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Ted S. McGregor Jr. & r & & r & The NBA Playoffs & r & & r & (various times through June, TNT) & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & L & lt;/span & ike most of network TV, the National Basketball Association holds its season finale in May. But unlike Lost, you don't have to watch every episode to keep up. In fact, most people have ignored the show until now, when the NBA playoffs are on the air.





Like a lot of people, I had kind of given up on the NBA as its golden age waned, with the retirement of guys like Magic Johnson, John Stockton, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan. But over the last few years, the league has built back up a stable of superstars -- many of whom are facing off against each other in these playoffs. San Antonio's Tim Duncan versus Phoenix's Steve Nash and Cleveland's LeBron James versus New Jersey's Jason Kidd -- these are some fun players to watch.





What makes basketball so exciting? It's the personality and style of the players -- in football, their faces are hidden by helmets while crusty old coaches dominate the game. But it's also the raw emotion, with the crowd right there on top of the court -- in baseball, looking bored seems to be an unspoken code of behavior for players. As an added only-in-basketball bonus, if the game isn't close, you can just compare tattoos.





In the early rounds of the playoffs, TNT broadcasts most of the games, and it's definitely the network to watch. They have great announcers, with ex-jocks like Reggie Miller and Steve Kerr matched with veteran play-by-play guys like Marv Albert and Dick Stockton. But best of all are the studio halftime and postgame shows, with Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and the singular Charles Barkley. Watching Barkley's stream-of-consciousness hyperbole is as fun as watching the dunks and dishes during the game. He's insulting, nonsensical and homespun all at once -- and he also knows his basketball. TNT understands this is entertainment, not rocket science (as ESPN sometimes seems to think), so they are willing to unleash Sir Charles. Unfortunately, as the playoffs roll to the Finals in June, TNT gets pushed aside and the productions get needlessly overblown over on ABC.





So if you find yourself seeing every plot twist coming on CSI and Ugly Betty, try the NBA playoffs on TNT. It's the one show on TV with guaranteed suspense and some shocker endings. (Just ask the Dallas Mavericks: They were everybody's favorite to win it all this year, but they've already lost to the Golden State Warriors, the last team to make the playoffs.)





TiVo-Worthy


The Henry Rollins Show


Punk rocker turned political gadfly Henry Rollins has a highly caffeinated take on Dave-and-Jay-style late-night talk. Now in its second season, The Henry Rollins Show delves deep into music, politics and pop culture. Past guests have included Ben Stiller, Billy Bragg and John Waters; this week features former Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell and actor Luke Wilson. (Friday, 5/11, 11 pm, IFC)





Survivor: Fiji


Yep, another season of Survivor (believe it or not, the 14th) has come to an end, and as usual, the finale features an hour-long highlights-and-reunion show before the 60 minutes that will determine who gets the million bucks. (Sunday, 5/13, 8 pm, CBS)





Live Music


In the ratings struggle that is the network morning shows, every edge is exploited. When Today started a summer concert series a few years ago, the other networks quickly matched them. The good news for viewers is there are top musical acts making the morning rounds on network TV all summer long. Today kicks it off Friday with Martina McBride, Josh Turner and Gretchen Wilson. (Friday, 5/11, during the second hour, NBC)

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