For all the melodrama around Los Angeles, the pro basketball world still centres around South Florida.
The Miami Heat, owners of an NBA-best 66-16 record, begin their title defence this weekend. Miami face the eighth seed Milwaukee Bucks, 38-44, in the Eastern Conference playoffs with game one on Sunday, 21 April, at 6pm Cayman time on TNT.
Miami, the East’s No. 1 seed, earned top bidding thanks to reigning Most Valuable Player LeBron James and a historic 27-game win streak. Milwaukee squeaked into the playoffs behind Brandon Jennings.
Aside from the Heat, there is plenty of intrigue in the East. The 54-28 New York Knicks, the two seed, battle the 41-40 Boston Celtics, the seventh seed, in arguably the conference’s most interesting series. New York has better shooters but Boston are battle-tested in the playoffs. Game one is Saturday, 20 April, at 2pm on ABC.
Rounding out the East first-round battles are the third seed Indiana Pacers, 49-32, facing the sixth seed Atlanta Hawks, 44-38 and the fourth seed Brooklyn Nets, 49-33, challenging the fifth seed Chicago Bulls, 45-37.
The Heat should get a Finals rematch against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the top seed in the Western Conference at 60-22. Kevin Durant and company first tackle ex-teammate James Harden and the eighth seed Houston Rockets, 45-37. Game one is Sunday at 8.30pm on TNT.
Most of the playoff hype is on the second seed San Antonio Spurs, 58-24, facing the seventh seed Los Angeles Lakers, 45-37, with game one on Sunday at 2.30pm on ABC. Injuries have derailed Tim Duncan and the Spurs of late while the Lakers lost Kobe Bryant before making the playoffs behind Dwight Howard.
The third seed Denver Nuggets, 57-25, battle the sixth seed Golden State Warriors, 47-35, in what should be a high-scoring series. The fourth seed Los Angeles Clippers, 56-26, face the fifth seed Memphis Grizzlies, 56-26 in a rematch of last year’s classic tussle.