Comprehensive Guide To UNC In The NBA Playoffs
The NBA playoffs begin this weekend, and Carolina is the only school in America with at least one player in seven of the eight series. We've put together a handy weekend viewing guide to tell you when the Tar Heel alums will be on TV, plus a few UNC-centric storylines for each series.
Saturday viewing guide
Start with Raymond Felton and the Knicks hosting the Celtics at 3:30 p.m. on ABC. Get comfortable and make sure someone is around to bring you food and water and/or other beverages, because you may not move for many hours. At 5:30, George Karl and Ty Lawson's Nuggets host Harrison Barnes and the Warriors on ESPN in what should be a very entertaining game. Then you'll get a short 30-60 minute break to let your friends know you're still alive before the Duke-laden Bulls travel to Brooklyn to face Jerry Stackhouse and the Nets at 8 p.m. on ESPN. Finally, the nightcap takes Ed Davis and the Grizzlies to Los Angeles against the Clippers at 10:30 on ESPN. So, in about nine hours you'll be able to watch four games and six Tar Heels. That's a good day.
Sunday viewing guide
Your eyeballs deserve a slight rest on Sunday. Just two games of importance: Danny Green and the Spurs host Antawn Jamison and the Lakers at 3:30 p.m. on ABC, and then John Henson's Bucks travel to Miami to open the series against the Heat at 7 p.m. on TNT.
Series storylines: Eastern Conference
1 Miami Heat vs 8 Milwaukee Bucks/John Henson: The Tar Heel rookie is going into the playoffs on a hot streak, as he scored a career-high 28 points last night. Henson's playing time increased with a recent injury to Larry Sanders, but Sanders is expected to play in the playoffs. Henson has quietly been a beast on the boards lately, and is averaging 15 rebounds per game in his last five contests. The problem is that four of those five games are Milwaukee losses, and obviously the Bucks are given very little chance against the defending world champions.
2 New York Knicks/Raymond Felton vs 7 Boston Celtics: How in the world do the New York Knicks slip under the radar? Somehow, they've done it, as they've won 15 of their last 16 games. Felton has been a big part of that streak, as he's playing heavy minutes (including 49 against the Bulls last week). Carmelo Anthony has clearly been the New York superstar this year, but the Knicks as a team have been much more effective when they've had Felton setting up the offense (he missed part of the season with an injured finger). This is likely to be a high-profile series nationally, meaning Felton will get plenty of attention. This series would have also included Rasheed Wallace, but he retired this week and will not play in the playoffs.
3 Indiana Pacers/Tyler Hansbrough vs 6 Atlanta Hawks: Perhaps no Tar Heel in the NBA has endured as much sporadic playing time as Tyler Hansbrough. The Pacers sometimes give him big minutes--he had a stretch of eight straight 20+ minute games in March, and Indiana won six of those games--and sometimes forget he's on the team, as when he had sub-20 minutes in seven of the final eight games of the year (and the Pacers lost five of those eight games). From a scoring standpoint, Hansbrough has had his least successful season as a pro (7.0 points per game, down from 9.3 last year and well off his career high of 11.0 in his second pro season). You'll mostly see him coming off the bench for Indiana against the Hawks, who are coached by Larry Drew The Original.
4 Brooklyn Nets/Jerry Stackhouse vs 5 Chicago Bulls: What an interesting career for Jerry Stackhouse, who has transformed from the brash youngster in the league to the highly respected veteran. As Stackhouse himself said in this great profile today, he doesn't always understand his playing time for the Nets, but when he plays, he's been fairly effective. Stackhouse has seen decent minutes lately, including a 13-point performance at Indiana last week, and it will be interesting to see whether that continues against the Bulls.
Series storylines: Western Conference
1 Oklahoma City Thunder vs 8 Houston Rockets: Not a single Tar Heel in this series. What a worthless matchup.
2 San Antonio Spurs/Danny Green vs 7 Los Angeles Lakers/Antawn Jamison: With Danny Green squaring off against Antawn Jamison, you've got two of the most likable Tar Heels of the modern era sharing the same court. Green will play big minutes for the Spurs, and his offensive contributions will likely depend on whether his three-point shot is clicking (he's hitting 42.9% from beyond the stripe this year). Jamison, meanwhile, has endured some very strange rotations in Los Angeles, but has found his niche in March and April. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely Jamison will get the NBA championship ring he was seeking when he signed with the Lakers last summer.
3 Denver Nuggets/George Karl/Ty Lawson vs 6 Golden State Warriors/Harrison Barnes: What might be the most entertaining series of the opening round features three Tar Heels in prominent roles. George Karl has done an incredible job with the Nuggets, who battled through injuries to earn the third seed. There are those who are touting Karl for NBA Coach of the Year. Much of that success has been built on the foundation of Ty Lawson's emergence as an elite NBA point guard. The speedy Tar Heel hit this game-winner this week, which clinched home court for the Nuggets:
The high-octane Warriors, meanwhile, feature Harrison Barnes. Any discussion of his rookie season has to include this dunk against the Timberwolves:
At 9.2 points per game, Barnes was Carolina's highest-scoring rookie this year. Tyler Zeller led the Tar Heel rooks with 5.7 rebounds per game.
4 Los Angeles Clippers vs 5 Memphis Grizzlies/Ed Davis: Memphis traded for Davis at midseason and promptly had a good bit of trouble figuring out how to use him. He's played 50 minutes in the last two games...but played just eight minutes in the two games before that. Davis's scoring production was almost halved after the trade to Memphis, and his rebounding figures also fell.