After a grueling, 82-game season that was highlighted with some of the most captivating moments in league history, the postseason has finally arrived, and we’ve created a primer for the first round of this year’s NBA Playoff bracket. Every team’s fan base is itching to purchase NBA Finals tickets, but the journey to the Larry O’Brien Trophy begins in the first round, and Vivid Seats is proud to offer NBA Playoff tickets throughout every round of the postseason. Sixteen squads are ready to compete for a championship, and now that the NBA Playoff schedule has been determined, here’s a look at what’s to come:
No. 1 Miami Heat (66-16) vs. No. 8 Milwaukee Bucks (38-44)
With the best record in the NBA, the defending champion Miami Heat own home court advantage throughout the playoffs, and their first test will come against the eighth-seeded Milwaukee Bucks. After rattling off 27 consecutive wins and coming close to the NBA’s all-time record, the Heat appear virtually unbeatable, especially with likely MVP LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh locked in on offense and defense. Miami won the season series, 3-1, but the Bucks have a shot if Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis come out firing, and if they exploit Miami’s Achilles’ heel: rebounding. The Bucks play solid defense and are ranked fifth in the NBA in rebounds per game (44.0), while Miami was 30th (38.6), so there’s an outside chance for an epic upset.
American Airlines Arena in Miami, Fla. - (Game 1: April 21; Game 2: April 23; Game 5: April 30; Game 7: May 4)
BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wis. - (Game 3: April 25; Game 4: April 28; Game 6: May 2)
No. 2 New York Knicks (54-28) vs. No. 7 Boston Celtics (41-40)
The New York Knicks will host the first playoff game in 2013, and it’ll be against the Boston Celtics. Madison Square Garden will be electric when these rivals face off, especially with the Knicks having won 16 of their last 18 games and Carmelo Anthony securing his first NBA scoring title (28.7 ppg). New York won the season series, 3-1, and continuing that trend will likely hinge on three-point shooting and Tyson Chandler’s defense. For the Celtics to advance, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce will need to shine, but without Rajon Rondo, Beantown must play solid team defense and get huge contributions from Jason Terry and Jeff Green.
Madison Square Garden in New York City, N.Y. - (Game 1: April 20; Game 2: April 23; Game 5: May 1; Game 7: May 5 )
TD Garden in Boston, Mass. - (Game 3: April 26; Game 4: April 28; Game 6: May 3)
No. 3 Indiana Pacers (49-32) vs. No. 6 Atlanta Hawks (44-38)
In the only first round playoff matchup in which the season series was tied (2-2), the Indiana Pacers are set to play the Atlanta Hawks. Indiana comes in as the NBA’s best overall defense, and with Paul George emerging as an all-star, they’re lethal on both ends of the court. Besides George, the focus on this one will be on the bigs inside, especially the matchups between Indiana’s Roy Hibbert and David West against Atlanta’s Al Horford and Josh Smith, but that’s where the Hawks can capitalize. Atlanta finished second in the NBA in assists per game (24.5), and with sharpshooters like Kyle Korver, John Jenkins, and DeShawn Stevenson around the perimeter, they can light up the scoreboard quickly.
Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind. - (Game 1: April 21; Game 2: April 24; Game 5: May 1; Game 7: May 5)
Philips Arena in Atlanta, Ga. - (Game 3: April 27; Game 4: April 29; Game 6: May 3)
No. 4 Brooklyn Nets (49-33) vs. No. 5 Chicago Bulls (45-37)
Behind the momentum of many offseason changes, including the move to the Big Apple, the Brooklyn Nets earned their first playoff berth since 2007, and now they’re set to take on the Chicago Bulls. The Nets and Bulls battled closely all season, and though Chicago won the season series, 3-1, the wins were by a combined total of just 10 points. The Nets big three of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Brook Lopez spearheaded a surging Nets attack down the stretch, helping Brooklyn win seven of its last nine games. However, the Bulls boast a stellar defense, keyed by all-stars like Joakim Noah and Luol Deng, who can counter the momentum. The Bulls also could gain an edge if Derrick Rose decides that he’s ready to return during the series.
Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. - (Game 1: April 20, Game 2: April 22; Game 5: April 29; Game 7: May 4)
United Center in Chicago, Ill. - (Game 3: April 25; Game 4: April 27; Game 6: May 2)
No. 1 Oklahoma City Thunder (60-22) vs. No. 8 Houston Rockets (47-37)
In what could be the most entertaining series out west, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and the Oklahoma City Thunder are scheduled to take on James Harden, Jeremy Lin, and the Houston Rockets. This series has all of the elements to make it one of the best in the entire postseason. The Thunder come in hot, having won 10 of their last 13 games and focused on making it back to the NBA Finals, while Harden is set on sticking it to his former team, and “Linsanity” will get his first taste of the NBA Playoffs. OKC claimed the season series, 2-1, but in the only game that took place in 2013, Harden scored a career-high 46 points to lead the Rockets to a 122-119 victory. Eight-seeds toppling one-seeds are rare in the NBA, but this one has potential, though Durant and Westbrook’s combined 51.3 points per game may prove to be too much to overcome.
Chesapeake Energy Center in Oklahoma City, Okla. - (Game 1: April 21; Game 2: April 24; Game 5: May 1; Game 7: May 5)
Toyota Center in Houston, Texas -(Game 3: April 27; Game 4: April 29; Game 6: May 3)
No. 2 San Antonio Spurs (58-24) vs. No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers (45-37)
Once again, the San Antonio Spurs quietly compiled one of the NBA’s best records and are sliding into the NBA Playoffs under the radar, but this year, they’ll be taking on the media-frenzied Los Angeles Lakers. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili are searching for their fourth NBA Championship together, but the Lakers are the ones captivating the world. L.A. claimed a playoff spot in the final game of the season, besting the Rockets to claim the seventh seed, and it’s up to veterans Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, and the injury-riddled Steve Nash to gel quickly if an upset is in the cards. San Antonio already has the advantage in the season series, 2-1, and the Lakers will have to make do without the great Kobe Bryant, who’s out with a torn Achilles.
AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas -(Game 1: April 21; Game 2: April 24; Game 5: April 30; Game 7: May 4)
Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif. - (Game 3: April 26; Game 4: April 28; Game 6: May 2)
No. 3 Denver Nuggets (57-25) vs. No. 6 Golden State Warriors (47-35)
On paper, Denver looks like the clear favorite to take out its first-round opponent, the Golden State Warriors, as the Nuggets enter the postseason ranked first in points per game (106.1), second in rebounds (45.0) and third in assists (24.4). Regardless, this one should be highly competitive. While the Nuggets led the season series, 3-1, and still boast stars like Andre Iguodala and Ty Lawson, they’ve lost Danilo Gallinari, and Kenneth Faried has an ankle injury. Meanwhile, the Warriors are riding a wave of positive energy, having made the playoffs for the first time since 2007, and feature a record-breaking Stephen Curry, who hit the most three-pointers in a season (272). They’ve also got all-star David Lee and Sixth Man of the Year candidate Jarrett Jack playing with passion. Both teams are in the top 10 in scoring and top three in rebounds, so this one should be closer than expected.
Pepsi Center in Denver, Colo. -(Game 1: April 20; Game 2: April 23; Game 5: April 30; Game 7: May 4)
Oracle Arena in Oakland, Ca. - (Game 3: April 26; Game 4: April 28; Game 6: May 2)
No. 4 Los Angeles Clippers (56-26) vs. No. 5 Memphis Grizzlies (56-26)
In 2012, the Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies met in the first round in a thrilling postseason showdown, with the Clippers ultimately winning in seven games. In 2013, they’re ready to do it again. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin helped Lob City win the season series, 3-1, but that may have only further fueled the fire for Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph’s potential redemption. The Grizzlies’ stingy defense allowed the fewest points per game (89.3), but the Clips were ninth-best in the NBA in points per game (101.1), so this one could go either way. Both teams boast 56-26 records, so it may be the Clippers’ home-court advantage that tips the scale. Either way, this is one of the must-see matchups of the playoffs.
Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif. - (Game 1: April 20; Game 2: April 22; Game 5: April 30; Game 7: May 5)
FedExForum in Memphis, Tenn. - (Game 3: April 25; Game 4: April 27; Game 6: May 3)