First-Round Playoff Predictions
At Rocket Sports and Entertainment, Josh Ott has been the main guy with his NBA analysis (his Lakers are looking good heading into the playoffs) particularly with his “Ott to be a GM” series. But with the playoffs coming up, I think it’s about time I get a basketball article in. So, sit back and enjoy my prediction of the first round of these NBA playoffs.
In the East, the Phildelphia 76ers and Chicago Bulls will be the 1-8 seed matchup. The Bulls were given all they could handle by the Indiana Pacers in last year’s 1-8 matchup in a series that went five games in the best of seven series. I expect a similar test for the Bulls from the Sixers this year. The Philadelphia offense absolutely flies up and down the court. The Sixers can have five guys on the court at any point that are willing to run. If Carlos Boozer is tasked with defending Philadelphia’s Thaddeus Young, he may find himself outmatched by a much younger and healthier player. I expect the Bulls to win the series. Watch out for the youthful Sixers to challenge the Bulls, especially with the Chicago loss of Derrick Rose.
The Miami Heat and New York Knicks are expected to be the 2-7 matchup. Carmelo against LeBron in the playoffs: why has this not happened before? Well the only way before would’ve had to be a Nuggets-Cavs Finals: not likely. The Knicks would’ve preferred to have seen the Bulls in the first round because of how hot the Heat are (pun intended). The Knicks might have the defensive player of the year in Tyson Chandler, but Miami has perhaps the best defensive team in the league. Besides that, the Knicks’ team defense is about as porous as Swiss cheese. I expect the Knicks to keep the series close because they can score at will and Bosh can’t match Chandler in the post. Still, I say Heat in six. Watch for ‘Melo to average 30 in the series because the Knicks will rely on his scoring.
The 3-6 matchup will be the Indiana Pacers and Orlando Magic. Yes, those Pacers that gave the Bulls so much trouble last year. Look, the Pacers are a lot better than most people realize. Danny Granger is averaging more than 18 points per game and Roy Hibbert (the other center taken the year Portland drafted Greg Oden, 2007) is averaging almost 9 boards a game and 2 blocks per game. The x-factor for Indiana will be Paul George, who is an athletic freak on the wing. Also, there will be no Dwight Howard in this series. The absence of Howard will be a huge loss for the Magic. The big guy had season-ending back surgery and will miss the entire playoffs as well as the Olympics. Regardless of how you feel about Howards’ off-court antics, he averaged 20.6 points, 14.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. He also led Orlando with 1.5 steals per game. Even with the Magic up 1-0, I look for Indiana to comeback and take the series.
The 4-5 series will be the Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks actually had more wins during the regular season, but Boston drew the 4 seed because it won the Atlantic Division with a late season charge. Boston is one of the oldest teams in the league. Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are closer to qualifying for social security than they are to first birthdays. Still, Pierce is averaging 19.5 points per game and Rajon Rondo is dishing out nearly 12 assists a game. The Hawks can match Pierce with Joe Johnson and can be a matchup nightmare with the athleticism of Josh Smith and Jeff Teague. This truly is experience (plus Rondo) against youth and athleticism. I always take experience in the playoffs. Celtics win it in five.
In the West, the 1-8 will be the San Antonio Spurs and Utah Jazz. Sticking with the Celtics’ school of balling, the Spurs are aged and experienced. But mostly old. Tim Duncan, who can still pull down 9 rebounds per game, missed a game earlier in the season. On the lineup card it read: Duncan DNP- reason- old. Yeah, even head coach Greg Popovich is using “you’re so old jokes” on perhaps the best power forward of this generation. But Duncan, along with Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, are ready to make a run. They, like last year, have the best record in the West and in the NBA. Unlike last year, Ginobili will play at full strength. I have the Spurs running through the Jazz in five. The power combo of Al Jefferson and Derrick Favors might cause problems inside and keep the series closer than expected.
The Oklahoma City Thunder will have to settle for the 2 seed and prepare for a matchup with the 7-seeded Dallas Mavericks. How fitting that the West’s team of the future be matched up with the defending champs. The Mavs are having an off-year with the play of Dirk Nowitzki down from last year. He and Jason Terry can always get hot, but even if they do I’m not sure they can match Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, who average a combined 56 points per game. If the scoring combo doesn’t get you, there are always the towers down low in Serge Ibaka, who averages 3.7 blocks per game, and Kendrick Perkins. I see the Thunder confirming they have the most talent of any team in the West. The x-factor will be James Harden, who brings 16.8 points per game from the bench. Game one was a real wire job with Durant providing the finish for the Thunder. OKC takes it in five.
Josh Ott ought to be excited about the 3-6 matchup. His Los Angeles Lakers will take on the Denver Nuggets. Kobe is in beast mode right about now, putting up 27.9 points per game and finished second in the scoring race behind When Kobe (rarely) decides not to shoot he lets Andrew Bynum work in the post. Averaging 18.7 points and 11.8 points per game, Bynum is the best true center in L.A. since Shaq dominated the middle. He and Pau Gasol will wreak havoc throughout the playoffs. Also, the Lakers made a great move when they traded for Cavs point guard, Ramon Sessions. Although he’s only averaging a little more than 6 assists a game, he brings athleticism to the point guard position Derek Fisher could not. This is a move to make the Lakers younger at the position to match the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook (who is ironically now teammates with Derek Fisher). Denver has some young talent in Kenneth Faried, Javale McGee and Ty Lawson. Watch for Nuggets’ point guard, journeyman Andre Miller to run the offense effieciently. I see a competitive series that goes six games before Kobe decides enough is enough. Lakers have it in six.
What a comeback in game 1! The 4-5 matchup featuring the Memphis Grizzles and, no longer the other team in the city, the L.A. Blake Griffins! OK, so they are still the Clippers, but let’s be real, it’s all about the Blake show. Griffin averages 20 and 10 at the power forward position, but might not be the best player on his team (though he is the most exciting). Chris Paul might have a legitimate shot at league MVP. Paul has stolen the show in L.A. Even though Griffin is still who everyone associates with the Clippers, Paul is averaging more than 9 assists per game as he helped lead the Clippers into the playoffs for the first time this millennium. The Clippers are full of veterans to go with their young talent like Mo Williams, Paul, Reggie Evans and Kenyon Martin. The Grizzlies have talent of their own, mainly with point guard Mike Conley, Jr. Conley averages 2.2 steals per game and can match Paul’s athleticism, although Paul is much better point guard. Rudy Gay, who averages almost 19 points per game, can score with the best of them in the league. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol can create a matchup problem in the post. Still, I have the Clippers taking the series in six games.
Be on the lookout for the second round predictions, which will look completely different from this round of predictions. I can almost guarantee I’ll get about half of these wrong. But should I be 100 percent correct, you can expect a bit of gloating in the second round predictions. Either way, y’all enjoy the playoffs!