The one major benefit from NBA lockout and shortened regular season is we get the playoffs started after only a two day break.
Four games are featured Saturday including the defending champion Dallas Mavericks and the league’s glamour teams Miami and Oklahoma City. In each matchup, an injury to a key player figures prominently.
Philadelphia +8½ at Chicago: The Bulls are concerned about that tender ankle of guard Derrick Rose. With a healthy Rose, Chicago figures to have too much for the young Sixers. Philly started the season strong, but had to fight for their lives to hang on for a postseason berth.
New York +8½ at Miami: The Knicks get Amare Stoudemire back to the lineup to team with Carmelo Anthony. But there is no Jeremy Lin and Tyson Chandler has been dinged up. The Heat have been resting LeBron, D-Wade and Chris Bosh down the stretch.
Orlando +9 at Indiana: No Dwight Howard has sent this line skyward. The Pacers are a rising star without a standout player, but with plenty of talent from top to bottom.
Dallas +7½ at Oklahoma City: The host Thunder were the top team in the West and will have home court advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs. That especially big in OKC, one of the loudest crowds in the NBA. Durant and Westbrook at the top of their game. If James Harden is set to return from the World Peace elbow, the aging Mavs figure to exit early.