Here is everything you need to know about the NBA 2021 Playoffs of Eastern Conference and Western Conference - New York Knicks vs Atlanta Hawks, Denver Nuggets vs Portland Trail Blazers, Milwaukee Bucks vs Miami Heat, LA Clippers vs Dallas Mavericks.
No. 4 NEW YORK KNICKS vs. No. 5 ATLANTA HAWKS
- Back in Business: What a turnaround for the Knicks, who went from having the NBA’s worst record two years ago to making the playoffs for the first time since 2013. Breakout All-Star Julius Randle has been awesome. Former NBA MVP Derrick Rose has reinvented himself as a top sixth man. The Knicks play all-out under coach Tom Thibodeau, who has transformed them into a dynamite defensive team.
- Soar Subject: The Hawks have the best record in the Eastern Conference over the last two months. A deep, dangerous team, Atlanta features dynamic scorer and playmaker Trae Young, NBA rebounding champion Clint Capela and red-hot shooters Bogdan Bogdanović, Danilo Gallinari. The Hawks are brimming with confidence after a 27-11 finish under interim coach Nate McMillan.
- Playoff Debuts: Stars Julius Randle and Trae Young are gearing up for their playoff debuts. Randle is Mr. Everything for the Knicks, as he leads the team in points, rebounds and assists. He averaged 37.3 points in three games against the Hawks (all wins for New York). Young was the only player in the NBA to average 25 points and 9 assists this season.
- New York and Atlanta are meeting in the playoffs for the third time. The Knicks won the first two series.
- Atlanta has snapped a four-year playoff drought.
- Former NBA MVP Derrick Rose has been a key part of New York’s resurgence, ranking fourth in the league in scoring off the bench.
- A healthy Bogdan Bogdanović has helped fuel Atlanta’s turnaround, averaging 18.7 points since the All-Star break.
- New York led the NBA in points allowed per game for the first time since the 2000-01 season.
- Clint Capela is the first Atlanta player to lead the league in rebounding since Dikembe Mutombo in 1999-2000. He is the only one of Atlanta’s top five scorers to have playoff experience.
- Danilo Gallinari was drafted sixth overall by the Knicks in 2008 and played parts of three seasons in New York.
- The Knicks’ RJ Barrett and the Hawks’ Cam Reddish both starred at Duke as freshmen in 2018-19. Barrett (third) and Atlanta’s De’Andre Hunter (fourth) were drafted back-to-back in 2019.
- New York’s starters have played a combined 16 total playoff games: Nerlens Noel has competed in 12 and Reggie Bullock has appeared in four.
- Nate McMillan and Tom Thibodeau both won Olympic gold medals with Team USA as assistant coaches under Mike Krzyzewski.
No. 3 DENVER NUGGETS vs. No. 6 PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
- Basketball Genius: Nikola Jokić has completed a remarkable rise from a second-round draft pick to an NBA MVP favorite. Few players in NBA history can match his feel for the game and combination of scoring and playmaking from the center position. With the Serbian 7-footer taking his game to new heights, Denver has high hopes for another deep playoff run even without Jamal Murray.
- Dame Time: Portland All-Star Damian Lillard is must-see TV in the playoffs, where he has nailed iconic buzzer-beaters. Lillard is in a groove, too, having scored at least 30 points in seven of his last eight games. He leads a dominant Trail Blazers offense that also features CJ McCollum, Norman Powell and Carmelo Anthony.
- Hanging Tough: Both teams are resilient and prideful. Last season, Denver became the first team to come back from 3-1 series deficits twice in the same postseason, and Portland made a stirring run in the bubble to reach the playoffs. This season, the Nuggets have gone 13-5 since losing Jamal Murray, and the Trail Blazers rebounded from a five-game losing streak in April to win 10 of their final 12 games.
- Portland and Denver played a memorable series in the 2019 Western Conference Semifinals, which included a quadruple-overtime game and the Trail Blazers’ dramatic road victory in Game 7.
- Portland is in the playoffs for the eighth straight season, the longest active streak in the NBA.
- Last season, the Nuggets made the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2009.
- Portland’s Carmelo Anthony faces his former team, which selected him with the third pick in the 2003 NBA Draft. Now the NBA’s 10th-leading scorer of all time, Anthony ascended to stardom with Denver.
- Denver’s Michael Porter Jr. is a rising star in his second season. He has averaged 22.3 points since the All-Star break.
- Nikola Jokić and Jusuf Nurkić will go head-to-head at center. They are former Denver teammates who once competed for minutes with the Nuggets. Denver traded Nurkić to Portland in 2017.
- The Trail Blazers ranked second in the NBA in offensive rating but only in 29th in defensive rating.
