The NBA Playoffs are one of my favorite things in all of sport. There are no more tired legs on a back-to-back, no lackadaisical play due to boredom or the lengthy season. It’s scrappy, physical basketball from here on out, and that’s the way I like it.
In both conferences all of the match-ups will provide very intriguing basketball games. The teams are either incredibly well matched, obscenely lopsided, or are a great contrast of playing styles. Here’s my take on each first round series with predicted winners and in how many games.
San Antonio Spurs (1) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (8): Even as the Spurs completely limped into the playoffs by losing their last two games of the regular season as well as Manu Ginobli for game one at minimum, I don’t see them struggling with the Grizzlies too much. Zach Randolph is a beast, and even without Rudy Gay the Grizz had still been winning, but the Spurs will prove to be too much for them.
Prediction: Spurs in 5.
Los Angeles Lakers (2) vs. New Orleans Hornets (7): Between Andrew Bynum’s knee, Kobe’s F-Bomb, Ron Artest ‘Goin Loco,’ and Lamar Odom’s reality show, there are more than enough distractions for the 2 time defending champs. Oh did I mention Steve Blake has chicken pox? But diversion from the task at hand is never in Phil Jackson’s post-season playbook, so don’t even think about calling them unfocused. Chris Paul will light up the Lakers backcourt, especially Derek Fisher, but the length and strength of the Lakers interior will dominate Emeka Okafor and D.J. Mbenga, and the Lakers will cruise through New Orleans and on to the next.
Prediction: Lakers in 5
Dallas Mavericks (3) vs. Portland Trailblazers (6): Now here is a very captivating match-up. Both teams have a lot of talented players, especially at guard, versatile big men, and a decided home court advantage at both venues. But seeeing that the Mavericks have the actual home court advantage in the series, one would have to think that if they can figure out how to win at home they should take care of business. On the other hand, if Gerlad Wallace and LaMarcus Aldridge have a huge series, the Mavericks playoff jinx may continue sooner than later.
Prediction: Mavericks in 7.
Oklahoma City Thunder (4) vs. Denver Nuggets (5): The 4 v. 5 matchup is always a doozy, but this one is a super-doozy (if I can say that). With the addition of Kendrick Perkins at the trade deadline, the Thunder are a lot of people’s favorites to win the West. But the new-look Nuggets are definitely not a team to sleep on. George Karl always knows how to get the most out of whatever squad he’s given, and his squad now is stacked with talent. He’s got so many different lineups and player combos it almost makes your head spin, and the Thunder are going to be in for a rough one if they don’t recognize. KD can’t do everything you know?
Prediction: Nuggets in 6.
Chicago Bulls (1) vs. Indiana Pacers (8): Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert, Darren Collison. Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, Derrick Rose. Need I say more?
Prediction: Bulls in 4.
Miami Heat (2) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (7): The ‘big three’ will be worthless in the eyes of the public if they can’t do anything in the playoffs. But luckily for them they drew the Sixers, whom the Heat beat all three times during the regular season. The Heat has a huge chip on their shoulder, which will manifest itself in a beatdown of the 76ers. And remember, there is no crying in basketball.
Prediction: Heat in 4.
Orlando Magic (3) vs. Atlanta Hawks: With Al Horford’s production this year at a all time high and the always dangerous Josh Smith and Joe Johnson waiting in the wings, the Hawks could prove to give the Magic fits in the playoffs. Dwight Howard had himself an epic season, and the Magic played well against Atlanta, but the Hawks always seem to bring it in the post season. With that being said, the Magic are too talented and too well coached not to get past them.
Prediction: Magic in 6
Boston Celtics (4) vs. New York Knicks (5): Probably the most anticipated match-up of the first round, the Boston/ New York rivalry will return to it’s glory days with this series. The questions about Shaq and Boston’s struggles at the end of the season are valid, but the Knicks still aren’t completely fluid together either with all their new pieces from the Carmelo trade (including Melo himself). This is going to be a physical series equipped with hard fouls, tough defense, and maybe even a little bit of blood. Doc Rivers will have his team ready to go, as usual, but can the Knicks rev it up when they need it most?
Predection: Boston in 7.