FOX Sports South offers a 5-minute guide for enjoying the first round of the NBA playoffs -- a postseason slate that includes eight quarterfinal matchups, a bevy of superstars and two championship-starved franchises holding the respective top seeds in each conference. (Photos: Mark D. Smith/Brad Penner/Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports)
It's Texas ... And Then Everyone Else
FUN FACT #1: Citing the eight Western teams in these playoffs, only two franchises have represented that conference in the NBA Finals since 1996 -- the Dallas Mavericks (2006, 2011) and San Antonio Spurs (1999, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2014). (Photos: Soobum Im/Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
FUN FACT #2: The Grizzlies (55-27, home-court edge in Round 1 against the Blazers) are a throwback team in some respects, especially along the perimeter. For the regular season, Memphis ranked 29th with made three-pointers -- at 5.2 per game -- and 29th in three-pointers attempted (15.2). As such, Vince Carter (above) and Mike Conley Jr. are the only Grizzlies shooters averaging at least 3.5 three-point attempts per outing.
Short End Of The Proverbial Stick
FUN FACT #3: Of the 16 playoff teams, the Brooklyn Nets (38-44) are the only club with a negative point differential for the season (-2.9 points per game).
Have Scoring Guns, Will Travel
FUN FACT #4: The playoffs and regular season are different animals, for sure. But it's worth noting: During the season, the Golden State Warriors (67-15) never incurred four losses in any seven-game span. In the East, even the 60-win Hawks couldn't pull off that special feat: From Feb. 2-20, Atlanta lost to New Orleans, Memphis, Boston and Toronto during a seven-game stretch; and from March 18-28, the Hawks fell to the Warriors, Thunder, Spurs and Hornets in a six-game span.
FUN FACT #5: Michael Carter-Williams (above) and the Milwaukee Bucks lead all 2015 playoff teams in turnovers committed per game -- at 16.0 -- just fractionally worse than the Houston Rockets (15.9 per outing).
Starting With A Bang
FUN FACT #6: Let the hype begin on Clippers vs. Spurs (above), hailed as the Greatest First-Round Matchup In NBA Playoff History. While that may be subjectively true to some ... this isn't the first time a pair of clubs with at least 55 victories locked horns in the opening round. That scenario has actually played out three times in the last 20 years alone -- Phoenix (56-26) vs. San Antonio (56-26) in 1998, L.A. Clippers (56-26) vs. Memphis (56-26) in 2013 and San Antonio (56-26) vs. Phoenix (55-27) in 2008.
FUN FACT #7: In the NBA's modern era, only two 60-win clubs have been knocked out in Round 1: In 1994, the Seattle Supersonics (now OKC Thunder) claimed the West's No. 1 seed at 63-19 ... but quickly fell to 8-seeded Denver in the decisive Game 5. And in 2007, the 67-15 Dallas Mavericks -- led by seasonal MVP Dirk Nowitzki (per-game averages: 24.6 points/8.9 rebounds) -- ran into the human buzzsaw known as Baron Davis (left), who led the Golden State Warriors (42-40) to a stunning six-game upset of the West's premier club. During the series, Davis averaged 25.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.7 assists per outing, while helping the Warriors roll for 100-plus points in their final four games. (Assorted Images)
EAST -- (1) Atlanta Hawks vs. (8) Brooklyn Nets
RECORDS: Atlanta (60-22), Brooklyn (38-44) ...SEASON SERIES: Hawks, 4-0 ... MAIN STORYLINE: The top-seeded Hawks, who posted a 22-victory improvement from last season, have a golden chance to silence their detractors. Apparently, you can't win an NBA championship without a true superstar (sarcasm alert). BETCHA DIDN'T KNOW: Since relocating to Atlanta (from St. Louis) in 1968, the Hawks have never reached their own conference finals. RAZOR'S EDGE: The Hawks are easily the top shooting team in the East (47 percent from the field; 38 percent from 3-point range). They're untouchables in the realm of expert spacing along the perimeter, too. PREDICTION: Atlanta in five.
(4) Toronto Raptors vs. (5) Washington Wizards
RECORDS: Toronto (49-33), Washington (46-36) ...SEASON SERIES: Raptors, 3-0 ... MAIN STORYLINE: The havoc-wreaking Raptors notched their highest victory total for the regular season in 14 years. Coincidentally, 2001 also marks the last time Toronto won a playoff series in the East. ... BETCHA DIDN'T KNOW: According to The Washington Post, the Raptors trailed for just 23 cumulative seconds against the Wizards this season -- including a 120-116 overtime victory on Jan. 31. RAZOR'S EDGE: Toronto boasts the NBA's fourth-best offense, averaging 104 points during the regular season. For what it's worth, the Raptors have reached the 120-point mark eight times. PREDICTION: Raptors in six.
