The stage is set for the 2013 NBA playoffs and the 8 series of the first round, with the NBA champions Miami Heat taking on the Milwaukee Bucks, the New York Knicks tangle with the Boston Celtics, the Indiana Pacers squared off against the Atlanta Hawks and the Brooklyn Nets play the Chicago Bulls in the East, while out West it’s the Oklahoma City Thunder playing the Houston Rockets, the San Antonio Spurs with the Los Angeles Lakers, the Denver Nuggets and the Golden State Warriors and last but not least the Los Angeles Clippers facing the Memphis Grizzlies.
The East, as always, features the only team to make the postseason with a losing record (Bucks), while they’re joined by the Warriors, Rockets and Nets as teams breaking a playoff drought of some sort by finishing in their conference top 8 in 2012-2013. The NBA playoffs begin on April 20, with the first round series carrying on until early May.
Milwaukee Bucks (8) & Miami Heat (1)
The Milwaukee Bucks knew what they were doing when they changed head coaches midseason, switching from Scott Skiles to Jim Boylan. The Bucks finished with a 38-44 record, their best since the 2009-2010 season, which was also their last time making the postseason. Monta Ellis, averaging 19.2 points per game, is the team’s leading scorer. They haven’t been to the conference semifinal since 2001, but it’s unlikely they’ll manage to upset the NBA champions.
The Miami Heat had their best season in franchise history, finishing with a 66-16 record, including an 8 game win-streak to end the season. It’s their fifth consecutive season of making the playoffs and ninth in the past 10 seasons. LeBron James is leading the team in scoring with 26.8 points per game, and just to keep Heat fans calm, James has never been knocked out in the first round of the playoffs.
Houston Rockets (8) & Oklahoma City Thunder (1)
The Houston Rockets make the playoffs for the first time since the 2008-2009 season, finishing with a 45-37 record, also the team’s best since that year, when they were still coach by Rick Adelman. James Harden is the team’s leading scorer with 25.9 points per game, as the Rockets hope to win a first round series as an 8th seed for the first time in franchise history.
The Oklahoma City Thunder won the conference for the first time since leaving Seattle, finishing with a 60-22 record, the franchise’s first 60 win season since 1998 and their first number one seed in the conference since the 1996 season, which ended up being a trip to the NBA Finals against the Chicago Bulls. Kevin Durant, who missed out on the scoring title, is the team’s leading scorer with 28.1 points per game, hoping to win three more games than they did last season.
Boston Celtics (7) & New York Knicks (2)
The Boston Celtics enter the postseason as the 7th seed in the East, the first time since the “big three” era began without home court advantage in the first round series. The Celtics finished with a 41-40 record, their worst since the 2006-2007 season, later beginning a streak that is now six consecutive playoff appearances. Paul Pierce, with 18.6 points per game, is the team’s leading scorer in a injury-plagued season.
For the New York Knicks, this is the first time they’ll have home court advantage in a first round series since 2001, hoping to actually make it past the first round for the first time since 2000. They finished with a 54-28 record, the team’s best since the 1996-1997 season. Carmelo Anthony was the team’s and the NBA’s leading scorer with 28.6 points per game.
Los Angeles Lakers (7) & San Antonio Spurs (2)
The Los Angeles Lakers finished with a 45-37 record, their worst since the 2005-2006 season. Eventually, they managed to make the playoffs for a 7th consecutive time, winning five in a row to finish the season. The team’s leading scorer in the absence of Kobe Bryant (27.3 ppg) is Dwight Howard, averaging 17.1 points per game. It’s been six years since the Lakers entered the postseasons without home court advantage in the first round.
The San Antonio Spurs had a weak ending to the season, losing their last three games and seven of their last 10. However, it’s their 15th consecutive appearance in the playoffs after a 58-24 campaign. Their leading scorer this season is Tony Parker with 20.3 points per game, but his health is questionable heading into the most important stage of the season.
Atlanta Hawks (6) & Indiana Pacers (3)
The Atlanta Hawks make it into the postseason for the sixth consecutive time, hoping that not having the home court advantage in the first round won’t stop them from making it into the second round for a fourth time in five seasons. The Hawks finished with a 44-38 record, on par with what they’ve been achieving over the last few seasons. Josh Smith, with 17.5 points per game, is the team’s leading scorer.
Despite the feeling of success this year, the Pacers, finishing with a 49-32 record, actually did slightly worse than last season percentage-wise. They make the postseason for a third consecutive time, earning first round home court advantage for a second straight year. Paul George, with 17.4 points per game, is the team’s leading scorer.
Golden State Warriors (6) & Denver Nuggets (3)
With a 47-35 season, the Golden State Warriors make the postseason for the first time since 2007, when they stunned the Mavs in the first round despite being an 8th seed. They actually finished with a 48-34 record in 2008, but it wasn’t enough to get you into the playoffs. Stephen Curry, with 22.9 points per game, was the team’s leading scorer.
For the Denver Nuggets, their 57-25 season is the best in franchise history, or at least since the NBA/ABA merger. They make it into the playoffs for a 10th consecutive time, hoping to make it out of the first round, this time having home court advantage, for only the second time in the last decade. Averaging 16.7 points per game, the not so healthy Ty Lawson is the team’s top scorer.
Chicago Bulls (5) & Brooklyn Nets (4)
The Chicago Bulls make it into the postseason for the fifth time in a row, despite their worst record (45-37) since the 2009-2010 season. The Bulls haven’t made it out of a first round series without home court advantage since the 2007 playoffs, when they swept the NBA champions, Miami Heat. Luol Deng averaging 16.5 points per game is the team’s leading scorer.
The Brooklyn Nets only needed to move West in order to make the playoffs, reaching the postseason for the first time since 2007. Their 49-33 record is tied for a franchise best since the 2001-2002 season, when they made it all the way to the NBA finals. Brook Lopez, with 19.4 points per game, is the team’s leading scorer.
Memphis Grizzlies (5) & Los Angeles Clippers (4)
The Memphis Grizzlies enjoyed their best season ever with a 56-26 record, good enough only for a fifth seed in the West and no home court advantage in the first round series, making it into the playoffs for a third consecutive time, hoping to make it out of the first round for only the second time in franchise history. Zach Randolph, with 15.9 points per game, is the team’s leading scorer.
The Los Angeles Clippers make it into the postseason for a second consecutive time for the first time in 20 years, finishing with a franchise best 56-26 on a very strong finish to the season. Their 4th seed, not to mention home court advantage, is the highest they’ve achieved since moving to Los Angeles. Blake Griffin, with 18 points per game, is the team’s leading scorer.