NBA playoffs: How to watch Bucks vs. Heat, Lakers vs. Rockets today

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The NBA season, already marked by the upheaval of playing in a bubble in Disney World due to the coronavirus, took an abrupt pause last week as the players boycotted playoff games in protest at the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin. A number of pro basketball stars took to social media, including the Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron JamesDenver Nuggets’ Jamal Murray and Utah Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell, to demand change and justice.

Games were postponed for three days while the league and the players’ association took part in a series of intense meetings. The result was an agreement to form a social justice coalition with coaches and owners, work to convert arenas into voting locations for the 2020 presidential election and create additional advertising aimed at civic engagement and voter access. As part of the agreement, the 2020 playoffs resumed last weekend. 

After Thursday’s two games that saw the Clippers blow out the Nuggets and the Raptors beat the Celtics at the buzzer, Friday’s action will feature the Bucks looking to avoid falling into a 3-0 hole in their series against the Heat, while the Rockets and Lakers meet up for the first game of their Western Conference semifinal series. 

Here’s the full schedule for Friday, Sept. 4:

  • Miami Heat vs. Milwaukee Bucks (Miami leads 2-0), 6:30 p.m. ET (3:30 p.m. PT) on TNT
  • Houston Rockets vs. Los Angeles Lakers (Game 1), 9 p.m. ET (6 p.m. PT) on ESPN

Looking to watch the playoffs without cable? We have you covered below. 

LeBron James and the Lakers start their conference semifinal series against the Rockets tonight.


Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

When did the 2020 NBA playoffs start? 

The NBA playoffs, which follow a traditional seven-game format, began on Aug. 17. Two to four games are on the schedule each day throughout the playoffs. All games will be broadcast nationally on either TNT, ESPN, ABC or NBA TV. 

Game 7 of the NBA Finals will take place, if necessary, no later than Oct. 13. 

How can I watch the NBA playoffs on TV without cable?

As in a regular non-COVID season, Disney-owned ABC and ESPN will broadcast games, with ABC broadcasting the NBA Finals. ESPN is the exclusive TV network for the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals. 

AT&T-owned Turner Sports, which runs TNT and “jointly” manages the league’s NBA Digital division that includes NBA TV, will also be broadcasting games. The network is a close NBA partner and broadcasts several regular-season games weekly as well as the bulk of playoff games. TNT is the exclusive TV network for the 2020 Western Conference Finals. 

You can see the NBA’s national television schedule here, with games on ABC, ESPN, TNT and NBA TV. 

You don’t need cable or satellite TV to watch the games on ESPN or TNT. Most of the channels are offered on four of the major live TV streaming services, though not all streaming services offer ABC, ESPN, TNT and NBA TV.

Read more: How to cut the cable TV cord in 2020

Sling TV’s $30-a-month Orange package includes ESPN and TNT but not ABC. If you want NBA TV you will also need to subscribe to the Sports Extra add-on for an additional $10 per month.

Read our Sling TV review.

FuboTV recently added ESPN and ABC, where available, to give it three of the four major channels — ABC, ESPN and NBA TV — if you get the $60-per-month Standard package plus the $6-per-month Fubo Extra add-on (for NBA TV).

TNT is no longer available on FuboTV.

Read our FuboTV review.

AT&T TV Now includes ABC, ESPN and TNT with its $55 per month Plus package, with some regional sports networks, like those in New York and Los Angeles, available in the $80 per month Max offering. NBA TV, however, is not included until you go to the $124-per-month Xtra package.

Read our AT&T TV Now review.

Which teams are in? 

Sixteen teams qualified for the playoffs and eight teams remain in the fight for the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy. 

Eastern Conference

  • Milwaukee Bucks
  • Toronto Raptors
  • Boston Celtics
  • Miami Heat

Western Conference

  • Los Angeles Lakers
  • Los Angeles Clippers
  • Denver Nuggets
  • Houston Rockets

The eliminated teams are all done for the year and are prepping for the offseason and NBA Draft, which will be held on Oct. 16. Better luck next year, Knicks fans.

Which players are sitting out? 

Whether from injury, positive COVID-19 tests or any other reason, like concern about getting hurt or catching the coronavirus, several notable players have been sitting out the restart. 

  • Kevin Durant (Brooklyn Nets)
  • Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn Nets)
  • DeAndre Jordan (Brooklyn Nets)
  • Taurean Prince (Brooklyn Nets)
  • Spencer Dinwiddie (Brooklyn Nets)
  • Wilson Chandler (Brooklyn Nets)
  • Bojan Bogdanovic (Utah Jazz)
  • Willie Cauley-Stein (Dallas Mavericks)
  • Avery Bradley (Los Angeles Lakers)
  • Thabo Sefolosha (Houston Rockets)
  • Trevor Ariza (Portland Trail Blazers)

Where are the games being held? 

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Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex will be the home of the NBA action. 


ESPN

The NBA is using three different venues on the ESPN Wide World of Sports campus: the HP Field House, Visa Athletic Center and a site Disney calls The Arena.

The HP Field House has been previously used to host an NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament called the Orlando Invitational. Its next tournament — featuring the likes of Auburn, Michigan State and Gonzaga — is currently set to run Thanksgiving weekend.

Where are the players staying? What do they do when not playing? 

The players, team staff and their personnel and families are divided across three different Disney properties: the Grand Destino, the Grand Floridian and the Yacht Club. 

The hotels are sorted by team standings, with top seeds like the Bucks, Lakers, Raptors and Clippers staying at the Grand Destino, which opened last year. Teams that were on the playoff bubble — like the Blazers — stayed at Disney’s Yacht Club. 

As Stadium and The Athletic’s Shams Charania notes, when not playing players can attend other games, go to movie screenings and play video games, plus take advantage of pools, trails, barbers, manicurists and pedicurists.

Table tennis is also available, but just singles games. Doubles are not allowed in order to maintain social distancing, as pointed out by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. 

More for people who want to stream video

The NBA season, already marked by the upheaval of playing in a bubble in Disney World due to the coronavirus, took an abrupt pause last week as the players boycotted playoff games in protest at the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin. A number of pro basketball stars took to social media, including the Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James, Denver Nuggets' Jamal Murray and Utah Jazz's Donovan Mitchell, to demand change and justice.


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