Round 1 of the 2016 NBA Playoffs ends on Sunday, as the Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors meet in Game 7 Sunday night, a few hours after the Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat finish Game 7 of their own. While LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers prepare for the Atlanta Hawks and Steph Curry’s Golden State Warriors host the Portland Trailblazers, the last two Eastern Conference series won’t be complete until Sunday.
After losing Game 5, the Pacers hosted and beat the Raptors in Game 6. An impressive performance by Paul George and the Indiana starters (all of whom scored in double-digits) has forced a Game 7. The winner of that series will move on to face the winner of Sunday afternoon’s game between the Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat. Dwyane Wade and Miami put an end to the Hornets’ three-game winning streak, forcing Game 7 in Miami.
As the NBA Playoffs begin Round 2 on Saturday with San Antonio and Oklahoma City, the Eastern Conference finishes up Round 1 with the conclusions of the Heat-Hornets series and the Raptors-Pacers series on Sunday.
Charlotte Hornets vs. Miami Heat
After winning the first two games of the series, the Heat dropped three straight to the Hornets. In the must-win situation on Friday night, future NBA Hall of Fame shooting guard Dwyane Wade wasn’t about to allow Miami to lose four straight at the hands of Charlotte. Wade stepped up and ended his streak of 0-for-22 from the three-point range by nailing two big shots from downtown in the 4th quarter.
Wade’s gorgeous wife Gabrielle Union was not forced to take to Twitter after Friday’s game to complain about any botched referee calls (unlike the result of Game 5).
For the Charlotte Hornets, forward Nicolas Batum will not play on Sunday. He missed Game 4 and Game 5 due to a sprained left foot and re-injured the foot after playing 15 minutes in Game 6. Coincidentally, Batum’s wife gave birth to their first son on Friday morning. The new dad will have to try to watch his teammates eliminate the Heat from the bench in Miami on Sunday night as the series comes to a close.
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Indiana Pacers vs. Toronto Raptors
After dropping Game 5 in which they had a 13-point lead, the Pacers welcomed the Toronto Raptors to Indiana and forced a Game 7. Like Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat, Paul George stepped up for Indiana on Friday night, contributing to the 18-0 Pacers run that spread across the end of the 3rd and beginning of the 4th quarters.
In last season’s NFL Playoffs, the Cincinnati Bengals failed to win in the post-season once again, despite having the lead and the ball in Pittsburgh Steeler territory with less than two minutes to play. The Bengals haven’t won in the post-season in over three decades.
Could the Raptors truly become the “Bengals of the NBA”? The franchise has only ever won a single NBA Playoffs series, beating the New York Knicks 3-2 in a best-of-5 series in 2001. They lost to the Philadelphia 76ers in seven games right after that and haven’t won a series since.
The Raptors can change all of that on Sunday night.
Where to Watch
While Round 2 of the Western Conference NBA Playoffs begins Saturday and continues on Sunday, the Eastern Conference can’t begin Round 2 until Monday, after the two final series end on Sunday. A few tickets were available Saturday morning directly through the venue for both games. However, by Saturday afternoon, all tickets will likely have to be purchased second-market through a third-party vendor.
The Charlotte Hornets travel to Miami to face the Heat on Sunday afternoon at the AmericanAirlines Arena. The game will air on ABC with coverage beginning at 1:00 p.m. EST.
The winners of Sunday afternoon’s game will move on to Round 2 to face the winners of the Toronto Raptors vs. Indiana Pacers. The game will air as part of NBA On TNT and coverage from the Air Canada Center begins at 8:00 p.m. EST.
[Photo credit Andy Lyons/Getty Images]