I haven’t been this excited for the Playoffs in a while (probably because my Nets are in the tournament for the first time in 6 years). Every match-up in the first round is worth watching. Here are my predictions:
(1) Miami Heat vs. (8) Milwaukee Bucks
Miami begins their title defense against the scrappy Milwaukee Bucks team. The Bucks have beaten the Heat once this season and also pushed them to OT in another. They have an explosive back-court in Jennings and Ellis that can fill it up any given night. But the Heat are the champs. LeBron might be having his best season in his career and the Heat might have the best chemistry in the league right now. The Bucks also closed out the regular season poorly, winning only 3 games in April. I just can’t see the Bucks winning a game. The Heat have also had plenty of rest for their starters. Maybe the Bucks steal one at home but Miami will win.
Prediction: Miami wins (4-0)
(2) New York Knicks vs. (7) Boston Celtics
Knick fans may be confident they can end this series fast but I don’t think future Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce will lay down quietly. The Knicks ended the season on a fantastic run to solidify themselves in 2nd in the East while the Celtics struggled with injuries all season. Melo has been the hottest player in the league the last month so the Celtics will have their hands full guarding the Knicks dynamic offense. This series might be the most entertaining one in the East’s first round because of the rivalry between the 2 teams. I have this series going to New York in a tough 6 or 7 games. The Celtics are just to banged up and KG and Pierce are playing on their last legs. No doubt they will go down fighting with their lives though.
Prediction: New York wins (4-2)
(3) Indiana Pacers vs. (6) Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks tried their best to get the Pacers in the 1st round, letting the Bulls take the 5th spot. Understandable, because they avoid Miami in the 2nd round should they advance and most importantly, they’ve played the Pacers well this season. The season series was tied at 2-2 as both teams struggled in the last month of the season. The Pacers are a tough, defensive minded team that leads the league in fewest points per game. Paul George is a rising star in the NBA. They will give any one a tough series. The Hawks are a fast paced team that runs a lot but their defensive anchor isn’t 100%. That said, I see the Pacers winning this series. The Hawks have a bigger problem in trying to keep Josh Smith this off season (or trying to lure Dwight Howard to his home town).
Prediction: Indiana wins (4-1)
(4) Brooklyn Nets vs. (5) Chicago Bulls
The Brooklyn Nets make their first trip to the playoffs to take on the well-coached Chicago Bulls. Bulls have the season series 3-1 and most people are expecting the Bulls the come out as the winner. I think this will be a really tight and exciting series. Deron Williams is at the top of his game right now and the Nets ended their season on a high note. The Bulls without their star Derrick Rose still had a great season beating huge teams and ending winning streaks. But they are limping into the playoffs right now. Noah is said to be struggling with a foot injury as well as Taj Gibson. Two very important pieces to the Bulls defense. The Nets are coming off some much needed rest. The biggest problem for them is inconsistency. They can appear to be a top team in the East in one quarter and then appear as one of the worst in another. As a Nets fan I’m a little nervous about this match-up but I have faith we will pull out a victory… Just praying that D-Rose doesn’t make a crazy return.
Prediction: Brooklyn wins (4-3)
(1) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (8) Houston Rockets
The Beard returns to take on the team that traded him nearly 5 months ago. The Rockets and the Thunder are both high powered offensive teams so this should be one of the more fun series to watch. The head line though is obviously James Harden’s return to OKC. Harden had a terrible game in his first return only shooting 3-16 but he also had his best game of his career against them, scoring 46 points. While the Rockets are a solid team, I don’t think they have the means to beat the reigning Western Conference Champs. Jeremy Lin has a very tough match-up against the explosive Russell Westbrook and of course you have to worry about Kevin Durant.
Prediction: Oklahoma City wins (4-1)
(2) San Antonio Spurs vs (7) Los Angeles Lakers
It’s going to be a very empty feeling to this series because Kobe won’t be playing but this series still has potential to be close. The Lakers will instead be led by Dwight Howard who has had an up and down season but finished strong. The Spurs are banged up (Manu out, Parker not 100%) but you can never count them out. Greg Popovich is, in my opinion, the best coach in the league. Even with Kobe, I have a hard team seeing the Lakers upsetting the Spurs. Steve Nash is eyeing his return in Game 1 so it will be interesting to see Nash get full control of the ball with elite big men like Dwight and Pau Gasol.
Prediction: San Antonio wins (4-2)
(3) Denver Nuggets vs. (6) Golden State Warriors
I can’t wait to watch this series. Both teams run, score a lot of points, and have multiple athletic players. This might be the funnest series to watch. The Nuggets have had a great season but they’ll have to play without one of their leading scorers Danillo Gallanari. Not a problem though because the Nuggets are possibly the deepest team in the NBA. The Warriors are making their first post season appearance since 2007 (the famous upset against the Mavs). This series is filled with fun match-ups Curry vs Lawson, Lee vs Faried, Thompson vs Igoudala. Its a tough series to predict because I think the Warriors have the ability to upset the Nuggets but I’m going with the team that won the season series.
Prediction: Denver wins (4-2)
(4) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (5) Memphis Grizzlies
This is a rematch of last years 1st round match-up that went to 7 games. These two teams hate each other and that will make this series a lot more interesting to watch. Lob City has been the best team in LA this year, winning their first Pacific division title in history. The Grizzlies are right there with them, both having the same record at 56-26. This will be a tough series for both teams and I expect quite a few scuffles here and there. In the end though I have to give it to the Clippers who have had the upper hand against Memphis this season.
Prediction: Los Angeles wins (4-2)