1st Round Predictions: NBA Playoffs

From nba.com
From nba.com

Written by Ryan Cole. Media by Mikey Ward

Roughly 6 months have passed, 81 games played, numerous injuries occurred, streaks celebrated, and losses mourned. Needless to say, it is finally time for the NBA playoffs to begin. I, along with many other avid NBA fans, sat in front of the TV watching “March Madness” knowing that once the final whistle blew on championship night, the focus would turn to the road to the NBA finals. I personally am a dedicated fan of the NBA and pay my dues to ESPN, NBA.com, and Bleacher Report on a daily basis in order follow up, not just on my favorite team (#ThunderUp), but on every single team and player a part of the league. So here it is, after 138 days of close observation throughout the regular season, my predictions for this years 1st round of the NBA playoffs:

from wikipedia.com
from wikipedia.com

Eastern Conference

01. Miami Heat   vs. (Miami 3-1)   08. Milwaukee  Bucks

This is potentially one of the most one-sided match ups in recent NBA history. The Miami Heat are coming off their best season since assembling of the “big three”. Furthermore, Coach Erik Spoelstra has rested his players on a consistent basis this season. The Heat are ranked first in field goal percentage and do not have any plans of lowering that rate throughout the playoffs. Milwaukee is second in the league at forcing turnovers and likes to score on the run, but Miami is also notorious for running the fast break. Lebron, Wade, & Co also have a nasty defense that creates numerous opportunities from them to do so.  I wish with all my heart that Milwaukee could put up at least one win against this group but I just can’t bring myself to say that they will. Prediction:  Miami in 4

02.  New York Knicks vs. (New York 3-1) 07.  Boston Celtics

It seems like the era of the “Big Three” is finally coming to a close–the original, Boston “Big Three” that is. With Rajon Rondo out with an ACL tear, the Celtics are coming off of one of their worst seasons in 5 years. The positives, however, that have come out of this year is the development of young players, Avery Bradley and Jeff Green. Unfortunately for the Celts, the Knicks are finally getting to the point that they dreamed about when acquiring Carmelo Anthony 3 years ago.  The only stumbling block keeping the Knicks from a Conference finals matchup with the Heat is that they have had consistent plaguing injuries that have hindered them throughout the year.  When healthy, New York has been one of the most dangerous offensive teams with an outstanding 3 point percentage. The Knicks finished the season rolling on all cylinders with Anthony averaging more than 35 points per game. With the presumed return of Tyson Chandler, the Knicks should be poised to win the first round and potentially challenge the Miami Heat. Prediction: New York in 6

03.  Indiana Pacers   vs. (Tied 2-2)   06.  Atlanta Hawks

 The Indiana Pacers are one of the few teams in the league with no superstar caliber player on its roster. On the other hand Atlanta boast a player in Josh Smith who demands money like a superstar, but does not give the results of one. Similar to last year, the Pacers have put together another successful season with 49 wins. Of the 49 victories are some impressive wins against the Heat and Knicks. Atlanta has also put together a similar season to last year, and is fulfilling their expected place in the playoffs. However, they  never are a team that makes much noise in the playoffs. The Pacers are poised to take revenge on last year’s exit of the playoffs and will be too much to handle for “Josh Smith’s” Hawks.  Prediction: Indiana in 5

04.  Brooklyn Nets  vs (Chicago 3-1)  05. Chicago Bulls

 Definitely one of the most intriguing matchups in the first round of these playoffs is the Nets versus the Bulls. This match contains two of the leagues more defense oriented teams, so expect a low scoring affair.  The Barclay Center will have its well-earned NBA playoff debut as the Nets edged out the Bulls for the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference. Their seasons has consisted of many ups and downs which led to the firing of Avery Johnson, and doubts of super star guard Deron Williams’ contribution. One the other side of the court, the Bulls have been labeled as the “streak busters” after taking down the Heats historic streak in dramatic fashion. The Bulls are a solid defensive team under Tom Thibodeau and may have their superstar point guard Derrick Rose return mid-playoff series. Look for this matchup to be defense heavy and for a few key players off the bench to have a dramatic impact in the finish of this series.  Prediction: Chicago in 6

from nba.com
from nba.com

Western Conference

01. Oklahoma City Thunder  vs (Oklahoma 2-1)  08. Houston Rockets

‘A match up with a great story line’ is a common description of this series. At the beginning of the season the Oklahoma City Thunder traded away their 3rd scoring option, James Harden, to the Houston Rockets because of the inability to form a conducive contract for the following year. Once in Houston, Harden received a max level contract and now is a potential superstar on a young team that climbed into the playoffs on the backs of their offense.  In return for Harden the Thunder received sharp-shooter Kevin Martin who has somewhat seamlessly merged into the lineup and is in the running for the NBA’s 6th man of the year award. Furthermore, youngster Reggie Jackson looks like an even better long term replacement than Martin in years to come–look for him to have a break out game against the Rockets. Even without Harden the Thunder has posted 60 wins and the number 1 seed in the Western Conference. Look for this match up to be excitingly one sided, filled with offense and fast breaks.  Prediction: Thunder in 4

02. San Antonio Spurs  vs (3-1)  7. Los Angeles Lakers

The San Antonio Spurs have had the “end of season blues” and have lost their stable lead in the Western Conference standings to the Oklahoma City Thunder.  Tony Parker has been battling an injury and has lost his efficiency in the stat book after being considered an early MVP candidate. Tim Duncan has refused the old man within himself and has had a miraculous year in the final year of his contract.  On the other hand the Los Angeles Lakers have battle back from being under .500 and now find themselves thrown into the 7th seed without their superstar Kobe Bryant. Since Kobe’s departure they have been 2-0 and have a new outlook of playing from the inside out through Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol. Look for this series to play out differently than what most critics say it will.  Prediction: Lakers in 7

03. Denver Nuggets  vs (Denver 3-1)  06. Golden State Warriors

For both of these teams this season has had many high points. The Denver Nuggets at one point were placed at the peak of the NBA power rankings, while the Golden State Warriors have emerged as a viable playoff team with the emergence of point guard sniper, Stephen Curry. The Nuggets pride themselves on their fast break play and believe in the “mile high” effect playing a big role in their success. The low point of their season was when forward Danilo Gallinari fell to an ACL injury. The Golden State Warriors find themselves in the playoffs for the first time since the Baron Davis era and hold an exciting squad of young players that are itching to make some noise. Curry just came off setting a new record in 3pt shots made and is poised to keep firing throughout the playoffs. Other keys to Golden State’s game are the two bigs who seem to work quite well together: Andrew Bogut and David Lee.  Prediction: Golden State in 7

04.  Los Angeles Clippers  vs (Los Angeles 3-1)  05. Memphis Grizzlies

The winners of the most exciting first round matchup of the 2012 playoffs, meet again this year. Last year the Clippers snuck away with a victory in game 7 and went on to get swept by the Spurs in the second round. This years the Grizzlies boasted  the same record although losing playmaker Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors. The Clippers finally look like a Chris Paul minded team. Still known as “Lob City” the Clippers hold the same attitude and drive as their tenacious superstar Chris Paul. A key element that is different in this years Clippers is the emergence of young center DeAndre Jordan. Jordan has shown the world that he too can posterize players just as well as Blake Griffin.  Prediction: Clippers in 5

Playoff Predictions

Western Conference Finals: Thunder over Warriors in 5

Eastern Conference Finals: Knicks over Heat in 6

NBA Finals: Thunder over Knicks in 6


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