By The Associated Press
Steph vs. LeBron. Celtics vs. 76ers. Knicks vs. Heat. Jokic vs. Durant.
Big names. Big rivalries. The NBA has gotten a starry second-round slate, with Stephen Curry and Golden State set to meet LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, along with Philadelphia taking on Boston in the renewal of a rivalry between two of the best sports cities in the country.
Already underway in Round 2: Miami vs. New York, another matchup with tons of past playoff history, and a Denver-Phoenix series pitting two-time reigning MVP Nikola Jokic of the Nuggets against past MVP Kevin Durant of the Suns.
There are four of the nation’s top six television markets — No. 1 New York, No. 2 Los Angeles, No. 4 Philadelphia and No. 6 San Francisco — still in the playoffs. Boston is No. 10, Phoenix No. 11, Denver No. 16 and Miami No. 18.
Most of the biggest jersey-sellers in the league are still in the race for a title. James’ jerseys sell the most, based on rankings at NBAStore.com, followed by Curry at No. 2 and Boston’s Jayson Tatum at No. 3. Durant has the sixth most-popular jersey right now, Phoenix’s Devin Booker is No. 7, and Jokic, Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, Boston’s Jaylen Brown and Golden State’s Jordan Poole are in the top 15 as well.
And one last bit of proof of the star power these teams have — the top four teams in the NBA’s most recent merchandise-sale rankings right now are the Lakers, Warriors, Celtics and Suns.
Monday’s schedule has Denver trying to protect home-court and seeking a 2-0 lead over Phoenix in their Western Conference semifinal series. In the Eastern Conference, a semifinal matchup between No. 2 Boston and No. 3 Philadelphia — the two highest seeds left on that half of the bracket — gets underway.
On Tuesday, it’s Game 2 of Miami-New York, and Game 1 of the Warriors-Lakers matchup.
HOW TO WATCH
— The 76ers-Celtics and Suns-Nuggets games on Monday are on TNT, as are Tuesday’s Heat-Knicks and Lakers-Warriors matchups. The Tuesday doubleheader will be preceded by the announcement of this season’s MVP at 7 p.m. Eastern, also on TNT.
— Wednesday’s 76ers-Celtics game is on TNT.
— Thursday’s Lakers-Warriors game is on ESPN.
— Team broadcasters will no longer air games. Everything after the first round is exclusive to national windows and not available for local telecasts.
— The NBA Finals on ABC begin June 1.
ONE OF EACH
As the NBA pointed out, there is one of each seed — a No. 1 (Denver), No. 2 (Boston), No. 3 (Philadelphia), No. 4 (Phoenix), No. 5 (New York), No. 6 (Golden State), No. 7 (the Lakers) and No. 8 (Miami) seed left in the playoffs.
That’s never happened in this 16-team format that dates back to 1984.
Looking ahead to the NBA Finals, Boston or Philadelphia would have home-court advantage over anyone else. Denver would have it over New York or Miami. New York would have it over Phoenix, Golden State and the Lakers. Phoenix would have it over Miami. And the Heat — unbelievably, as an 8 seed — would have it over the Warriors or Lakers.
Miami and Golden State both won 44 games and split their head-to-head. But the Heat had a better record over the opposing conference, so they would win that tiebreaker.
The NBA is ready to hand out the MVP trophy. Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo or Denver’s two-time reigning MVP Nikola Jokic will be announced on Tuesday as the winner of the league’s top individual award.
A recap of this season’s awards revealed thus far:
— April 17: Memphis’ Jaren Jackson Jr. won Defensive Player of the Year.
— April 18: De’Aaron Fox of Sacramento won the inaugural Clutch Player award.
— April 19: Sacramento’s Mike Brown became the first unanimous Coach of the Year.
— April 20: Boston’s Malcolm Brogdon won Sixth Man of the Year.
— April 24: Utah’s Lauri Markkanen was the easy winner of Most Improved Player.
— April 25: Orlando’s Paolo Banchero was a near-unanimous Rookie of the Year.
“Hopefully, we never find out.” — Golden State’s Stephen Curry, when asked what can stop him, in a postgame news conference following his Game 7-record 50-point effort at Sacramento on Sunday.
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