Second round of NBA playoffs promises more thrills

Mon May 5, 2014 3:06pm EDT
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(Reuters) - The National Basketball Association conference semi-finals kick off later on Monday following one of the wildest and most exciting starts to the playoffs in years.

Five of the eight surviving teams were pushed to seven games in the first round, with the Brooklyn Nets needing a last-second block to beat the Toronto Raptors.

Their reward for winning is an Eastern Conference clash with the two-time defending champion Miami Heat, who have had a week off after sweeping the Charlotte Bobcats in four games.

Led by LeBron James, Miami rebounded from a shaky end to the regular season to lift their game when it mattered.

They will open the series at home on Tuesday as overwhelming favorites to beat Brooklyn even though the Nets swept Miami in their four meetings during the regular season.

"Teams are more prepared," James told reporters when asked about his team's prospects of beating the Nets in the playoffs.

"You have more time to prepare for a team and prepare for individuals. What you did in the regular season doesn't matter in the postseason."

The winner of that series will face either the Indiana Pacers or Washington Wizards, who open their series on Monday, for the Eastern Conference title.

The top-seeded Pacers struggled in the first round against the eighth-ranked Atlanta Hawks, needing to win the last two games to advance after trailing 3-2 in the best-of-seven series.   Continued...

Apr 28, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) celebrates with guard Norris Cole (30) after hitting a shot at the end of the third quarter against the Charlotte Bobcats in game four of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Time Warner Cable Arena. The Heat defeated the Bobcats 109-98. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports