NBA Playoffs: Chicago, Thunder, Miami all in action

(Sporting Alert) — The abbreviated, but excited regular season is now behind us and the NBA Playoffs win or go home series begin on Saturday.

The Games will be Live on TNT | ABC | and ESPN
Philadelphia at Chicago: Game 1 1:00 PM on TNT
New York at Miami: Game 1 3:30 PM on ABC
Orlando at Indiana: Game 1 7:00 PM on ESPN and ESPN3.com
Dallas at Oklahoma City: Game 1 9:30 PM on ESPN and ESPN3.com

Four games are on Saturday – starting at 12 Noon in the Eastern Conference with the Chicago Bulls (50-16), which finished with the best record of the regular playing host to the Philadelphia 76ers (35-31), who after a good start struggled in the middle and latter parts of the season.

The Bulls, which are 26-7 at home are expected to have star point guard Derrick Rose back for the game. The reigning MVP has been hit by a number injuries and has featured in just 39 of the Chicago Bulls’ 66 regular season games this term.

He was not active with the team at practice on Friday, but Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is expecting his star man to come back healthy again.

“I like the progress that he’s made,” Thibodeau said. “In the past, he’s always shown that he comes back very quickly, so we’re hopeful that will be the case this time, too.”

The Sixers also know how deadly the guard can be and forward Andre Iguodala hopes that if he plays they will be able to contain him.

“You just got to try to keep him from killing you,” he said. “He’s so quick with the ball.

“You want to keep him out of the paint — easier said than done — and hopefully he just isn’t having a good shooting night. The game he beat us in Philly he shot the ball really well. He hurt us from the 3.

“He was the MVP obviously because he’s a very talented player, and he can do a lot of things on the court. We’re going to try to build some schemes to keep him from killing us too much.”

Game 2 of the Eastern Conference first round will be the Miami Heat taking on the New York Knicks.

The Heat are still waiting on Chris Bosh, who is listed as day-to-day, but Dwyane Wade and LeBron James are both expected to be back.

Bosh was being bothered by a hamstring problem, but it is believed the forward is has recovered. Wade (finger) and James were also rested in Thursday night’s regular season finale defeat to the Washington Wizards. Although the loss was 104-70, the Heat are not too concerned seeing that they played with key figures.

Meanwhile, Tyson Chandler is to miss the first game because of illness, but Jeff Van Gundy believes that if Carmelo Anthony can continue to play the way he has been in recent weeks and get active support from the likes of Amare Stoudemire and their three-pointers, then it should be a challenging series for Miami.

The Heat won all three of the regular series clashes.

There are two other games in the playoffs on Saturday – with the improving Indiana Pacers (42-24) taking on the Orlando Magic (37-29) and scoring champion Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder (47-19) facing Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Maverick (36-30) in the lone Western Conference game tonight.

The Thunder could have James Harden back for the contest against the defending champion as the he’s feeling much better and ready to get past the vicious elbow from the LA Lakers’ Metta World Peace last weekend.

Harden is averaging 16.8 points per game and the Thunder will certainly need him to be healthy if they stand a chance of progressing to the finals or even winning it all.

There are certainly concerns about the Mavericks sharpness to face such a running Oklahoma City team, but Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle likes his team’s chances to win the series.

“Look, we’re old and slow and Oklahoma City is young and fast,” he said. “So, you know, we’re going to have to play a smart series.

“We’re going to have to play a hard and intelligent series, and we’re going to have to play to our strengths.”

Carlisle has also made special plans to deal with the Thunder’s big three.

He said: “We want to keep [Russell Westbrook out of the paint, for sure, but you know, Harden is another guy that gets into the paint and Harden may draw more fouls per minute than anybody in basketball, including Durant and Westbrook.

“All three of those guys present major challenges and look we’d love Westbrook to take contested 18-foot shots, but we don’t want to just give him 18-foot shots because, I mean he’s making those.”

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