2011 NBA Playoffs: Several Intriguing First Round Matchups

The Lakers open their series with the Hornets on Sunday afternoon at Staples Center.

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2011 NBA Playoffs: Eastern Conference First Round Matchups & Schedule

The 2011 NBA playoffs are upon us, and while we at SB Nation Los Angeles might be a little more invested in the Western Conference, consider this look at the Eastern Conference a scouting exercise for a potential Lakers' berth in the NBA Finals. There are several intriguing matchups in the first round in the Eastern Conference, even if upsets might be hard to come by.

Here are the first round matchups for the Eastern Conference, which gets underway Saturday afternoon. For the full schedule, be sure to check out SB Nation's NBA playoff coverage.

No. 1 Chicago Bulls (62-20) vs. No. 8 Indiana Pacers (37-45): The Bulls have made defense cool again, and first-year head coach Tim Thibodeau, a lock for Coach of the Year, guided Chicago to the best record in the NBA. The Bulls' three wins over the Pacers were by a combined 53 points, but the Pacers were able to secure an overtime win over Chicago on March 18. The Bulls finished their regular season winning 21 of their last 23 games.

No. 4 Orlando Magic (52-30) vs. No. 5 Atlanta Hawks (44-38): This has a chance to be a terrible series, as both teams are an absolute mess. Atlanta has been terrible since the beginning of February, finishing their season 11-20 and have lost six straight. The Magic are the better team, but have also lost three of four to Atlanta this season.

No. 3 Boston Celtics (56-26) vs. No. 6 New York Knicks (42-40): The Celtics, like last year, coasted into the playoffs, but insist they're healthy and ready to go as the playoffs begin. I'm inclined to believe them. The Knicks are just 14-14 since acquiring Carmelo Anthony.

No. 2 Miami Heat (58-24) vs. No. 7 Philadelphia 76ers (41-41): The Heat should be able to make quick work of Philadelphia, whom they have beaten three times this season without a loss, and give everyone the Eastern Conference matchup they wanted to see, a second round scrum with the Celtics.


2011 NBA Playoffs: Western Conference First Round Matchups & Schedule

Now that the regular season has concluded, the 2011 NBA playoffs get underway Saturday. There are several questions in the Western Conference, like will the Lakers advance to their fourth straight NBA Finals even though they aren't the top seed? Will the San Antonio Spurs, who have the best record in the conference but are 12-11 in their last 23 games, ride home court advantage to a fifth Finals berth? Can Dirk Nowitzki lead Dallas any further than the second round? Does the addition of Kendrick Perkins make Oklahoma City a legitimate title threat? Will there be any upsets in the first round?

Here are the first round matchups for the Western Conference. For the full schedule, be sure to check out SB Nation's NBA playoff coverage.

No. 1 San Antonio Spurs (61-21) vs. No. 8 Memphis Grizzlies (46-36): The Spurs were just 2-2 against the Grizzlies this season, with both teams winning twice on their home floor. In fact, one of San Antonio's home wins over Memphis came in overtime, so this series may be closer than we think. For the Grizzlies to win, they need Zach Randolph, and probably Marc Gasol, to go off, exploiting San Antonio's soft middle. However, San Antonio is a veteran crew who didn't win 61 games for nothing.

No. 4 Oklahoma City Thunder (55-27) vs. No. 5 Denver Nuggets (50-32): This features a battle of two teams that were hot after big deadline trades. Oklahoma City had a 19-4 stretch with Perkins before losing its final contest, while Denver flourished after trading Carmelo Anthony, going 18-7 after the All-Star break. This might be the most fun first round matchup to watch, with two young, exciting offensively-minded teams.

No. 3 Dallas Mavericks (57-25) vs. No. 6 Portland Trail Blazers (48-34): The Mavericks came very close to nabbing the No. 2 seed from the Lakers, but a Kobe Bryant three-pointer extended L.A.'s game in Sacramento Wednesday night, a game the Lakers won. Dallas will have to deal with a different L.A. in this series, as LaMarcus Aldridge (21.8 ppg, 8.8 rpg) will try to lead the Blazers to the upset. Portland has dealt with several injuries all season and was languishing at just over .500 in early February, but ended the season 22-10. These two teams have split four games this season, with each team winning two home games.

