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                ***** NBA Previews from The Sports Network *****
                              Saturday, April 19th
                              (All times Eastern)
 (6) BROOKLYN NETS (0-0) AT (3) TORONTO RAPTORS (0-0), 12:30 P.M.
 ( - Two Atlantic Division rivals kick off the 2014 Playoffs
 on Saturday afternoon when the champion Toronto Raptors host the Brooklyn Nets
 at Air Canada Centre.
 The Raptors won the Atlantic Division crown for the first time since the
 2006-07 season. Their last postseason appearance came a season later when they
 were bounced in five games by the Orlando Magic. That division-winning team
 lost in six games in the opening round to the then New Jersey Nets.
 The Raptors were able to fend off the Nets for an Atlantic Division title and
 captured the third seed in the Eastern Conference. They battled the Chicago
 Bulls for the No. 3 spot and had the tiebreaker between the teams.
 Toronto set a franchise record for wins with 48 and ended the season with nine
 wins in the last 12 games.
 The teams split their four regular-season meetings with each team winning once
 at home and once as the visitor. The Nets are 5-3 in their last eight versus
 the Raptors, but Toronto is ready for its first postseason appearance in some
 "We just gotta go out there and play. Study film, study them, and get ready
 for them," said All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan. "We know we can beat them, we
 beat them twice this year. It should be fun. We understand they're an
 experienced team. We got our advantages and disadvantages. It could go both
 The experience factor clearly favors the Nets with future Hall of Famers in
 Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. The pair won a title in Boston and were
 perennial playoff contenders. Nets' players like Deron Williams, Joe Johnson,
 Andrei Kirilenko and Shaun Livingston also have plenty of postseason
 "I like right where we are," Brooklyn coach Jason Kidd said after a season-
 ending loss at Cleveland. "A good place. We've been playing some pretty good
 basketball of late. We've rested and guys have gotten their work in at the
 same time of healing some of the injuries they've had - some nicks and bruises
 healed. Now it's time to figure out a way to win a game on the road."
 The Raptors are by far the hotter of the two teams heading into Saturday's
 matinee, although they did lose their regular-season finale in Madison Square
 The Knicks bested Toronto, 95-92, but Raptors head coach Dwane Casey played
 his reserves more than his starters.
 The Nets dropped four of their last five in the regular season and fell from
 the fifth seed to sixth. Was it by design? The Nets will never say, but they
 did slip down the standings.
 After a 10-21 start where Kidd looked a little lost on the sidelines, Brooklyn
 turned it on and finished the season with a 34-17 record.
 The Raptors made a major splash during the season. They sent Rudy Gay packing
 for Sacramento and took off from that point. Toronto went 41-22 post-trade and
 played as well as any team in the Eastern Conference.
 The teams have split the last six meetings in Toronto.
 ( -  If there are two bloodsport rivals in the Western
 Conference, it has to be the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors,
 powers of the Pacific Division, who meet at the Staples Center Saturday
 afternoon in Game 1 of the quarterfinals.
 There have been fistfights, elbows to throats, ejections, claims of "cowardly
 basketball," and old-fashioned physical play.
 That was all just on Christmas night!
 Actually, three of the four regular-season meetings in 2013-14 featured some
 sort of physical altercation.
 "Not to hype it up at all, but there is no love lost between these two teams,"
 Warriors forward David Lee said after a Golden State loss to the Clippers on
 March 12.
 But, behind all of the silly pushing and shoving, lies a rivalry predicated on
 two teams that are both offensively proficient and defensively underrated.
 The Clippers finished first in scoring this season, with the Warriors 10th.
 Golden State was also 10th in opponents' scoring and LA came in 14th in that
 Los Angeles underwent significant changes in the offseason. Head coach Doc
 Rivers was acquired from the Boston Celtics for a first-round pick. He runs
 the basketball operations and brought in J.J. Redick, Jared Dudley, Danny
 Granger and Glen Davis.
