Sports 101

The National Basketball Association playoffs opened last weekend - minus the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls dynasty. "I do think everybody feels hungry and feels they have a chance," said Miami Heat coach Pat Riley. Since the Bulls aren't standing in anyone's way, many of the 16 playoff teams have a real shot at being the last team to win an NBA title this century.

Q: Which teams have the best chance of advancing to the finals?

A: The Indiana Pacers, the Orlando Magic, and the Miami Heat finished with a three-way tie for the best record in the Eastern Conference (33-17). In the Western Conference, the San Antonio Spurs are hot, winning 31 of their last 36 games. The Portland Trail Blazers have made 16 straight post-season appearances, the league's longest streak. The Utah Jazz are the defending champs of the Western Conference.

Q: Of the 16 teams in the playoffs, how many have never won a championship?

A: Eight: the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Orlando Magic, San Antonio Spurs, Minnesota Timberwolves, Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz, and Sacramento Kings.

Q: Which team has won the most championships?

A: The Boston Celtics lead with 16, with their most recent championship win in 1986. The Los Angeles Lakers follow with 11, and the Chicago Bulls are third with six championships.

Q: Who are some of the stars to watch in the playoffs?

A: Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal of the Los Angeles Lakers, Patrick Ewing of the New York Knicks, Allen Iverson of the Philadelphia 76ers, and Karl Malone of the Utah Jazz.

Q: What is one of the more interesting storylines to have emerged?

A: The Milwaukee Bucks and the Philadelphia 76ers are making their return to the playoffs for the first time since 1991. Milwaukee's Glenn Robinson and Ray Allen make their post-season debuts against Indiana and its stars Reggie Miller and Chris Mullin. And the NBA's scoring champion, Allen Iverson, makes his playoff debut.

* Check out www.nba.com for a complete playoff schedule.

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