First Round NBA Playoff Previews
As a NBA Fanatic as I am, the beginning of the NBA Playoffs goes down in my life just like Christmas... Excitement, Anticipation & Joy!
The NBA Playoffs are the greatest time in the sports calendar each year and its upon us now.
Here are my first round predictions from both the Western and Eastern Conferences.
#1 Miami Heat 4-0 over the #8 Milwaukee Bucks - Not many people are even giving the Bucks a chance to win one game in this series and I agree. I think this series will be a sweep by Miami as they look to finish this series as quickly as possible and move onto the second round with rest on their mind. There is just too much talent across the board for the Heat even outside of the Big3. The sharp shooting of Ray Allen, the key role players on the bench for Miami and the experience factor all out weigh what the Bucks can bring to the table. The only way the Bucks can be successful even if its for one game is to double team Lebron James and Dwayne Wade and make Chris Bosh and the role players beat you, and hope that Jennings and Ellis explode offensively. But I don't see it happening.
#2 New York Knicks 4-2 over the #7 Boston Celtics - We all know that Boston, no matter how short handed they are come out with passion and intensity that can sometimes rarely be matched. That is not a question for me, the question becomes who offensively will carry this team outside Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce? I don't think Boston has that guy. No Rondo and no Ray Allen this year, two vital keys to their playoff runs of seasons past. This series will have too much Carmelo Anthony, to much rebounding from the Knicks and eventually will wear the Celtics down and allow New York to move on to the second round.
#6 Atlanta Hawks 4-3 over #3 Indiana Pacers - This is the one series in the Eastern Conference where I see a upset in the first round. All season long, fans and analysts alike have called the Pacers the team to compete with the Miami Heat. I haven't been sold on that and I think the weaknesses of the Pacers come to the light during this series v. the Hawks. The Pacers struggle to score the basketball and rely to heavily on their defense to carry them. I know the old adage that "defense wins Championships", but that was the old NBA. In a league where you can't "hand check", perimeter defense is obsolete especially when you have the athletes like Josh Smith and Jeff Teague as the Atlanta Hawks do. I believe this series will go 7 games with the Hawks on the right side of the equation.
#4 Brooklyn Nets 4-1 over #5 Chicago Bulls - If all reports stay true and the Bulls are without Derek Rose in this series, it will be the end of their season. Deron Williams of the Brooklyn Nets is playing not only his best basketball this season, he may be playing the best basketball of his career. A team and organization who has been in the gutter of the Eastern Conference over the last few years, has a opportunity to right the ship not only for themselves, but for their fan base. I see a big series from Williams, but watch out for a break out performance from Gerald Wallace as well, who has struggled to regain his confidence all season long.
#1 Oklahoma City Thunder 4-1 over #8 Houston Rockets - The storyline of the Thunder taking on their old teammate in James Harden certainly will be played out by the media, but at the end of the day, it's what the dynamic duo of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant do on the court that will be the major headline when this series is complete. Both players looking to march back to another NBA Finals, I think that they will come out clicking on all cylinders and be very motivated in the opening round. Look for the front court players of the Thunder to set the pace defensively and cause issues for the guards of Houston if they try and penetrate the lane. Look for a big series from Harden and Lin, but the Thunder will be too much.
#7 Los Angels Lakers 4-2 over #2 San Antonio Spurs - It seems like every time I count the Spurs out, they prove me wrong, but this year I think it will be different. This series has all kinds of storylines stemming from the absence of Kobe Bryant to the resurgence of Pau Gasol to the Championship aspirations of the Spurs. However, I think that Gasol and Howard down low accompanied by a big series from the sharp shooting Steve Blake will give the Spurs all they can handle and eventually down the stretch, lack of offensive from the bench of the Spurs will be their downfall and end their season v. the Lakers. The Lakers in my opinion, the way they are constructed have a better chance in the playoffs without Kobe than with him and I think that shows in Round 1.
#3 Denver Nuggets 4-3 over #6 Golden State Warriors - First of all, let me say this, this may be my favorite of all the first round matchups across the board. This will be a high scoring series from the tip. Both teams like to get up and down the floor and both can play well from the perimeter. The Warriors are led by the best shooter in the league in Stephen Curry while the Nuggets don't have one star, they have a TEAM. Although both teams like to play fast pace, the Nuggets do a great job of creating transition points from their defense and that's what I think will set them apart in a great series v. the Warriors.
#4 Los Angeles Clippers 4-3 over #5 Memphis Grizzlies - This series a year ago was a knock down, drag out series that had the Clippers on the better end when it was all said and done. I think we are primed for deja vu. I believe that the key difference in this series will not be the post play of the bigs for both teams but the point guard play and more specifically the point guard play of Chris Paul. Chris Paul could score 30 every night if he wanted to, but that's not his game, his game is incorporating his teammates and getting them involved to make the team better. He does that in this series and wills his team to another series victory over the Grizzlies in his series.