Five storylines to follow as NBA playoffs begin

The NBA playoffs begin Saturday. Here are five storylines to follow:

1Is it this easy

for Miami?

The Miami Heat is such a lock to win it all for the second year in a row that its biggest challenge is to not get too bored leading up to the NBA Finals. Yet, that same boredom could be the Heat’s worst enemy and help derail the quest for back-to-back titles. Still, the Heat is stout with star power from top to bottom. But if you’re going to beat the Heat, you must have a potent inside game and you must have the ability to feed the big men over and over again.

2It’s Oklahoma

City’s turn

The conspiracists out there believe the Oklahoma City Thunder will win it all this year because it’s the Thunder’s turn. Those same conspiracists believed it was Miami’s turn last year, which is why the Heat won it all in the Finals against OKC. The Thunder won Game 1 last year. But when OKC trailed by two points at home in Game 2 with 9.9 seconds left, LeBron James got away with fouling Kevin Durant not once, but twice, on the same play. Again, it was Miami’s turn.

3Man-up time

for the Spurs

It’s been awhile since the Spurs saddled up and won an NBA title. In a span covering nine seasons, 1999-2007, the Spurs won four titles. But last year they were the top seed in the West and lost to OKC in the West Finals. And in 2011 they were the No. 1 seed in the West and were upset by the No. 8-seeded Memphis Grizzlies in the first round. Tim Duncan will turn 37 on Thursday. He isn’t getting any younger, although he’s playing like he is.

4Do the Clippers

have staying power?

Forget about all those fancy lobs and all those times they’ve embarrassed opponents with memorable dunks. And forget about being the best team in Los Angeles. Do the Clips have enough substance to be a major factor in the playoffs? Point guard Chris Paul is the NBA’s best point guard. But there likely will come a time in these playoffs when Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan will be a hindrance to the Clippers’ success because they are poor free-throw shooters.

5The Knicks are over-hyped

It’s the playoffs, and the New York Knicks are the No. 2 seed in the East. So naturally they’re going to win the whole thing, right? The over-hyped Knicks do have sex appeal in Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, Jason Kidd, J.R. Smith, Amare Stoudemire, Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert and Steve Novak. But the Knicks are flawed, because they depend too much on the jump shot and don’t spend enough time working on their post game. If Jason Kidd was 25, the Knicks would win the East.

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