With the first-ever Play-In Tournament all wrapped up, it's on to the main course: the NBA Playoffs begin today. Between injuries to major stars, uncertainty chemistry on top teams, and unproven upstarts in the East and West, the championship race feels more competitive than it has in years. We spoke with ESPN NBA Analyst and Reporter Doris Burke to get her thoughts on the NBA landscape as the playoffs begin. Check out our interview below, followed by first-round schedule. To watch the NBA Playoffs on Sling, sign up for Sling Orange with Sports Extras using the link at the bottom of this page.
Doris Burke Interview
Sling: Are the Jazz legit contenders?
Doris Burke: The Jazz will be a legitimate threat if they can sustain a high level of three-point shooting throughout the course of the playoffs and if Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley are both healthy. All of those things will contribute to what could be an NBA Finals run for the Jazz.
Are the Suns legit contenders?
Chris Paul makes the Phoenix Suns a legitimate threat to come out of the West for a couple of reasons: His leadership and experience have had a profound influence on this group. The key for me is can Deandre Ayton be a consistent, mature basketball player throughout the course of the run. Those two things will be key.
Who is a bigger threat to the Nets? The 76ers or Bucks?
I would say the Sixers are the more dangerous threat than the Bucks to beat Brooklyn in the playoffs for this reason: Joel Embiid has had an MVP-level season and he is a unique force in today's NBA. He can beat you on the post, or he can beat you from the perimeter. You've got to game-plan for him. The key for the Sixers is, can they get enough three-point shooting to beat a very dangerous offensive team in Brooklyn.
Can the Miami Heat find their bubble form?
So the Miami Heat have played their best basketball of late, the key is, when Jimmy Butler plays, he provides such incredible leadership on both ends that it raises the level of his teammates. You've got an individual defensive part in Bam Adebayo that is so versatile and so impactful on the defensive end, and tremendous shooting with Duncan Robinson and Tyler Hero. Yes, I think the Miami Heat can regain their Orlando bubble form.
Do the Clippers have what it takes to win a title?
So Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are elite two-way players. They can sustain your offense, and they can lock up a great scorer on the defensive end. The addition of Rajan Rondo may ultimately prove the difference; his value to the Lakers' championship a year ago is undeniable, he is having a similar influence here, it will be fascinating to see can the Clippers get over the hump.
Who else in the West intrigues you?
The Denver Nuggets have raised my eyebrows in the West for this reason: They actually have a slightly better record without Jamal Murray. Michael Porter Jr. has emerged as a legitimate second scoring threat, and you've got the MVP, Nikola Jokic, who can beat you with his scoring and his passing. Watch out for the Denver Nuggets.
First Round: Saturday, May 22 to Monday, May 31
|Saturday, May 22|
|2:00 PM||Heat at Bucks||ESPN||Sling Orange|
|4:30 PM||Mavericks at Clippers||ESPN||Sling Orange|
|8:00 PM||Celtics at Nets||ESPN3||Sling Orange|
|10:30 PM||Trail Blazers at Nuggets||ESPN||Sling Orange|
|Sunday, May 23|
|1:00 PM||Wizards at 76ers||TNT||Sling Orange or Blue|
|3:30 PM||Lakers at Phoenix Suns||ESPN3||Sling Orange|
|7:00 PM||Hawks at Knicks||TNT||Sling Orange or Blue|
|7:30 PM||Grizzlies at Jazz||TNT||Sling Orange or Blue|
|Monday, May 24|
|7:30 PM||Heat at Bucks||TNT||Sling Orange or Blue|
|10:00 PM||Trail Blazers at Nuggets||TNT||Sling Orange or Blue|
|Tuesday, May 25|
|7:30 PM||Celtics at Nets||TNT||Sling Orange or Blue|
|10:00 PM||Lakers at Suns||TNT||Sling Orange or Blue|
|10:30 PM||Mavericks at Clippers||NBA TV||Sports Extras|
|Wednesday, May 26|
|7:00 PM||Wizards at 76ers||NBA TV||Sports Extras|
|7:30 PM||Hawks at Knicks||TNT||Sling Orange or Blue|
|10:00 PM||Grizzlies at Jazz||TNT||Sling Orange or Blue|
|Thursday, May 27|
|7:30 PM||Bucks at Heat||TNT||Sling Orange or Blue|
|10:00 PM||Suns at Lakers||TNT||Sling Orange or Blue|
|10:30 PM||Nuggets at Trail Blazers||NBA TV||Sports Extras|
|Friday, May 28|
|7:00 PM||Knicks at Hawks||ESPN||Sling Orange|
|8:30 PM||Nets at Celtics||ESPN3||Sling Orange|
|9:30 PM||Clippers at Mavericks||ESPN||Sling Orange|
|Saturday, May 29|
|TBD||76ers at Wizards||ESPN||Sling Orange|
|TBD||Jazz at Grizzlies||ESPN||Sling Orange|
|1:30 PM||Bucks at Heat||TNT||Sling Orange or Blue|
|4:00 PM||Nuggets at Trail Blazers||TNT||Sling Orange or Blue|
|Sunday, May 30|
|1:00 PM||Knicks at Hawks||ESPN3||Sling Orange|
|3:30 PM||Suns at Lakers||ESPN3||Sling Orange|
|7:00 PM||Nets ar Celtics||TNT||Sling Orange or Blue|
|9:30 PM||Clippers at Mavericks||TNT||Sling Orange or Blue|
|Monday, May 31|
|7:00 PM||76ers at Wizards||TNT||Sling Orange or Blue|
|9:30 PM||Jazz at Grizzlies||TNT||Sling Orange or Blue|
Watch the NBA Playoffs beginning Saturday, May 22!