No. 2 Los Angeles Lakers (57-25) vs. No. 7 New Orleans Hornets (46-36): The Lakers plan to have Andrew Bynum back by Sunday, and hope to play like the team that was 17-1 immediately after the All-Star break rather than the team that lost five straight games last week. The Lakers beat the Hornets all four times they played this season. Be sure to follow our coverage of the Lakers vs. Hornets matchup for a more detailed breakdown.


2011 NBA Playoffs First Round Schedule: Lakers Open Series With Hornets Sunday On ABC

The Los Angeles Lakers held on to defeat the Sacramento Kings in overtime on Wednesday night, clinching the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference of the NBA playoffs. The Lakers open their 2011 NBA playoff run, their quest for a third straight championship, with the No. 7 seed New Orleans Hornets. The series starts Sunday with a nationally televised game at Staples Center on ABC. Here is the full first round schedule for Lakers vs. Hornets (all times PDT):

  • Game 1 - Sunday, April 17, 12:30 p.m. (at Los Angeles)
  • Game 2 - Wednesday, April 20, 7:30 p.m. (at Los Angeles)
  • Game 3 - Friday, April 22, 6:30 p.m. (at New Orleans)
  • Game 4 - Sunday, April 24, 6:30 p.m. (at New Orleans)
  • Game 5* - Tuesday, April 26, TBD (at Los Angeles)
  • Game 6* - Thursday, April 28, TBD (at New Orleans)
  • Game 7* - Saturday, April 30, TBD (at Los Angeles)

*if necessary

For more news and information on the Lakers, be sure to read the SB Nation blog Silver Screen and Roll.


2011 NBA Playoffs: Lakers Clinch No. 2 Seed, Will Face Hornets In First Round

The Los Angeles Lakers needed overtime to do it, but they got their much-needed win on Wednesday night in Sacramento, clinching the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. That gives the Lakers home-court advantage in a potentially second-round series with the Dallas Mavericks. The Lakers will face the No. 7 seed New Orleans Hornets in the first round of the NBA playoffs. Here is a look at all the NBA playoff matchups in the Western Conference:

The NBA playoffs begin on Saturday. The full schedules will be released later tonight.

For more news and information on the Lakers, be sure to read the SB Nation blog Silver Screen and Roll.


2011 NBA Playoff Picture: Western Conference Bracket Nearly Set, Lakers Need Win For No. 2 Seed

The NBA Western Conference playoff bracket is nearly set. Four positions are set, with two teams having their fate in their own hands. If the Lakers beat the Kings, they are the No. 2 seed; if not, the Lakers are No. 3 while Dallas is No. 2. Here are the locked seeds with two relevant games remaining:

The Memphis Grizzlies are playing the Clippers at Staples Center right now. If Memphis wins, they are the No. 7 seed. If the Clippers win, Memphis falls to No. 8, with New Orleans taking the No. 7 spot. The NBA playoffs begin on Saturday. The Lakers got good news earlier today, when it was revealed that both Andrew Bynum and Matt Barnes are expected to be ready to play when the postseason begins.

For more news and information on the Lakers, be sure to read the SB Nation blog Silver Screen and Roll.


2011 NBA Playoff Picture: Lakers Will Be No. 2 Seed With Win Or Dallas Loss

The Los Angeles Lakers have the inside track to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference in the 2011 NBA playoffs. With either a win tonight in Sacramento against the Kings, or a loss by Dallas to New Orleans, the Lakers will be the No. 2 seed. If the Lakers lose and Dallas wins, the Lakers will be the No. 3 seed. However, the Lakers' thoughts on Wednesday are preoccupied as they await the results of the MRI on center Andrew Bynum, who hyper-extended his right knee Tuesday night.

If the Lakers are the No. 2 seed, they will play either New Orleans or Memphis in the first round. Both are tied for the No. 7 seed right now, with the Hornets holding the tiebreaker. The Hornets play Wednesday night in Dallas, while Memphis plays in Los Angeles against the Clippers. If the Lakers are the No. 3 seed, they will play Portland in the first round.

The Lakers, with their win Tuesday night over San Antonio, also clinched home court advantage should they meet the Celtics again in the NBA Finals. If the Lakers should happen to play the Bulls or Heat in the Finals, they would start on the road.