- Denver’s Aaron Gordon and Portland’s Norman Powell were both acquired by their respective teams at the trade deadline. They will play prominent roles in the playoffs.
- Denver’s Facundo Campazzo, a 30-year-old rookie from Argentina, has been starting in place of Jamal Murray. Campazzo is a phenomenal passer and plays with flair.
No. 3 MILWAUKEE BUCKS vs. No. 6 MIAMI HEAT
- Rematch: Milwaukee and Miami are meeting in the playoffs for the second year in a row. The Heat upset the top-seeded Bucks in the 2020 Eastern Conference Semifinals, prompting Milwaukee to acquire Jrue Holiday and make other changes to its personnel and playing style. The Bucks’ new identity will be tested immediately by the experienced, surging Heat.
- Freak Show: Two-time reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo was brilliant again in 2020-21. Can he carry it over into the playoffs and solve a team that has slowed him down in the past? Giannis and the Bucks are on a mission to deliver the franchise’s first NBA Finals appearance in 47 years.
- Heat Is On: Here come the Heat again. Led by Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, they finished the season with a flourish and began resembling the team that made a magical run to the NBA Finals last season. Being only a sixth seed won’t faze Miami, which made the Finals as a fifth seed.
- Milwaukee and Miami are meeting in the playoffs for the third time. The Heat leads 2-0.
- Miami is in the playoffs for the 10th time in 13 seasons under coach Erik Spoelstra, a two-time NBA champion who has a knack for pushing the right buttons in the playoffs.
- The Bucks led the NBA in scoring for the third straight season. They are the first team to average at least 120 points per game for a season since the 1984-85 Nuggets.
- The Heat is 33-19 with Jimmy Butler in the lineup and 7-13 without him.
- The Bucks’ Khris Middleton shot better than 47 percent from the field, 40 percent from three-point range and 89 percent from the free throw line for the second year in a row. He has a penchant for making big shots late in games.
- Miami’s Tyler Herro is a Milwaukee native. He originally committed to play at the University of Wisconsin before starring at Kentucky for one season. Herro had an impressive playoff debut as a rookie last season.
- Jimmy Butler played college basketball in Milwaukee at Marquette.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jimmy Butler and Miami’s Goran Dragić are former winners of the NBA Most Improved Player Award.
- Heat veterans Andre Iguodala and Trevor Ariza are two of only four players from the 2004 NBA Draft still in the NBA. The others are Philadelphia’s Dwight Howard and Cleveland’s Anderson Varejão.
No. 4 LA CLIPPERS vs. No. 5 DALLAS MAVERICKS
- Rematch: Add another chapter to a brewing rivalry: The Clippers and Mavericks are meeting in the first round for the second straight season. LA won last year’s testy series in six games. The matchup produced an iconic moment when Dallas’ Luka Dončić made a game-winning, buzzer-beating three-pointer in Game 4 to tie the series at 2-2.
- Road to Redemption: The Clippers are seeking redemption after a heartbreaking finish last season. In the Conference Semifinals, LA lost a 3-1 series lead to Denver and fell one win shy of reaching the Conference Finals for the first time. The tough ending prompted a coaching change and roster retooling. Led by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the Clippers are back with another shot at playoff glory.
- Encore Performance: Luka Dončić made a dazzling playoff debut last year at age 21 in his second season, which included an NBA-record 42 points in his first game and an incredible game-winning three-pointer to punctuate a 40-point triple-double. What will the Slovenian sensation do for an encore?
- LA and Dallas had never faced each other in the playoffs before last year. Now, they are meeting for the second year in a row.
- Kristaps Porzingis could be an X factor: Dallas’ second-leading scorer and top rebounder returned for the final week of the regular season after missing 10 of the previous 11 games.
- Kawhi Leonard (24.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 5.2 apg) and Paul George (23.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 5.2 apg) posted nearly identical numbers this season.
- The Clippers’ Rajon Rondo, acquired in a trade during the season, is known for raising his play in the playoffs. He was a central player in the Lakers’ championship run last season.
- The Clippers are in the playoffs for the ninth time in the last 10 seasons.
- The Mavericks have not won a playoff series since winning the NBA championship in 2011.
- The Clippers led the NBA in three-point field goal percentage and free throw percentage.
- LA’s Marcus Morris Sr. ranked second in the NBA in three-point field goal percentage. Teammate Luke Kennard ranked eighth.
- Coaches Rick Carlisle of Dallas and Tyronn Lue of LA are both NBA champions as head coaches and players.
- Dallas’ Jalen Brunson has been one of the NBA’s top reserves this season.
- Dallas’ JJ Redick had some of his best seasons with the Clippers.
- DeMarcus Cousins has had several solid games since signing with the Clippers in April.
