ESPN Rides Regular-Season Momentum Into NBA Playoffs
If NBA Playoff berths had been locked up last week, ESPN could have solidified its plan to dispatch trucks and crews to their first postseason assignments this weekend with minimal stress and plenty of time to spare. But where’s the fun in that?
“The end of the regular season literally came down to that final doubleheader, which was on our air with Memphis-Utah and Houston-Lakers, and that’s exactly what you want,” says Tim Corrigan, senior coordinating producer, ESPN. “The only thing that would have worked out better is if Utah would have won and that Laker overtime thriller could have truly been to either get in the playoffs or not. It was great for us. … The most important thing was that the games at the end really mattered until the end. That’s always what you want most.”
The NBA Playoffs will tip off Saturday exclusively on ABC and ESPN with a quadruple-header, starting with the New York Knicks hosting the Boston Celtics at 3 p.m. ET on ABC. First-round action continues on ESPN with Golden State Warriors at Denver Nuggets at 5:30 p.m., Chicago Bulls at Brooklyn Nets at 8 p.m., and Memphis Grizzlies at Los Angeles Clippers at 10:30 p.m. On Sunday, ABC will broadcast Game 1 of the San Antonio Spurs-Los Angeles Lakers series at 3:30 p.m.
ESPN will provide a base-level 13-14 cameras for each game, including several super-slow-motion cameras, and plans to up the complement to 30-35 for the NBA Finals.
“We’re going to put our best foot forward and consistently have shows with a lot of equipment on them, because you don’t know where the best story might be every night,” says Corrigan. “We’ve put more equipment on shows consistently across the board to make sure in any of those games — whatever ends up being the real signature game of the weekend — we’re prepared from a production standpoint to provide the best pictures, the best audio, the best video, the best everything.”
Having introduced the I-MOVIX ultra-slow-motion camera during last season’s NBA Finals and used it throughout the regular season, ESPN will again place one behind the backboard for a unique through-the-glass perspective.
“What we’ve found with the IMOVIX [is,] it’s been anything from technical and clinical — how guys are in ultra-lock mode as they’re releasing the ball — to fun and interesting angles — players looking up as [another player is] getting ready to grab a ball from far above the rim and then throw it down,” says Corrigan. “It’s been a little bit of both and a lot of fun. … We feel like [it has been] a really positive enhancement for the viewer to be right on top of the action.”
ESPN will continue to take advantage of the NBA’s push to mike players in-game, playing back segments of audio throughout the game and compiling all player first-half sound-bites into a package leading into the second half. As in the regular season, the network plans to mike one player from each team, capturing conversations among teammates and exchanges with the opposing team.
“We had a wide variety of players during the year that we [miked],” says Corrigan. “Every game wasn’t a home run, but, boy, we hit a lot of singles. I would call our success rate what we were hoping for in our first run-through, and we [plan to] carry that momentum into the playoffs.”
Viewers will notice a revamped animation package as well. At 3 p.m. ET on Saturday, ESPN will release the enhanced look, which is modeled after the ABC Sunday Showcase animation. As the Playoffs progress, ESPN will continue to enhance its animation.
ESPN and will.i.am have teamed up to deliver #thatPOWER for the NBA Playoffs in a new open starring the pop superstar and several of the biggest names in the NBA, including LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Paul. The spot, set to the tune of will.i.am’s new single #thatPOWER, will debut on Saturday.
The broadcast team of Mike Breen, analyst Jeff Van Gundy, and reporter Heather Cox return to provide commentary for both ABC games this weekend. ESPN’s on-air playoff talent roster includes three additional teams: Mark Jones, Doris Burke, and Holly Rowe; Dave Pasch, Jon Barry, and Sam Ponder; and Mike Tirico, Hubie Brown, and Chris Broussard. Magic Johnson, Jalen Rose, Bill Simmons, and Michael Wilbon will handle NBA Countdown pregame studio duties.
“With those four teams going out to be our voices on our broadcast,” says Corrigan, “we love our roster, and we love our depth.”
ESPN.com will provide comprehensive coverage of the playoffs. Led by a deep roster of NBA analysts, reporters, and contributors, ESPN.com will provide extensive on-site coverage, scouting and statistical analysis, round-by-round expert predictions, and unique interactive experiences.
The NBA Playoffs will exclusively begin and conclude on ESPN’s family of networks, culminating with ABC’s exclusive presentation of The Finals on ABC, starting June 6.