Monday, May 20, 2024

NBA playoff games today: How to watch, predictions for Game 1s on Saturday

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Now the real tournament starts.

The NBA playoffs start on Saturday with four first-round matchups, two from each conference. The Cleveland Cavaliers host the Orlando Magic in the first game, followed by the the Phoenix Suns facing the Minnesota Timberwolves, the New York Knicks against the Philadelphia 76ers and capped off by the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets in the late game.

It is important for the home teams to keep that advantage, as teams that win Game 1 in any series go on to win that series about 75% of the time. The marquee matchup is between the Nuggets and the Lakers in a rematch of the Western Conference Finals, in which the Nuggets swept on their way to the NBA championship.

Here’s what you need to know about Saturday’s playoff games:

Who is playing in Saturday’s NBA playoff games?

How to watch Saturday’s NBA playoff games

Orlando-Cleveland, Philadelphia-New York, and Phoenix-Minnesota will air on ESPN; Los Angeles-Denver will be shown on ABC and streamed on the ESPN app. Streaming also available via Fubo.

Orlando Magic at Cleveland Cavaliers: What to know

Cleveland is looking to bounce back from last year’s playoff failure, a five-game drubbing in the first round by the New York Knicks. This Cleveland team will be dependent on the health of its stars, such as guard Donovan Mitchell, who has been slowed by a knee bruise. Orlando is making its first playoff appearance since 2020 and hasn’t made it out of the first round since the 2009-2010 season. The teams split the four regular season games.

Philadelphia 76ers at New York Knicks: What to know

The New York Knicks clawed their way to the second seed, led by guard Jalen Brunson and his 28.7 points and 6.7 assists per game average, who has played outstanding basketball, especially over the past two months. The Sixers are still working MVP Joel Embiid back into the rotation and will also rely on guard Tyrese Maxey’s scoring and try to keep Brunson from getting into the lane. New York won three out of the four meetings against Philadelphia during the regular season.

Phoenix Suns at Minnesota Timberwolves: What to know

Will the real Phoenix Suns show up? With Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and Bradley Beal, three of the league’s highest-level scorers, the Suns’ future might depend on them making a deep playoff run. To do that, they must get past the high-flying Timberwolves, led by Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns, and boast the league’s top defense.

Los Angeles Lakers at Denver Nuggets: What to know

Over the past two seasons, the Lakers have had no answer for the Nuggets, including a sweep in the Western Conference Finals last year. Nikola Jokic is again playing at an MVP level, and there is nothing to suggest they won’t just waltz to the Finals with a chance to repeat as champions. The Lakers have the capability of pulling off an upset, but LeBron James and Anthony Davis need to show up every single game and can’t afford to slack, or it’s going to be an early summer for the Lake Show.

Predictions for Saturday’s playoff games

Jeff Zillgitt: Magic over Cavaliers, Knicks over 76ers, Suns over Timberwolves, Nuggets over Lakers

Scooby Axson: Cavaliers over Magic, Knicks over 76ers, Timberwolves over Suns, Nuggets over Lakers

NBA playoff bracket

Western Conference

  • No. 1 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. No. 8 New Orleans Pelicans
  • No. 4 Los Angeles Clippers vs. No. 5 Dallas Mavericks
  • No. 3 Minnesota Timberwolves vs. No. 6 Phoenix Suns
  • No. 2 Denver Nuggets vs. No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers

Eastern Conference

  • No. 1 Boston Celtics vs. No. 8 Miami Heat
  • No. 4 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. No. 5 Orlando Magic
  • No. 3 Milwaukee Bucks vs. No. 6 Indiana Pacers
  • No. 2 New York Knicks vs. No. 7 Philadelphia 76ers

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