The NBA regular season is over, which only gives fans a couple of days to take a breather before the ‘2nd season’ begins on Saturday, the NBA Playoffs. For some teams, they’ll be looking to make a deep run in the playoffs in hope of winning the NBA Championship while some teams will have a tough match up in their best of seven game series. Some of the match ups have a ton of story lines and other factors that make it must see tv. Without further ado, here are my predictions for the opening round of playoff NBA basketball.
1) Miami Heat vs 8) Milwaukee Bucks- I don’t think there is much to discuss on this one. The rested Big Three of the Miami Heat has been waiting for the playoffs to get here so they can hopefully make a return to the NBA Finals in hopes of repeating as NBA Champions, and it starts with this series. I don’t see the Bucks giving the Heat much trouble in this series.
Heat in 4 games.
4) Brooklyn Nets vs. 5) Chicago Bulls- This is a series I was hoping would happen with 2 weeks left in the schedule when looking at the conference seeds. This series has the potential to go the distance of 7 games which will feature the offensive explosiveness of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Brook Lopez against the tough, rugged defensive team of the Chicago Bulls. From a big man perspective, the Bulls can hold their own against Lopez and Kris Humphries. What I’m looking forward to watching in this series is if the Bulls’ guards can contain the Nets’ scoring ability. And I’m just going to go under the assumption that Derrick Rose will not return to play for the Bulls until next season, but wouldn’t it be something if he surprised us all and came back for the playoffs? Without Rose though, I still see the Bulls roster of Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, and Nate Robinson will be able to score enough points from the paint, beyond the arch while limiting the Nets and making enough defensive stops when needed to win close games. This series can go the full seven, but I see the Bulls moving on in 6 games
3) Indiana Pacers vs 6) Atlanta Hawks- In a series which will more then likely be the last one for Hawks’ star Josh Smith in uniform for Atlanta, who has made it very clear that once he becomes a free agent (this June), he will not re-sign with the Hawks. I think Atlanta should have traded him while they had the chance in January/February before the trade deadline. None the less, the Atlanta Hawks will have their hands full against an Indiana team that is flying under the radar as a team looking to make a run in the playoffs and establish themselves as a serious contender in the Eastern Conference.
Pacers in 5 games.
2) New York Knicks vs. 7) Boston Celtics- Is this series a rivalry in the making? If the Celtics’ roster was slightly younger, I’d say yes. In the recent series in the playoffs, the Celtics were able to move on without much trouble due to the Knicks being unable to play team basketball and Carmelo Anthony being the diva player that he is. But this is the year 2013, and New York Knicks are playing great team basketball, the pieces around Carmelo Anthony are just as potent in terms of scoring, and they won their first division title since the year 2000. Carmelo Anthony, averaging 28.7 points a game, just earned his 1st scoring title and dethroned Kevin Durant of the Thunder in doing so. What makes him interesting as a player, and what I would like to see him develop in the near future is the ability to play better defense. I say this because he can score from just about anywhere on the floor, but has difficulty in containing the players he is assigned to defend night in and night out.
Then you have the Boston Celtics who had to skip their season finale at home due to the unfortunate and tragic events that took place this past Monday during the Boston Marathon, but you better believe their home games (games 3 and 4) will be not only electric, but the raw emotion and energy from the crowd will be something special that might get the Celtics to win one not just for themselves and the franchise, but for the city who is looking for something to help them heal from the bombings that claimed 3 lives and injured close to 180 people. Coach Doc Rivers has a roster that is seasoned and well experienced in the playoffs, and they have the ability to play defense and create turnovers and stops when needed in order to win ball games. What Boston must do to win this series is split the first two games in Madison Square Garden, then win their two home games to put pressure on New York to win 3 of the next 4 games.
That being said, I think the Knicks have way too much momentum going their way to lose 4 games to the Celtics. This can go 7 games, but I see the Knicks winning in 6.
1) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. 8) Houston Rockets- The Thunder will face off against a familiar face in James Harden, who signed with the Rockets during the off season. With Jeremy Lin signing with the Rockets as well, the two guards are very quick and will look to play a little giddy up tempo basketball that will hope to keep up with the Thunder’s fast game play. That being said, the Thunder are looking to make their way back to the NBA Finals and should win this series in 5 games or less.
4) Los Angeles Clippers vs. 5) Memphis Grizzlies- You want a rivalry? You got one right here. This is the 2nd year in a row the Clippers and Grizzlies face each other in the playoffs as a 4/5 seed match up. And to make things interesting, the Girzzlies had home court advantage in this series that went the full 7 games, but got hammered by the Clippers on their home floor, so Memphis is looking for a little pay back this time around. For the Pacific Division Champion Clippers, who won their first division title in their entire franchise history. is looking to go farther then the Conference Semi-finals in last years playoffs and have the potential to do so when they play great defense, and when they are in transition, they aren’t called “Lob city” for nothing. And with veteran point guard Chauncey Billups back on the roster from a foot injury, he’ll provide the key leadership off the bench for a team that needs it in order to make a deep run in the playoffs.
In a series that can go 7 game, I’ll take the Clippers to win it in 6 or 7 games.
3) Denver Nuggets vs. 6) Golden State Warriors- For a team that many are calling the dark horse to reach the NBA Finals, I’m going to go against the grain on that idea. Why? Due to the Danilo Gallinari missing the rest of the regular season and playoffs due to injury and Kennith Faried going to miss some time due to an ankle injury, the Denver Nuggets are no longer a deep roster, which will be needed when the intensity of the playoffs gets underway. They are still capable of winning this series, and they are still explosive in transition and on the half court offense as well as making some big defensive plays. The Nuggets better hope that no one gets into serious foul trouble throughout the series against a Warriors, who are without Andrew Bogut but have done fine in his absence. Not to mention that they have Stephen Curry, who just set the season NBA record for three pointers made. If he catches fire from beyond the arch, the Nuggets are in trouble.
In a bold move, I see the Warriors upsetting the Denver Nuggets in 6 games.
2) San Antonio Spurs vs. 7) Los Angeles Lakers- One team settled for the 2nd seed while the other took advantage of their schedule and home games to not only earn the last playoff berth, but earned the 7th seed by beating the Houston Rockets in the final game of the regular season. For the Lakers, it’s a team without Kobe Bryant, who will be out of action for the next 9 months due to a torn Achilles Tendon. So this is now Dwight Howard’s team (assuming he re-signs with the Lakers after the season is up when he becomes a free agent). The one player who has surprised me in Bryant’s absence is Steve Blake, who is filling in for a injured Steve Nash, who has made the most of this opportunity by leading the team in scoring. And this is a team that I written off as a playoff team back in the middle of the season, especially when Kobe went down last week with his injury. Now, the Lakers have the momentum going into the post-season while the Spurs have backed into it due to injuries and resting their starters up for their upcoming run in the playoffs. What I’ll be looking for is how San Antonio’s big men can contain both Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol. The addition of Tracy McGrady to the Spurs lineup will be a key player when it comes to defending the perimeter shooters. The guards of the Spurs, including starters Tony Parker and Danny Green, will give the Lakers fits since they both are quick and can hit shots from anywhere on the court. My X-factor in this series is the three point shooting from Matt Bonner. Bonner, nicknamed both the “Red Rocket” and “Red Mamba”, can open up the paint for San Antonio if he can hit a few long range shots early in the game/series. Will the Laker’s head coach Mike D’Antoni make team defense a priority to hold the Spurs to under 95 points a game? How will the Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich approach this series? These are questions that will be answered in game one at the AT&T Center in San Antonio on Sunday.
In a close series, I see the Spurs moving on in 5-6 games.
Your thoughts on the playoffs are much welcomed.