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Magic, Heat set to open playoffs

April 17, 2010
From AP wire reports

What Tyson Chandler really loves about the playoffs is that he can zero in one team, pouring over video to learn opposing players' strengths, weaknesses and tendencies.

"You sit there and you study your guy," the Charlotte Bobcats center said. "You know that guy almost better than he knows himself."

So how's that horror DVD starring Dwight Howard of Orlando looking?

"It really doesn't matter how much you watch," Chandler said, laughing.

The player they call Superman is standing in the way of the Charlotte's hopes for a first-round upset in the franchise's first playoff appearance. The four-time All-Star is a matchup nightmare for the Bobcats, who have had little success slowing him down since just missing out on drafting him in 2004.

At 6-foot-11 and 265 pounds, Howard is a unique mix of brute strength and athleticism. He's averaging 18.3 points, an NBA-best 13.2 rebounds and shooting an league-high 61.2 percent from the field.

The Bobcats start veteran Theo Ratliff, who turns 37 on Saturday, at center. Behind him are Chandler, Nazr Mohammed and DeSagana Diop.

Add that up and that's 24 fouls to use if Charlotte wants to be physical.

With Howard just a 59 percent free-throw shooter, Hack-a-Howard may be Charlotte's best option to have a chance in the best-of-seven series, which starts Sunday. Howard made just 3-of-10 free throws in Charlotte's victory at Orlando last month.

Heat vs. Celtics: Boston achieved its main goal of the season, reaching the playoffs with a relatively healthy team, including Kevin Garnett.

The team's emotional leader missed all of last year's postseason with a knee injury that required offseason surgery. This season he played 40 of the last 42 games, and the two he skipped weren't for health reasons.

Saturday night, Garnett will be in his first playoff game since the Celtics won Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals over the Los Angeles Lakers to capture their 17th title. It was Garnett's first and he screamed and wept on the Boston court moments after the game.

Boston is seeded fourth in the Eastern Conference and faces a hot Miami Heat team in the first round.

"Postseason play is all about giving everything you have. I'm no exception to that," Garnett said. "This is what you play for right here."

The Heat rolled down the stretch of the season, going 12-1 since March 20 and 18-4 since March 1.



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