(Sporting Alert) — The NBA playoff continues on Sunday with four more Game 1 clashes in the Eastern and Western Conferences. Among the teams in action Sunday are the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder, the two finalists from last season and two teams in red hot form.
However, the action will get underway before the pair take the court as the Atlanta Hawks travel to face the Indiana Pacers in Game 1 of their series, with the game broadcasting live on TNT, starting at 1:00 p.m. ET.
The Hawks (44-38) enter the contest with a 0-2 record at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse this season, but the teams did split their head-to-head encounters 2-2 this season.
An entertaining series is expected over the next few days, but Hawks coach Larry Drew isn’t expecting any big tactical changes from the Pacers.
“They’re going to do what they’ve been doing all year. They may tweak some things here and there,” Drew was quoted as saying.
“I think in the four games, I recall they switched it up and put Hibbert on Josh Smith some. They may come back with it. We’ll be prepared for it.
“I don’t think they will deviate much from what they do. They’re a good team. They’re a solid team.”
At the same time, Pacers coach Frank Vogel, who prepared his team very well to battle with the Miami Heat last year, despite ending up losing, says he has plans for everything.
“We’ve got Plan As, Plan Bs and Plan Cs,” Vogel said. “We’ve got to be prepared for whatever we see — switching, blitzing, zone, whatever.”
Vogel also reminded his team about the danger of Jeff Teague, who is averaging 14.6 points and 7.2 assists per game this season.
In the second game on the day at 3:30 p.m. ET, the LA Lakers take on the San Antonio Spurs in Game 1 of the Western Conference series first round.
The Lakers (45-37) will be without the injured Kobe Bryant, but have done well without him in the last two games, including picking up a vital win over this same San Antonio team in their regular season penultimate game.
Steve Nash is expected to be back, but could start on the bench with coach Mike D’Antoni looking to Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol to continue to lead his team’s attack.
Steve Blake has been impressive in the last few games, including back-to-back career highs in scoring against the Spurs (23) and the Rockets (24).
Manu Ginobili returns for the Spurs after missing the last clash between these two sides and he’s hoping to make a difference, adding that it is disappointing not to see Bryant on the court for the Lakers in a playoff series.
“Not really,” Ginobili said. “Of course, playing against him makes you better, that’s for sure.
“He challenges you on every possession, but I’m not going to miss him, that’s for sure.”
The night’s other contest sees defending champions Miami Heat take on the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 1 in what could be a very short series.
LeBron James and company are heavy favorites to start the series with a victory at the AmericanAirlines Arena Sunday and then go on to win the next three.
However, Milwaukee guard Brandon Jennings, who is averaging 23.8 points against the Heat this season, believes the Miami Heat have weaknesses just like every team and is confident the Bucks can surprise the favorites and win the series.
“I asked for this matchup, actually, a while back, just for the fact that I think we match up well against them,” a confident Jennings, who scored 30 points against Miami in the last outing said.
“Every time we play the Heat it’s either a close loss or we probably blow them out or something happens.
“I’m real confident in this, I’m sure everybody’s writing us off, but I see us winning the series in six.”
Meanwhile, James Harden will face his former team at least four more times this season as his Houston Rockets outfits tackle the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 1 of their series in the West.
“I knew it was going to happen like this, for some reason,” Harden said of the series matchup.
“That’s the beauty of it, that’s what basketball is.”
Harden has admitted that he has spoken to his good friends Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook since the series draw.
“It’s all business now,” Harden said. “Those guys are competing for a championship, so it’s all business.”
There is no doubt Harden is the main threat to the Thunder, but Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks there will be no special treatment on him, especially with the likes of Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik, Chandler Parsons and others primed to attack his team.
“He’s a good player. He had a great year, a regular-season All-Star. He has helped their team get to the playoffs with all of the work he has put in,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “They have some good players around him, too. Just like us, we’re not a one- or two-man team. We’re a good team and they’re a good team. We’re going to be focused on stopping all their players.
“It’s definitely not going to be, `How are we going to stop James?’ It’s always about how are we going to stop the Houston Rockets from scoring on us.”
The opener on Sunday will be at Chesapeake Energy Arena, live on TNT, starting at 9:30 p.m. ET.
Durant, who sat out the final regular season game is back in the starting line-up tonight for Oklahoma City.
INDIANA PACERS (3) VS. ATLANTA HAWKS (6)
Game 1 @Indiana: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, TNT
SAN ANTONIO SPURS (2) VS. LOS ANGELES LAKERS (7)
Game 1 @San Antonio: Sunday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
MIAMI HEAT (1) VS. MILWAUKEE BUCKS (8)
Game 1 @Miami: Sunday, 7 p.m. ET, TNT
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (1) VS. HOUSTON ROCKETS (8)
Game 1 @Oklahoma City: Sunday, 9:30 p.m. ET, TNT