Your PBT Saturday Morning Opening Playoff Day Viewing Guide

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It’s time.

The NBA Playoffs begin Saturday as 16 teams begin their challenge for a championship. OK, only about seven of them think they actually have a chance. But still. Here’s what’s on tap today.

1 p.m. EST: Philadelphia 76ers at Chicago Bulls. The Sixers actually do really match up better with Chicago than Miami, all the numbers indicate so, but Evan Turner openly saying the Sixers were trying to face Chicago was up there with was that time I told that girl in 8th grade the reason I wanted to go out with her was because everyone said she was easy. There is no situation in which that is the right decision. And the Sixers will likely pay for it the same way, only instead of getting kicked in the crotch, the Bulls will just run up the score on them. Over/Under on minutes for Derrick Rose when the team is up by 15+ in the fourth is 8.5.

3:30 p.m. EST: New York Knicks at Miami Heat. The big one for today, as the most hyped team in the land takes on the most hyped city in the land. The Knicks are facing the Heat with what feels like their 18th different incarnation. They’ve faced them without Melo, without Stoudemire, without Jeremy Lin. Now they’ll be facing them possibly without Tyson Chandler, who has the flu. Good times! Anyway, a lot of people are doing that “I’m not saying Miami’s going to lose, but…” thing with this series which is code for “I think they’ll lose but I don’t want to look horrendously stupid if they don’t.” The Heat in all likelihood won’t lose, but NY can steal a game and set the tone today. Over/Under on Melo Isolation shots when Steve Novak is wide open in the corner, waving flaming maracas while Mariachi music plays to try and get Melo’s attention: 10.5.

7 p.m. EST  Orlando Magic at Indiana Pacerzzzz No one cares about this matchup, and the Pacers will win easily. You can just cut and paste that sentence for the other three games in this series. (The Magic will now proceed to win by five in thrilling fashion. Hate you, hubris.) If you’re going to make a drinking game out of one of today’s games, this is the one. Over/Under on tequila shots you’ll need for every time Glen Davis does something which causes someone on the Magic bench to shake their head: 5.

9:30 pm. EST: Dallas Mavericks at Oklahoma City Thunder. The reigning champs start on the road versus the team they beat last year. That’s awkward. This isn’t the same Mavericks team, but they’re still dangerous. Specifically, Delonte West is back in a starting role in the playoffs, so that could be fun. Delonte West + Russell Westbrook = must-watch television. Oh, and that Durant fella and the big German guy, too. Also, Kendrick Perkins faces Brendan Haywood in a battle of one player facing an earlier/later version of himself. It’s like “Back to the Future, Part III” only with more glaring. Over/Under on Ibaka Goaltends is 2.5.

Russell Westbrook threw it down all over Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

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A rough night for the Thunder will not stop the Russell Westbrook highlights.

The Thunder had another poor game and fell to a Hornets. Westbrook tried to push the team back, but the Thunder defense that has kept them in games all season was not good enough against Charlotte, and the OKC offense was once again up and down.

Westbrook had 30 points on 22 shots on the night, and none of them were as impressive as this transition throwdown on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Jahlil Okafor excited about fresh start with Nets

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NEW YORK (AP) — Jahlil Okafor finally got the fresh start he wanted.

Okafor was the consensus No. 1 high school player in his class, won a national championship at Duke, and averaged 17.5 points and seven rebounds in his rookie campaign for the Philadelphia 76ers.

Then things changed drastically.

Okafor struggled with injuries and a logjam at his position in his second season.

“When I first got drafted there, we already had Nerlens (Noel) there, Joel (Embiid) was there, so we’re trying to have three starting centers on the same team,” Okafor said Monday at his introductory news conference with his new team, the Brooklyn Nets.

“It just never really was the right fit.”

The 76ers traded Okafor along with seldom-used guard Nik Stauskas and two draft picks to the Nets on Thursday. Philadelphia got forward Trevor Booker from Brooklyn.

Okafor also had off-court problems during his time in Philadelphia. He got a speeding ticket for driving 108 miles per hour and was suspended by the 76ers for two games after in an altercation outside of a Boston nightclub with a heckler.

“Speeding obviously is illegal,” Okafor said. “I know that’s not what you’re supposed to do. I guess you just learn how the page can turn on you and how everything can flip. I can’t really say I learned anything, because you know going in that’s not right. You just learn from your mistakes, but (it was) a tough thing that I went through, I got past, and I’m looking to better times now.”

Okafor, the third overall pick in the 2015 draft, joins D'Angelo Russell, the second overall pick in the same draft class, on the Nets.

“We’re just very excited to get on the court together,” Okafor said. “You never would’ve thought the number two and number three picks would be playing on the same team a few years after, but like I said, everything happens for a reason and I’m really excited.”

Russell also had problems on and off the court with the team that drafted him. He was criticized for recording a video of former Lakers teammate Nick Young that aired sordid details about Young’s private life. The Lakers gave up on Russell and drafted Lonzo Ball as his replacement.

“I feel like we’re similar in that we have a lot to prove,” Okafor said. “I know he’s working his (butt) off as well. Right now he’s rehabbing, trying to get back on the court. I think we both have a chip on our shoulder and we have a lot to prove. We’re definitely similar in that regard.”

Okafor understands he has areas to improve, mainly defense and rebounding.

“I’m not a perfect player,” Okafor said. “I’m 21. There are things that I need to work on, that I have worked on and that I’ll continue to work on.”

He’s excited about fulfilling his potential with a new team.

“I feel really motivated right now, but I’ve always been motivated,” Okafor said. “This is the first time where people are against me in a sense because I’ve always been the hyped-up guy. It’s something new for me to experience, so I’m glad that I am experiencing it.”

 

Report: Celtics’ Marcus Morris to miss “extended time” to let knee heal

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Marcus Morris missed the Celtics’ first eight games of the season in an effort to get healthy. Upon his return he’s been solid, first as a starter, then coming off the bench, but his left knee continued to be an issue.

Morris was out Sunday when the Celtics beat the Pistons, and he’s going to miss more time trying to get a troublesome left knee right, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

How much time is “extended time?” Probably at least a couple of weeks.

Morris has averaged 12.1 points and 5.5 rebounds a game this season, with a true shooting percentage of 52.5, which is right around the league average.

This could mean more run for rookie forwards Semi Ojeleye and Daniel Theis, both of whom have played well in limited minutes.

Tristan Thompson expected to return to Cavaliers Tuesday, come off bench

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson could play for the first time since Nov. 1 on Tuesday against Atlanta.

Thompson has been sidelined with a strained left calf. The team initially said Thompson would be out for up to four weeks, but he said Monday that timeline was inaccurate and that his injury was more serious. Thompson did not divulge any other details about the injury.

Coach Tyronn Lue says Thompson will not start when he returns, meaning Kevin Love will remain at center. Thompson says he’s fine with a reserve role and made it clear he’s willing to do whatever Lue needs.

The Cavaliers have won 14 of 15 and their defense has improved dramatically over the past month.

Thompson says he’ll have the same mindset on the floor as always and “just be myself. Being myself has worked out pretty well for me.”