 But the Clippers are run by Rivers' newest incarnation of the Big Three.
 Blake Griffin will most likely finish third in MVP voting behind Oklahoma
 City's Kevin Durant and Miami's LeBron James. Guard Chris Paul might have come
 in third had he not missed significant time with a shoulder injury. And
 DeAndre Jordan led the NBA in rebounding and finished third in blocked shots.
 It all translated into a franchise-record 57 wins.
 The Warriors also brought in a new, impactful face in the form of defensive
 specialist Andre Iguodala.
 However, the Warriors are built on their backcourt of Klay Thompson and
 especially Steph Curry. The two went 484-for-1,150 from long distance for 42
 percent. Curry improved dramatically as a facilitator, averaging 8.5 assists
 per game, which ranked fifth in the NBA. He made his first All-Star team and
 is among the game's elite.
 Head coach Mark Jackson tried to infuse a defensive mindset into the group. It
 worked for the most part, but problem is, their top enforcer, starting center
 Andrew Bogut, is out indefinitely with a broken rib. He was at the heart of
 most of the problems between the two teams.
 And this is a huge series for Jackson. Reports indicate his job might be in
 jeopardy if the Warriors lose. Allegations are he and owner Joe Lacob are at
 odds and, despite leading Golden State to a first-round upset of the Denver
 Nuggets last season, Jackson might be on the unemployment line if the Warriors
 The two teams don't like each other as Lee pointed out, and the series should
 be physical. Keeping out of the skirmishes could be an issue for the Clippers,
 who lost in the first round last season, despite having home-court advantage
 over the Memphis Grizzlies..
 "Like we've said all season long, it's about us," Paul said. "It's not about
 them. We have to play our game and do what we're supposed to do and we'll be
 just fine. We have to realize that each game takes on its own personality.
 It's one win at a time."
 The two sides split four meetings this season with the home team prevailing
 each time. The Warriors have dropped four of their last five as the visitor in
 this series.
 (8) ATLANTA HAWKS (0-0) AT (1) INDIANA PACERS (0-0), 7 P.M.
 ( - The Indiana Pacers earned the No. 1 seed in the Eastern
 Conference and they'll begin their crusade for an NBA title Saturday night
 when they welcome the Atlanta Hawks to Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
 The Pacers held the No. 1 spot in the East for much of the regular season, but
 the end of the campaign didn't go as planned. Indiana went 10-13 to finish the
 season, but got the top seed when the Miami Heat rested some starters late in
 the campaign.
 "I was excited that we got it. It was something we set out for," head coach
 Frank Vogel said prior to their season-finale. "It gives us the best chances
 going into the playoffs."
 The Pacers lost in seven games to the Heat in last year's Eastern Conference
 Finals. They finished second in the NBA in opponents' scoring and first in
 opponents' field-goal percentage.
 They also finished with the best home record at 35-6.
 But the Pacers will need to improve significantly if they are going to advance
 in the postseason. All-Stars Paul George and Roy Hibbert both regressed as did
 Lance Stephenson. But the team is built on defense and have had time to try
 and cure what's ailing them.
 "This is the best time of the year," said Stephenson. "Every game is on TV and
 every game is about business. There's no joking around. Everybody is
 The Hawks are in the playoffs for a seventh consecutive season and needed both
 late-season heroics and a collapse by the New York Knicks to punch a ticket.
 Under the guidance of first-year head coach Mike Budenholzer, the Hawks
 managed to tread water in an otherwise dreadful Eastern Conference and hope to
 move past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2010-11.
 The Hawks have been bounced in six games in each of the last two conference
 They lost six in a row in late March and started to feel the heat. However,
 the Hawks won six of the next eight games to get back on track and a 98-85 win
 over the Heat on April 12 sealed the eighth spot.
