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This Weekend in Sports: NBA Playoffs, UFC and More

TWIS 7-18
Jason Miller, Al Bello, Scott Halleran, Bruce Bennett / Getty Images

The start of the NBA playoffs and a terrific UFC bout highlight the upcoming sports calendar. Here’s what to watch this weekend:

Friday, April 19

Washington Nationals at New York Mets

Citi Field, Queens, N.Y., 7:10 p.m. (ET) on ESPN Friday; on MASN2, SNY
Two of Major League Baseball’s best young pitchers duel in New York, as the Washington Nationals (9-6) send Stephen Strasburg (1-2, 2.95) to the mound against Matt Harvey (3-0, 0.82) of the Mets (7-6). Harvey will have to face Bryce Harper and the dangerous Washington lineup, while Strasburg must pitch to a Mets’ batting order anchored by David Wright.

Saturday, April 20

NBA Playoffs Game 1 — (7) Boston Celtics at (2) New York Knicks

Madison Square Garden, New York; 3 p.m. (ET) on ABC
As the second seed in the Eastern Conference, the New York Knicks are favored in their first round, best-of-seven series against the gritty veteran lineup of the Boston Celtics. NBA scoring champ Carmelo Anthony leads the Knicks against the staunch defense of Kevin Garnett and the Celtics. The Knicks won the season series between the teams, 3-1.

Detroit Tigers at Los Angeles Angels

Angel Stadium of Anaheim, Anaheim, Calif.; 3:05 p.m. (ET) on Fox
The Detroit Tigers (9-5) continue their West Coast trip against the Los Angeles Angels (4-10) on Friday. Detroit’s Rick Porcello (0-1, 5.11) will try to contain an Angles lineup that includes Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Mike Trout. Los Angeles’ starter C.J. Wilson (1-0, 4.00) faces Tigers’ mashers Prince Fielder and reigning Triple Crown champ Miguel Cabrera.

NBA Playoffs Game 1 — (5) Chicago Bulls at (4) Brooklyn Nets

Barclays Center, Brooklyn; 8 p.m. (ET) on ESPN
The Nets will host a first round, best-of-seven playoff series in their first year in Brooklyn. Deron Williams will lead the Nets against the defense-minded Chicago Bulls and Joakim Noah. The Bulls won the season series between the teams, 3-1.

UFC on FOX 7: Benson Henderson vs. Gilbert Melendez

H.P. Pavilion, San Jose, Calif.; 8 p.m. (ET) on Fox
Talented and dangerous UFC lightweight champ Benson Henderson will put his title on the line against Gilbert Melendez, a former Strikeforce champ who hasn’t lost since 2008. Melendez (21-2) has never been submitted or knocked out, and Henderson (18-2) is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Other bouts include Daniel Cormier vs. Frank Mir; Nate Diaz vs. Josh Thomson and Matt Brown vs. Jordan Mein.

Sunday, April 21

STP 400

Kansas Speedway, Kansas City, Kan.; 1:16 p.m. (ET) on Fox
Points leader Jimmie Johnson enters this weekend’s STP 400 in Kansas City just 18 points ahead of Kyle Busch in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings. Greg Biffle, Brad Keselowski, Carl Edwards and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are all within 35 points of Johnson’s lead.

NBA Playoffs Game 1 — (7) Los Angeles Lakers at (2) San Antonio Spurs

AT&T Center, San Antonio, Tex.; 3:30 p.m. (ET) on ABC
After waiting until the last night of the regular season to qualify for the NBA playoffs, the Los Angeles Lakers ascended to the seventh seed in the Western Conference. Without the injured Kobe Bryant, the Lakers must hope Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard can carry them past Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs in this first round, best-of-seven series. The Spurs won the season series between the teams, 2-1.

NBA Playoffs Game 1 — (8) Milwaukee Bucks at (1) Miami Heat

American Airlines Arena, Miami; 7 p.m. (ET) on TNT
The defending NBA champion Miami Heat had the league’s best record in 2013. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh must push past the upstart Milwaukee Bucks in the first round, best-of-seven series. The Heat won the season series between the teams, 3-1.

St. Louis Cardinals at Philadelphia Phillies

Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia; 8:05 p.m. (ET) on ESPN
The St. Louis Cardinals (8-6) are once again on top of the National League Central. They’ll visit the Philadelphia Phillies (6-9) on ESPN’s ‘Sunday Night Baseball.” Jake Westbrook (1-1, 0.00) starts for the Cardinals against Kyle Kendrick (1-1, 3.38) of the Phils.

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