For more news and information on the Lakers, be sure to read the SB Nation blog Silver Screen and Roll.


NBA Playoff Picture: Lakers, Mavericks, Thunder Vying For Position On Final Day Of Season

The Los Angeles Lakers’ battle for playoff seeding will come down to the wire. Indeed, the regular season ends Wednesday evening, and yet the Lakers (56-25), Dallas Mavericks (56-25), and Oklahoma City Thunder (55-26) have yet to nail down a playoff spot. The Lakers can finish second or third, the Mavericks can finish anywhere from second to fourth, and the Thunder can finish third or fourth.

Each of the league’s 30 teams is scheduled to play Wednesday night: the Lakers visit the Sacramento Kings, the Mavericks host the New Orleans Hornets, and the Thunder close their season against the Milwaukee Bucks. Here are the various scenarios for the Lakers based on Wednesday’s potential results:

The Lakers finish second if:

  • The Lakers win;

  • The Lakers lose, the Mavs lose, and the Thunder win;

  • The Lakers lose, the Mavs lose, and the Thunder lose.

The Lakers finish third if:

  • The Lakers lose, the Mavs win, and the Thunder win.

Indeed, Los Angeles controls its destiny here: a victory over the Kings assures the Lakers of the second seed. But if they can’t take care of business against Sacramento, they’ll need some cooperation from Dallas and OKC to maintain that spot.

For more news and information on the Lakers, be sure to read the SB Nation blog Silver Screen and Roll.


2011 NBA Playoff Picture: Lakers Need Wins To Remain No. 2 Seed In Western Conference

The Los Angeles Lakers still control their own destiny for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, but the road is getting tougher and tougher to traverse. Wins on Monday night by both the Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder have forced the Lakers to actually win a game (or likely two), something they haven't done in a week and a half. The Lakers host the top seed San Antonio Spurs Tuesday night in something of a must-win game for the purple and gold.

NBA Western Conference Standings
Seed Team Record
2 Dallas 56-25
3 Lakers 55-25
4 Oklahoma City 55-26

The Lakers have the fewest back-to-back games in the NBA this season, with 15, but they end their season with games on the final two nights. After tonight's game with the Spurs, they travel to Sacramento for Wednesday's regular season finale against the Kings. The Lakers could finish anywhere from the No. 2 to the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference.

The Lakers hold the tiebreaker over both Dallas and Oklahoma City, and the Mavericks hold the tiebreaker over the Thunder.

The Lakers' magic number to clinch the No. 2 seed remains at two. Either they win their last two games, or get one win and hope Dallas loses at home to New Orleans on Wednesday. The Lakers' magic number to stay ahead of Oklahoma City is just one, so the only way the Lakers finish as the No. 4 seed is if they lose both remaining games coupled with the Thunder losing at home to the Bucks Wednesday night.

There is one more factor in play. If the Lakers were to somehow get to the NBA Finals, they would not have home court advantage against either the Chicago Bulls or Miami Heat. However, they hold the tiebreaker over the Boston Celtics by virtue of a better record against the opposite conference. The Lakers need just one win, or a Boston loss to the Knicks on Wednesday to ensure that possible advantage over the Celtics in what would be an NBA Finals rematch.

For more news and information on the Lakers, be sure to read the SB Nation blog Silver Screen and Roll.


NBA Playoff Picture: Lakers' Losing Streak Could Drop Them From Second To Fourth In West

The Los Angeles Lakers’ loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday afternoon marked the defending NBA champions’ fifth straight loss and moved them into a tie, at 55-25, with the Dallas Mavericks for second place in the Western Conference. Though the San Antonio Spurs already put first place out of reach, the rest of the schedule ought to matter to L.A., as homecourt advantage against the rest of the West’s playoff bracket is at stake.

Currently, the Lakers own the tiebreaker over Dallas because they are division champs and the Mavericks, well behind San Antonio, is not. But it’s still possible for Dallas, and even fourth-place Oklahoma City, to pass the Lakers in the standings outright.

For Dallas, passing L.A. would require winning its final two games and the Lakers dropping at least once. Further, if the Lakers lose their remaining two games, the Mavericks win at least once, and the Thunder win their final two games, the Lakers would slip to fourth out West.