- LA’s Serge Ibaka ranks eighth on the NBA’s career playoff blocks list. Ibaka has a chance to crack the top five this year, depending on how the Clippers do in the postseason.
NBA PLAYOFFS: DID YOU KNOW?
• The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers are tied for the most NBA championships with 17 each.
• The NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award was named after Bill Russell in 2009. Russell, a five-time regular-season MVP, won a record 11 NBA championships as a player.
• The NBA first named a Finals MVP in 1969. That year, the Los Angeles Lakers’ Jerry West earned the honor even though his team lost to the Boston Celtics. West is the only Finals MVP from a losing team.
• Michael Jordan has won a record six Finals MVP awards. The Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James has the second-most Finals MVPs with four, followed by Tim Duncan, Magic Johnson and Shaquille O’Neal with three each.
• Phil Jackson has won a record 11 NBA championships as a head coach, two more than Red Auerbach (nine). John Kundla, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich and Pat Riley are tied for third place with five each.
• Michael Jordan holds the single-game playoff scoring record: 63 points for the Chicago Bulls against the Boston Celtics in double overtime in Game 2 of a 1986 first-round series.
• Elgin Baylor holds the single-game NBA Finals scoring record: 61 points for the Los Angeles Lakers against the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the 1962 NBA Finals. It’s the second-highest total in a playoff game.
• Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell’s 57-point performance against the Denver Nuggets in Game 1 of a 2020 first-round series marks the third-highest total in a playoff game.
• Karl Malone and John Stockton, former longtime teammates with the Utah Jazz, share the NBA record for most seasons competing in the playoffs with 19.
• Four players have won an NBA championship with three different franchises: the Philadelphia 76ers’ Danny Green (San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Lakers); Robert Horry (Houston Rockets, Lakers and Spurs); LeBron James (Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers and Lakers); and John Salley (Detroit Pistons, Chicago Bulls and Lakers).
• The NBA’s current 16-team playoff format started with the 1983-84 season. The first round expanded to best-ofseven from best-of-five beginning in the 2002-03 season.
• The teams that owned or tied for the league’s two best records in a regular season have not met in the NBA Finals since the 1997-98 season (Chicago Bulls vs. Utah Jazz).
• The 1994-95 Houston Rockets, seeded sixth in the Western Conference, are the only team seeded fourth or lower to win an NBA championship under the current 16-team playoff format.
• The Nos. 1 and 2 seeds across both conferences have identical 69-5 series records in the first round since 1984.
• Game 1 winners in a best-of-seven have won the series 76.2% of the time.
1994-95 Houston Rockets
John Stockton Karl Malone
FACTS & FIGURES NBA PLAYOFFS: DID YOU KNOW?
• The three best single-season playoff runs by winning percentage are the 2016-17 Golden State Warriors (16-1, .941), the 2000-01 Los Angeles Lakers (15-1, .938) and the 1982-83 Philadelphia 76ers (12-1, .923).
• No team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven series. Teams that win the first three games have a 140-0 series record.
• There are 13 instances in NBA history of a team coming back from a 3-1 deficit to win a best-of-seven series. The Denver Nuggets accomplished the feat in each of the first two rounds of the 2020 NBA Playoffs – the only team to do it twice in one postseason.
• LeBron James is the career playoff leader in points, steals, games played and minutes played. He ranks second in assists (behind Magic Johnson), three-pointers made (behind Stephen Curry) and triple-doubles (behind Johnson).
• Jerry West is the career NBA Finals leader in points with 1,679, putting him 117 ahead of second-place LeBron James.
• The Brooklyn Nets’ DeAndre Jordan has the highest field goal percentage in playoff history (66.2%).
• There have been 139 Game 7s in NBA history.
• There have been 19 Game 7s in the NBA Finals, with home teams holding a 15-4 record. The most recent Game 7 in the NBA Finals came in 2016, when the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the host Golden State Warriors to become the first team to come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the Finals.
• The NBA record for most points by a player in a Game 7 is 47, shared by Sam Jones (1963 Eastern Division Finals) and Dominique Wilkins (1988 Eastern Conference Semifinals).
• Andrew Bynum (18 years, 191 days) and Robert Parish (43 years, 254 days) are the youngest and oldest players to appear in an NBA playoff game, respectively.
• The NBA record for consecutive playoff appearances is 22 seasons, shared by the Syracuse Nationals/Philadelphia 76ers (1949-50 – 1970-71) and San Antonio Spurs (1997-98 – 2018-19).
• Seven franchises have won NBA championships in consecutive seasons: Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat, Los Angeles/Minneapolis Lakers, Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets, Detroit Pistons and Boston Celtics.