Will LeBron James and the Miami Heat three-peat or can Paul George’s Indiana Pacers shed their end-of-season doldrums and knock off the defending champs? Does the San Antonio Spurs' venerable triumvirate of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli have another championship in them? Is it KD’s time? Can the LA Clippers, Houston Rockets or another squad make a run to The Finals? What impact will the postseason absence of the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics and New York Knicks have on the ratings?
The NBA playoffs tip this weekend, so basketball fans and Nielsen watchers will begin to get the answers to some of those questions.
The Walt Disney Co.’s duo of ESPN and ABC will present five of the eight first-game matchups on April 19 and 20, while TNT will provide its sense of the hardwood drama, starting on Sunday. League-owned NBA TV joins the action on Tuesday with what could be the first of up to nine matchups across the eight opening-round series.
ESPN takes the first shot with a Game 1 tripleheader of sorts with the Brooklyn Nets traveling to the Toronto Raptors on April 19 at 12:30 p.m. (ET). The worldwide leader returns at 7 p.m. with the Pacers hosting the Atlanta Hawks, followed by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook’s Oklahoma City Thunder matching up with the Memphis Grizzlies at 9:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, play-by-play man Mike Breen, analyst Jeff Van Gundy and reported Lisa Salters will call a pair of Game 1s on ABC: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. with former colleague Mark Jackson’s Golden State Warriors flying south to Staples Center to play Chris Paul’s Clippers. The crew will then make the cross-country trek to South Beach, where the Heat will entertain Al Jefferson’s Charlotte Bobcats at the same time on Easter Sunday. Both games will also be available on ESPN Radio and via the WatchABC app.
NBA Countdown – ABC’s and ESPN’s pre-game show – will preview the ABC games this weekend, starting at 3 p.m. both days. Countdown will document the entire NBA playoffs led by host Sage Steele and analysts Bill Simmons, Jalen Rose and Doug Collins.
TNT, now in its 30th consecutive year of NBA coverage makes its way on court on April 20, with the first of its 40 NBA playoff contests, as Dirk Nowitzki's Dallas Mavericks meet the defending Western Conference champion Spurs at 1 p.m. John Wall and the Washington Wizards, which ended a five-year playoff drought, square off against Yoakim Noah’s Bulls in the Second City at 7 p.m. The first playoff weekend under new commissioner Adam Silver’s watch concludes with Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers trying to lift off in Houston at 9:30 p.m.
TNT’s NBA playoff coverage will feature the Sports Emmy Award-winning studio team of host Ernie Johnson alongside hoops hall of famer Charles Barkley, four-time NBA champion Shaquille O’Neal and two-time NBA champion Kenny Smith providing pregame analysis, halftime updates and extensive postgame coverage on Inside the NBA.
Additionally, TNT Overtime on NBA.com will provide a companion experience allowing fans to watch the games via four alternate camera angles, along with real-time stats, enhanced video replays, player and fan voting elements, and Twitter tie-ins.
Sadly, Turner sideline reporter extraordinaire and the NBA’s top sartorial style-maker this side of MSG’s Walt “Clyde” Frazier won’t be working as he looks to recover from leukemia.
For its part, NBA TV will televise up to nine originally produced first round NBA playoff games beginning Tuesday, April 22, with the Nets north of the border against the Raptors at 8 p.m. The network’s live game telecasts are part of NBA TV’s more than 1,500 hours of programming throughout the playoffs. Network playoff telecasts will include interviews with coaches, who will also wear microphones during the games. Each game night will include the AutoTrader.com Pregame Show, Sprint HalftimeReport and NBA GameTime Presented by Kia postgame show.
In addition to NBA TV, NBA Digital’s extensive playoff presentation manifests on NBA.com and NBA Mobile. The former provides comprehensive content offerings including playoff series hub pages and expansive social media integration, while the latter features all of the latest news and information via the league’s signature NBA Game Time app.