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Sixers-Pistons, Yao Ming Against Nowitzski Highlight Day One of NBA Playoffs


The National Basketball Association playoffs get underway Saturday with the reigning champion Detroit Pistons hosting Philadelphia and three other games on the schedule. The Pistons hope to repeat as champions for the first time in 15 years while Philadelphia hopes to capture a title it has not held in 22 years.

Pistons' coach Larry Brown hopes to find a way to contain Philadelphia team leader Allen Iverson, who averaged nearly 31 points a game in the regular season. Brown coached Iverson at Philadelphia before leaving for Detroit.

Iverson says he and his Philly teammates know that Detroit will put up a hard fight in game one. "But they will win ugly. They will win by one, they will win by two, they will grind it out at the end. And it is like a David against Goliath type of thing. We have just got to come in ready to play," he says.

The Houston Rockets - led by star shooter Tracy McGrady and Chinese center Yao Ming - take on Germany's Dirk Nowitski and the Dallas Mavericks. Indiana veteran Reggie Miller looks for his first NBA title in an 18-year career when the Pacers face Boston. Sacramento plays Seattle.

Sunday, the New Jersey Nets face Shaquille O'Neal and the Miami Heat while Washington plays the Chicago Bulls. Denver takes on two-time champion San Antonio, and Nuggets' coach George Karl says his team is ready for what San Antonio will bring to the game. "I kind of caught the edge [in my players]. And the edge is usually mental more than it is physical. And in a playoff game, that edge is sometimes what wins close games," he says.

Also Sunday, Memphis plays the top-seeded Phoenix Suns. The first round is a best of seven games format over 16 days. The NBA finals are not scheduled to begin until June 9.

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