eight consecutive years from 2010 while with the Heat and Cavaliers, so he knows what it takes to reach the biggest stage. It wouldn't be surprising to see him get the Lakers to that point this season.


Los Angeles Clippers

Kim Klement/Associated Press

The Clippers have never won the NBA title nor even reached the NBA Finals. In fact, they've never reached the conference finals.

Things are different for Los Angeles now, though, with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George both joining the team last offseason. That give the Clippers a pair of superstar players to lead the way, and Leonard knows what it takes to have postseason success after leading the Raptors to their first NBA title last year and winning NBA Finals MVP.

Los Angeles went 49-23 during the regular season, securing the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference by winning four of its last five seeding games. They'll look to carry that momentum into their first-round playoff series against the Mavericks.

"I'm confident. I think our group is confident," George said, according to ESPN's Ohm Youngmisuk. "There's nothing to be unconfident about. It's an even playing field [in the bubble]."

Of course, the Clippers may have to take on the Lakers if they hope to reach the NBA Finals. And if that matchup materializes, it should be one of the best series of the postseason.


Milwaukee Bucks

Mike Ehrmann/Associated Press

Although the Bucks lost in the Eastern Conference Finals last season, they should be the favorite to represent the East in this year's NBA Finals. Milwaukee went an NBA-best 56-17 in the regular season.

The Bucks may have gone 3-6 during their seeding games, but they didn't have much at stake as they had almost already secured the No. 1 seed when play resumed. With the playoffs set to begin, reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo should have Milwaukee ready to contend for a championship.

And while the Bucks' recent play may not have been great, there is one positive for the team.

"All 16 guys, unless something changes between now and the start, should be healthy and available," Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer said, according to Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "That's obviously crucial and important in the playoffs and was a priority for us coming down here."

The Bucks will be looking to win the second NBA title in franchise history and the first since 1971.