It’s the best season in sports…
The NBA Playoffs are finally upon us.
I know you are just as excited as I am. There are many headlines and great match-ups.
Let’s not wait any longer as we break down the first round match-ups as well as my predictions on who will advance to the Second Round of the NBA Playoffs.
(1) Miami Heat vs. (8) Milwaukee Bucks
Well, Brandon Jennings got what he asked for.
The Heat walk into Sunday’s Game 1 against the Milwaukee Bucks as the perennial favorites to win the NBA Title for the second straight year. Earlier this season, the Bucks Point Guard made some interesting comments regarding the Heat:
“The two games that we played Miami so far, we matched up well against them. If you ask me, that’s who I would want to play first round, Miami.”
“I don’t know if it’s because they’re the champs or what, but we always play harder against Miami.”
Be careful what you wish for, Brandon.
LeBron James and the Heat are as focused as ever to win their second straight NBA Title. Don’t expect the Heat to let their guard down. After the teams split their first two meetings, the Heat defeated the Bucks 107-94 and most recently 94-83. The last time these two tangoed, the Heat were without stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh but still cruised to victory behind LeBron’s twenty-eight points.
Expect a game or two to be close until the fourth quarter. But don’t expect the Bucks to even steal a game this series.
Prediction: Heat in 4
(4) Brooklyn Nets vs. (5) Chicago Bulls
My prediction on this series is solely based on the unknown question everyone keeps asking? Will Derrick Rose return to the Bulls for the Playoffs?
The 2011 MVP has been cleared to play for over a month now but can’t get past the mental hurdles that are keeping him from stepping back onto the court.
However, even without Rose, this series has the ingredients to be a classic one. The Nets have hit their stride as of late while the Bulls limp into the playoffs. Out of the four regular season meetings, three of them were decided by four points or less.
The Bulls will surely be competitive because of their stifling defense but I just cannot envision them winning a seven game series against a team that has more offensive weapons.
This series will come down to Game Seven, where the Nets will pull away late and advance to the Second Round.
Prediction: Nets in 7
(3) Indiana Pacers vs. (6) Atlanta Hawks
The Pacers have all the tools to give the Hawks fits.
They have two competent big men in David West and Roy Hibbert, which should allow Indiana to contain Al Horford and Josh Smith. The most important factor is the Pacers Defense. They are No.1 in Defensive Rating and can cause teams havoc with their toughness and length. Indiana’s Head Coach Frank Vogel has assembled a defensive-minded team and the Pacers are playoff-tested. It seems like the Hawks are stuck in the NBA purgatory….just good enough to make the playoffs but can’t seem to make any noise.
If the Hawks have any chance of upsetting the Pacers, they will need exceptional guard play from Jeff Teague and Josh Smith will need to prove he can make precise decisions during crunch time.
I do not expect the Pacers to lose this series. Sure it won’t be a sweep, but the Pacers will move on to face the winner of the Knicks/Boston series in the Second Round.
Prediction: Pacers in 6
(2) New York Knicks vs. (7) Boston Celtics
Two seasons ago, New York and Boston were in the exact opposite positions.
The Knicks aim to redeem themselves after being swept by the Celtics in first round of the 2011 Playoffs.
New York took the regular season series from the Celtics, winning three out of four games. Boston has the experience to give the Knicks trouble but New York has too much fire-power and three point shooting for the Celtics to overcome. I believe this series will be 2-2 going into Game 5 but Carmelo Anthony will make sure the Knicks advance past the First Round of the playoffs for the second time in his career.
Prediction: Knicks in 6
(1) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (8) Houston Rockets
Talk about headlines and fireworks….
In his first year as a Houston Rocket, James Harden will get the opportunity to oust his former team that decided to trade him this past off-season. Harden helped the Thunder advance to the NBA Finals last season but ultimately lost the championship series in five games to the Miami Heat. That is now history…
The Rockets have the offense to keep up with the Thunder but will struggle to defend. Houston has not shown they can consistently get defensive stops which is critical in post-season play. Harden a lone will help the Rockets steal a couple of games from OKC, but Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will prove to be too much for the Rockets.
Prediction: Thunder in 6
(4) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (5) Memphis Grizzlies
We may be able to call the Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies rivals after this series…
The Clippers ended the Grizzlies season last year after winning Game Seven on Memphis’ home court in the first round of the 2012 Playoffs. The Grizzlies will try to avoid that from reoccurring this time around.
Memphis heads into the Playoffs as the No.1 rated defense in the NBA. Led by Defensive Player of the Year candidate Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies are allowing opponents to just 89.3 points per game. On the flip-side, the Clippers boast one of the premier offenses in the league.
A match-up to pay attention to is between the two Point Guards, Chris Paul and Mike Conley. Memphis will need to establish dominance in the paint and will have to eliminate the Clippers from fast-break opportunities.
This series is a complete toss-up but the fact that Memphis no longer has Rudy Gay along with the Clippers’ having home court advantage makes me tip the scale in the Clippers favor. However, this will be a very, very close series.
Prediction: Clippers in 7
(3) Denver Nuggets vs. (6) Golden State Warriors
The Nuggets and Warriors will likely have viewers moving their heads left to right as both teams can run up and down the floor as well as any team.
Head Coach Mark Jackson has done an outstanding job leading this young Warriors team to the Playoffs for the first time since 2007. Stephen Curry–who should have been an All-Star–will need to have a huuuuuuge series if the Warriors have a shot of upsetting the Nuggets.
Denver will have the ultimate home court advantage, posting the best home record this season (38-3). Golden State will need to shoot lights out and play even better defense than they did in the regular season.
Nuggets’ Forward Kenneth Faried is expected to play in this series which is great news for Nuggets fans. Although Denver is banged up and has lost Danilo Gallinari for the season, they should end, what was a great 2012 campaign for the Warriors
Prediction: Nuggets in 6
(2) San Antonio Spurs vs. (7) Los Angeles Lakers
In my book, this is the most interesting first round Playoff Series.
With so much concern regarding Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli’s health, the Spurs have struggled recently, losing seven of their past ten games. One of those games came at the hands of the Kobe-less Lakers.
The Lakers march into the Playoffs, winners of five games in a row and eight out of nine. Without Kobe, the Lakers have turned to their two-headed monster down low. Pau Gasol has hushed critics with his stellar play and Dwight Howard has looked like the old Dwight Howard that we witnessed when he was with the Magic.
But not so fast….
San Antonio will hear all about how the Lakers will cause them trouble and how they have just as good of a chance as any to upset the Spurs in the first round. Greg Popovich is a master at game-planning and always finds different was to motivate his team. So, we all know he’s taking notes.
As concerning as Tony Parke’s health really is, the Spurs will find a way and will move on past the Lakers, ending a very disappointing season in Laker Land.
Prediction: Spurs in 6