The first-round pairings for the NBA playoffs are finally set, and the team rosters include eight former University of Kentucky players.
The Miami Heat, the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, will take on No. 7 seed Charlotte. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, a second-year forward who starred on the 2012 UK championship team, averaged 7.5 points and 5.2 rebounds in the regular season for Charlotte. The Bobcats are in the postseason for the first time since the 2009-10 season and for the second time in team history.
The Toronto Raptors, headed by former Cat Dwane Casey, return to the playoffs for the first time since 2008 having won a franchise-record 48 games.
Patrick Patterson, who was traded to Toronto during the season from Sacramento, has averaged 8.5 points and 5.3 rebounds off the bench for the Raptors. Chuck Hayes, also sent to the Raptors from the Kings, averaged 2.2 points and 3.5 rebounds through the regular season. The No. 3 seed Raptors will host the No. 6 seed Nets. Marquis Teague is a Brooklyn reserve.
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The 4-5 matchup pits the No. 4 Chicago Bulls against the No. 5 Wizards. Nazr Mohammed averaged 1.6 points and 2.2 rebounds for the Bulls in his 16th season in the league. He passed Louie Dampier for second all-time in total games played in the NBA by a former UK player.
The Wizards end a five-year playoff drought and are going to the postseason for the first time since having drafted John Wall with the first overall pick in 2009. Wall was named an All-Star for the first time in a season in which he led Washington in scoring (19.4), assists (8.8) and steals (1.8).
In the Western Conference, No. 2 seed Oklahoma City will meet No. 7 Memphis. Tayshaun Prince, in his 11th season, averaged 6 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists while playing the fewest minutes of his career since his rookie season.
Houston, a four seed, gets No. 5 Portland. Terrence Jones has bloomed into a potent threat for the Rockets, averaging 12.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks as a starter in his second year out of Kentucky.
In addition to the ex-Wildcats, a few of the first-round pairings feature players with other ties to the commonwealth:
No. 1 Indiana vs. No. 8 Atlanta: Shelvin Mack (Bryan Station) averaged a career-high 20.4 minutes off the bench for the Hawks in the regular season en route to career bests in several offensive categories.
No. 2 Oklahoma City vs. No. 7 Memphis: Courtney Lee (Western Kentucky), acquired from the Celtics as part of a three-team trade, is a key reserve for the Grizzlies and averaged 9.6 points over the season.
No. 4 Houston vs. No. 5 Portland: Francisco Garcia (Louisville) and Isaiah Canaan (Murray State) both come off the bench for the Rockets.
The other two pairings in the Western Conference — No. 1 San Antonio vs. No. 8 Dallas and No. 3 L.A. Clippers vs. No. 6 Golden State — feature no Kentucky ties.