Not so long ago, the Lakers had a chance to steal first place from the then-slumping Spurs. But now, they’re the juggernaut in danger of needlessly complicating its path to the championship by losing grip on a high playoff seed.


NBA Playoff Picture: San Antonio Spurs Clinch Top Seed, Relegating Los Angeles Lakers To Second

The Los Angeles Lakers’ three-game losing streak, coupled with the San Antonio Spurs winning two straight, clinched the top seed in the Western Conference for San Antonio. It is officially impossible for the Lakers (55-23) to catch the Spurs (60-19) this season, and they’ll have to settle for second.

However, the Lakers can rest comfortably knowing they will have the edge against the Dallas Mavericks should both teams finish with identical records. Winning the Pacific Division gives Los Angeles the tiebreaker over Dallas, which ranks second in its division.

When the postseason begins next weekend, the Lakers will draw whichever team finishes seventh in the West, likely the New Orleans Hornets (currently sixth) or Portland Trail Blazers. The Lakers swept the season series from New Orleans, 4-0, winning by an average of nearly 11 points per game. So far, they’ve beaten Portland twice without a loss, though those games were closer than those against New Orleans: a five-point overtime victory and another four-point win. The teams meet for the final time in the regular season Friday night.


NBA Playoff Picture: Los Angeles Lakers Unlikely To Earn West's Top Playoff Seed

The Los Angeles Lakers helped the Utah Jazz snap an eight-game losing streak last night, 86-85, in what Lamar Odom called “our worst game of the year.” The loss puts the Lakers in a deep hole in their bid to catch the San Antonio Spurs for the no. 1 playoff seed in the Western Conference. Because the Spurs defeated the Atlanta Hawks last night, they opened a 3.5-game lead on the Lakers, and L.A. has just five games remaining.

In his Lakers/Jazz recap, C.A. Clark of Silver Screen and Roll, SB Nation’s Lakers blog, swears he isn’t upset about the loss. However, he doesn’t expect the Lakers to put forth a great effort the rest of the season. “If they can throw together a stinkbomb like this when there’s actually something to play for,” Clark asks, “how can we possibly think they will take the rest of the games left seriously?”

The Lakers take the court again tonight when they visit the Golden State Warriors. Tipoff is set for 7:30 PM.


2011 NBA Playoff Picture: Los Angeles Lakers In Hunt For West's Top Seed

The Los Angeles Lakers entered each of the last two posteasons with the Western Conference's best record, and have a chance to run that streak to three if they can overtake the San Antonio Spurs. On a 17-2 tear since co-hosting All-Star Weekend with the Clippers, the Lakers have moved to within striking distance of the Spurs atop the West and have put a 2.5-game cushion between themselves and the third-seeded Dallas Mavericks. Let's take a look at the scenarios as they stand today:

To guarantee a seed no worse than second, L.A. needs only a 3-3 close to the season. Doing so would ensure Dallas cannot catch the Lakers; even if the teams finish with identical records, the Lakers will own the higher seed by dint of winning their division, while Dallas has already guaranteed itself a second-place finish in its division. Should the Lakers slip to 2-4, the Mavericks can leapfrog them by winning their five remaining games. On the whole, it's very likely that the Lakers won't have to worry about Dallas catching them.

The more interesting race is with San Antonio. Here are the scenarios on that front:

  • If the Lakers finish the season 6-0, the Spurs would need to close their season 4-1 to guarantee the top seed in the West. Additionally, the Spurs' lone loss could not come to the Lakers; they would need to defeat Atlanta, Sacramento, Utah, and Phoenix.

  • If the Lakers go 5-1 in their final six games, San Antonio needs a 3-2 finish to maintain the top seed.

  • Should L.A. close its schedule with a 4-2 record, the Spurs need only finish 2-3 to hold on.

  • A modest 3-3 finish by the Lakers would mean San Antonio could afford to go 1-4 in its final five and still keep the West's best record.

Essentially, the Spurs are still in command here, but the combination of the Lakers' incredible 17-2 record since late February and San Antonio's six-game losing streak last week (since broken with a win against Phoenix) has made the race somewhat competitive again.

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