1 Is the third time really the charm? The only team with the answer is the two-time defending champion Miami Heat, who could be susceptible this time around to an opponent with length (see Indiana and the 2013 Eastern Conference finals) and accumulated fatigue, because it’ll take a fourth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals to get there.

2 Is the Spurs’ hangover really long gone? It sure would appear so, after the team that could have and should have won last season’s NBA title pushed on without any apparent emotional devastation by winning an NBA-best 62 regular-season games. Injuries and their aging core remain a concern in a brutally tough Western Conference, though.


3 What’s first-round must-see TV? There’s so many of them, but the Golden State-Los Angeles Clippers matchup could be a classic: High-flying, high-scoring and with a history between the teams that already is starting to turn nasty. Don’t miss unless you’re a defensive purist, and even then maybe you watch just to see how the Warriors — a better defensive team than they’re credited for — try to slow down the Clippers without injured center Andrew Bogut.

4 Can the Pacers turn it around, just like that? Indiana started the season 46-13 and ended it 10-13 and despite all the hand-wringing that the team has lost its way, the Pacers are still best in the East and have kept home-court advantage should they face the Heat in the conference finals.

5 Ponce de Leon couldn’t do it, can the Nets? Brooklyn has gone 34-17 in 2014 after a horrific 10-21 start, and the question is whether Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce find the Fountain of Youth and playoff magic one more time? It’s going to be tough with a first-round draw against the Raptors, who are better than people think.

Jerry Zgoda