NBA Today April 19

NBA Today April 19

Saturday NBA Gameday

The NBA playoffs get started on Saturday, as eight teams begin their quest for an NBA title. Here's your Saturday NBA Gameday.

Washington at Cleveland

LeBron James and the Cavaliers begin their attempt to get back to the NBA Finals against the Wizards. James led the league in scoring during the regular season after averaging 30 points per game. Cleveland upgraded LeBron?s supporting cast at the trade deadline, but will it be enough for the Cavs to take home the championship they missed out on last season?

The Wizards have to be commended for even making the playoffs after all the injury trouble they had to cope with this season. Washington was without Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler for extended periods of time this season. Antawn Jamison helped hold the fort together during their absence, but with all three stars healthy Washington will be hard for Cleveland to handle.

During the season Washington and Cleveland split the series two games a piece with the home team winning every game. The Wizards and Cavaliers last met up on March 13 when the Wizards edged the Cavs 101-99 as a 3.5-point home favorite. Seven different Wizards players scored in double figures in the win, while James led Cleveland with 25 points on 9-of-22 shooting.

Phoenix at San Antonio

The Suns start their playoffs in the same place in which they were knocked out of the postseason last year. Phoenix and San Antonio were involved in an all-out war in the postseason last year, which is remembered more for its hard fouls than its high scoring. Phoenix is hoping the added toughness and experience of Shaquille O?Neal will help get them past the Spurs this time.

The Spurs go for another title with pretty much the same cast that brought home the championship last season. Tim Duncan, looking for his fifth career ring, still has Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili to provide an offensive punch.

Phoenix was 3-1 versus San Antonio this season and they were also 3-1 ATS in those four games. The last time the Suns and Spurs squared off on April 9 Phoenix crushed San Antonio 96-79 as a 6.5-point home favorite. Amare Stoudemire led Phoenix with 21 points and Steve Nash chipped in with 12 points and 10 assists. Duncan had 23 points and 10 rebounds for the Spurs.

Dallas at New Orleans

The Mavericks will try to avoid a second straight first-round knockout when they take on New Orleans in the opening round. Dallas appeared to be haunted by their upset loss to Golden State all season long, as they plodded along before finishing seventh in the West. The Jason Kidd trade was supposed to make Dallas relevant again in the West, but the final grade on that trade won?t come down until Dallas either excels or falters in the postseason.

The Hornets made a quick turnaround this season going from 39-43 to No. 2 in the Western Conference. Chris Paul may very well be the best point guard in the NBA and any other year he would have been a lock for the MVP. With Paul working in tandem with David West, and with Peja Stojakovic providing a solid outside shot, the Hornets are strong all over the court and could easily continue their regular-season success in the playoffs.

Dallas and New Orleans split their season series 2-2, as the home team won every game. Coincidentally the Mavericks and Hornets met on the final day of the regular season when Dallas won 111-98 as a 7.5-point home favorite. Jason Terry led Dallas with 30 points while Jason Kidd had a triple-double with 27 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. West had 26 points and eight rebounds to lead New Orleans.

Utah at Houston

The Jazz may rank as the higher seed in their opening-round matchup with Houston, but after winning one less game than the Rockets Utah will not have home-court advantage in this series. That could be detrimental to the Jazz, as they owned the best home record in the league at 37-4, compared to 17-24 on the road. Utah may be led by double-double machines Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams, but their biggest strength is their depth off the bench.

The Rockets may have won 22 games in a row during the regular season, but it won?t mean much if Houston can?t get four more against Utah in the playoffs. The Rockets haven?t been beyond the first round of the playoffs since 1997 and they've been bounced in the first round five times since. Tracy McGrady is also trying to shake the playoff curse, having never made it past the opening round in his career.

Utah was 2-1 against the Rockets this season and they were also 2-1 ATS. They last clashed on April 14 when the Jazz defeated the Rockets 105-96 as an 8.5-point home favorite. Carlos Boozer had 21 points and 11 rebounds for Utah, while Luis Scola and McGrady each netted 22 points for Houston.

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