 "I'm happy for all the guys," Hawks guard Jeff Teague said. "We worked so hard
 all year. Injuries and everything that can happen to a team happened. We were
 able to still make it to the playoffs."
 The Hawks dealt with a major loss early on when All-Star center Al Horford
 went down with a right pectoral injury. But Teague and Paul Millsap picked up
 the slack and got Atlanta the eighth seed.
 Teague averaged 16.5 ppg and 6.7 apg and Vogel indicated that he was the key
 to stopping the Hawks.
 "The whole defensive game plan is keeping (Teague) out of the paint; it's the
 toughest challenge we're going to have," acknowledged Vogel.
 Indiana and Atlanta met in the 2012-13 playoffs and the Pacers disposed of the
 Hawks in six games. The Pacers and the Hawks will face each other in the
 postseason for a sixth time and the two sides split four regular-season
 meetings this season.
 The Hawks trounced the Pacers in Indiana on Apr. 6, but Indiana is 10-5 in its
 last 15 as the host in this series. Atlanta has won 14 of its last 16 against
 the Pacers at Philips Arena.
 ( - The Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies will
 renew their postseason rivalry Saturday night when the two squads meet at
 Chesapeake Energy Arena.
 For the third time in four seasons, the Thunder will face the Grizzlies in the
 playoffs. OKC dispatched the Grizz in the second round following the 2010-11
 season, but Memphis evened the score one year ago.
 The Grizzlies eliminated the Thunder in the Western Conference semifinals last
 season. Granted, Oklahoma City was without the services of All-Star guard
 Russell Westbrook, but this season's first-round battle will be the rubber
 "It's going to be a tough but fun series," OKC star Kevin Durant said. "We
 have a lot of history with these guys. We're looking forward to getting the
 opportunity to play for a championship."
 Durant will be the league's MVP and carried a heavy load. Westbrook missed
 time with a knee injury and veteran starters Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick
 Perkins both were shelved late in the season with various ailments.
 "Guys had to step up and I think we did a good job of fighting through it
 all," Durant said. "That shows the type of organization, the type of coaching
 staff and team that we have. It's been a fun season and up and down like any
 other season."
 Memphis overcame a hideous start to make the postseason once again. Injuries
 hit the Grizzlies hard as well. They were without All-Defensive guard Tony
 Allen for a long stretch, but the main setback occurred when they lost All-
 Star center Marc Gasol with a left knee problem.
 Once the reigning Defensive Player of the Year returned to the lineup, the
 Grizzlies clicked. The Grizzlies went 33-13 in games Gasol played after the
 The heart of the Grizz rests in their big-man combo of Gasol, who averaged
 14.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg and 1.88 blocks, and Zach Randolph, who continued to be a
 double-double machine. He posted marks of 17.4 points and 10.1 rebounds while
 tying for the fourth-most double-doubles in the league.
 However, the real star that emerged this season was point guard Mike Conley.
 He averaged 17.2 ppg and 6.0 apg all the while playing stellar defense, the
 hallmark of the Grizzlies.
 It all finally came together for Memphis over the final two games of the
 season. The Grizzlies' road victory over the Phoenix Suns in the penultimate
 game earned them a playoff berth. Their win over the Dallas Mavericks in the
 finale got them the seventh seed.
 "Getting 50 wins is something you want on your resume as a player, and people
 remember those. Those are special seasons. It's a standard, a golden standard
 I think," Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger said.
 It will be a classic offense versus defense matchup. The Thunder were the
 fifth-best offensive team this season, while the Grizzlies ranked third in
 opponents' scoring.
 Flip the script and the advantage swings to Oklahoma City. The Thunder
 finished a respectable 12th in defensive scoring and an impressive third in
 opponents' field-goal percentage. Memphis ranked 27th in scoring
 The Thunder won three of four regular-season meetings against the Grizzlies.
 OKC is 7-4 all-time versus Memphis in regular-season games in Oklahoma City.
 04/19 10:23:57 ET

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