(3) Chicago Bulls vs. (6) Milwaukee Bucks
RECORDS: Chicago (50-32), Milwaukee (41-41) ...SEASON SERIES: Bulls, 3-1 ... MAIN STORYLINE: Can the Bulls advance through the first round while limiting Derrick Rose (back from injury) to 25 minutes or less? ... BETCHA DIDN'T KNOW: Milwaukee averaged only 84.8 points against Chicago -- the lowest scoring average of any Bulls opponent this season. DECEIVING MEASURE: A quick look at the statistics page has the Bucks boasting seven players averaging double figures in points. Now for the bad news: The "leading" scorers include Brandon Knight, who was traded to Phoenix in Februrary ... and rookie Jabari Parker, who suffered a season-ending knee injury many months ago. PREDICTION: Bulls in five.
(2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (7) Boston Celtics
RECORDS: Cleveland (53-29), Boston (40-42) ...SEASON SERIES: Tied at 2 ... MAIN STORYLINE: LeBron James returned home last summer to bring Cleveland its first professional sports title since the 1950s. But he'll have to do it with a Cavs squad that's short on experience. For example, supporting stars Kyrie Irvin and Kevin Love have not logged a single postseason game. BETCHA DIDN'T KNOW: James is vying to become the first player in five decades to reach the NBA Finals in five consecutive seasons. LeBron's Miami Heat (left) represented the East from 2011-14. RAZOR'S EDGE: The Cavaliers have allowed the opposition to shoot 46 percent from the field this season ... a discouraging figure that doesn't sound so bad when considering this: The Celtics offense ranked 21st in shooting (44 percent). ... PREDICTION: Cavaliers in six.
WEST -- (1) Golden State Warriors vs. (8) New Orleans Pelicans
RECORDS: Golden State (67-15), New Orleans (45-37) ... SEASON SERIES: Warriors, 3-1 ... MAIN STORYLINE: Can Stephen Curry -- the leading candidate for NBA MVP -- guide the Warriors to their first championship in 40 years? BETCHA DIDN'T KNOW, PART I: Speaking of eons ago, Golden State hasn't advanced to the Western Conference finals since 1976. BETCHA DIDN'T KNOW, PART II: The Warriors never endured more than two games this season without cracking the 100-point mark. HOW'S THIS FOR ODD? It's quite possible the novice NBA fan, who prefers the playoffs over a marathon regular season, hasn't seen Pelicans star Anthony Davis (above -- per-game averages: 24.4 points/10.2 rebounds/2.9 blocks) in live action since his freshman year at Kentucky, leading the Wildcats to the 2012 national title. PREDICTION: Warriors in five.
Kelley L Cox
(4) Portland Trailblazers vs. (5) Memphis Grizzlies
RECORDS: Portland (51-31), Memphis (55-27) ... SEASON SERIES: Grizzlies, 4-0 ... HUH? The Blazers own the 4-seed in the West, thanks to the Northwest Division title. But the Grizzlies possess the home-court edge, due to a better seasonal record. If that's the case, why doesn't the NBA just give Memphis the 4-seed? What's the cachet of winning a division crown, if you're not going to host an opening-round series? MAIN STORYLINE: Both teams have been saddled with injuries in recent weeks, taking some of the luster out of the matchup. Of course, that just puts more pressure on point guards Damian Lillard (Blazers -- above) and Mike Conley Jr. (Grizzlies) to bear the burden of advancement. BETCHA DIDN'T KNOW: Of the playoff clubs, the Blazers are the most prodigious rebounding unit -- 46 boards per game. PREDICTION: Grizzlies in seven.
(3) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (6) San Antonio Spurs
RECORDS: Los Angeles (56-26), San Antonio (55-27) ... SEASON SERIES: Tied at 2 ... STORYLINE #1: It's rare to see a pair of viable championship contenders meet in the opening round; but that's how the ball bounces in the top-heavy West. STORYLINE #2: Could this be the last go-round for future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan, who has collected 25,974 points, 14,644 rebounds and five NBA titles in his legendary 18-year career? FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Duncan's Spurs have never claimed the NBA championship in consecutive seasons. As such, that might have been one of his primary reasons for playing this year. ONE LAST THING: Say hello to the playoff's best clash of point guards -- Chris Paul vs. Tony Parker (above). PREDICTION: Spurs in six.
(2) Houston Rockets vs. (7) Dallas Mavericks
RECORDS: Houston (56-26), Dallas (50-32) ...SEASON SERIES: Rockets, 3-1 ... MAIN STORYLINE: It's put-up or shut-up time for the Rockets, who own a supreme seed in the ultra-competitive West and have their full complement of stars back on the court -- namely center Dwight Howard (above). The Mavericks aren't immune to pressure, either. They haven't won a playoff series since capturing the NBA title in 2011. FOOD FOR THOUGHT: MVP candidate James Harden has been one of the few constants for the injury-riddled Rockets. But ay the rub: Against the Mavs, the southpaw eclipsed his seasonal scoring average of 27.4 points just once -- netting 32 points (on 12 of 13 free throws) and eight boards against Dallas on Nov. 22. PREDICTION: Rockets in six.