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NBA Playoff Schedule 2020: TV Info, Predictions, Odds for Conference Finals

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistSeptember 23, 2020

Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, center, goes up to shoot a 3-point basket as Los Angeles Lakers' Alex Caruso (4) looks on late in the second half of Game 3 of the NBA basketball Western Conference final Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

The brooms can stay in the closets for the 2020 conference finals.

After the Boston Celtics secured their first win over the Miami Heat in Saturday's Game 3, the Denver Nuggets did the same against the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night. Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic combined for 50 points in the triumph with each player posting a double-double (Murray with 12 assists, Jokic with 10 rebounds).

Can the two No. 3 seeds use their victories as rally points to come back and win the series? Or will the Lakers and Heat transform their 2-1 advantages into tickets to the NBA Finals?

We'll answer those questions below after laying out all the scheduling information and running through the latest series odds from FanDuel.

              

2020 NBA Conference Finals Schedule and Broadcast Info

Eastern Conference: No. 3 Boston Celtics vs. No. 5 Miami Heat

Game 1: Heat 117, Celtics 114 (OT)

Game 2: Heat 106, Celtics 101

Game 3: Celtics 117, Heat 106

Game 4: Sept. 23 at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

Game 5: Sept. 25 at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

Game 6: Sept. 27 at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN*

Game 7: TBD on ESPN*

 *if necessary

                   

Western Conference: No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. No. 3 Denver Nuggets

Game 1: Lakers 126, Nuggets 114

Game 2: Lakers 105, Nuggets 103

Game 3: Nuggets 114, Lakers 106

Game 4: Sept. 24 at 9 p.m. ET on TNT

Game 5: Sept. 26 at 9 p.m. ET on TNT

Game 6: Sept. 28 at TBD on TNT*

Game 7: Sept. 30 at TBD on TNT*

 *if necessary

                 

Conference Finals Odds

Eastern Conference

Miami Heat: -142

Boston Celtics: +116

               

Western Conference

Los Angeles Lakers: -1600

Denver Nuggets: +820

                  

Series Predictions

Celtics vs. Heat

While the Celtics couldn't convert double-digit second-half leads in Games 1 and 2 into actual victories, the fact they built those advantages should've fueled belief in their ability to control the series.

That's especially true after they finally learned how to finish in Game 3, albeit after some sloppy moments down the stretch.

"We did some good things tonight to answer their runs, most of the time," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said afterward.

While one game doesn't define this series, a few things happened that could foreshadow good fortune in the Celtics' future.

For starters, they finally got Gordon Hayward back after a month-long absence with a sprained right ankle. While he didn't set the stat sheet ablaze (six points, five rebounds and four assists across 31 minutes), he did help keep the ball moving at the offensive end and helped them solve the Heat's zone defense. The fact he had three full days to rest could mean he's even more active and effective his next time out.

"I'm definitely not 100 percent," Hayward told reporters. "We're in the Eastern Conference Finals, and I'm going to give whatever I can. As we keep going, I'll find my rhythm and be better and better. That's the plan."

Boston also found great success in deploying Marcus Smart on Goran Dragic, which effectively took away perhaps the Heat's most consistent scorer this postseason. Dragic, who has scored 20-plus points in eight of the team's 12 postseason games, was held to just 11 points on 2-of-10 shooting and had the same number of turnovers and assists (five each).

The law of regression may have also helped cool off Jae Crowder. The 6'6" swingman, a career 34.0 percent shooter from distance, entered the contest with a 40.4 percent success rate on perimeter shots this season but went just 2-of-10 in the loss.

The Celtics got 20-plus points out of Smart, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker, and that kind of firepower might be tough for Miami to match. The Heat's two best players, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, aren't natural go-to scorers, so it's imperative their supporting cast chips in with timely scoring and accurate shooting.

The Heat have shown they have no quit, but the Celtics might have the superior roster. Our crystal ball says that will ultimately give Boston the edge in a hard-fought series.

Series prediction: Celtics win in seven games.

                 

Lakers vs. Nuggets

If we've learned anything this postseason, it's to not doubt Denver's ability to respond to adversity.

In the first two rounds, the Nuggets went full Houdini on the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers while becoming the first team ever to come back from two 3-1 deficits in the same postseason. Denver again flashed its resiliency on Tuesday, recovering from a buzzer-beating defeat in Game 2 to hold off L.A. despite nearly blowing a 20-point lead in the final frame.

"For some reason we love the bubble," Nuggets coach Mike Malone told reporters after the win.

Denver's dynamic duo of Jokic and Murray is potent enough to hang with anyone. Murray, who made one clutch play after another on Tuesday, might be making his leap to stardom this postseason, and Jokic is already there.

Not to rain on Denver's parade, though, but its biggest concern entering this series wasn't the offensive execution of its stars. Instead, it was its ability to contain L.A.'s uber-talented twosome of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Even in the win, that didn't happen, as the pair combined for 57 points on 23-of-40 shooting (57.5 percent).

Now, the Lakers' top concern was whether their supporting cast could contribute enough to make their star power matter. That didn't happen on Tuesday. Lakers not named James or Davis went just 20-of-43 from the field, and they might have to pay for any damage to the rims after the club clanged 20 of its 26 three-point attempts.

"We're getting great looks every time we touch the paint," Lakers coach Frank Vogel told reporters. "We have to be more aggressive."

There aren't a ton of reasons to bet on the Lakers' role players—though starting Dwight Howard over JaVale McGee could up their physicality—but there are even fewer reasons to imagine the Nuggets will start containing James and Davis. The Purple and Gold's superior star power still seems like the deciding factor in this series.

Series prediction: Lakers win in six games.

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