Ok — it’s my favorite time of the sports year, the NBA Playoffs. And there is no greater armchair sport than making NBA postseason predictions. Football fans call their wives “weekend widows”. During the NBA playoffs, my wife turns into a “May/June widow”. So without further introduction, let’s get started…
#1 Chicago Bulls vs. #8 Indiana Pacers
Derrick Rose and company enter the NBA playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the NBA, going an amazing 21-2 to end the regular season. The Pacers, on the other hand, stumble into the playoffs having lost 2 in a row including a heartbreaker vs. the Knicks. Not much to see here, expect more of the same from D-Rose and Thibs. Pacers get one game just because the jury isn’t convinced yet the Bulls will have the killer instinct to sweep this team. Prediction: Bulls in 5
#2 Miami Heat vs. #7 Philadelphia 76ers
There’s a lot of buzz right now about how the 76ers, who are playing their best basketball of the season right now, are the team that “nobody wants to play” in the East. I call b.s.. Trust me, the Heat are thrilled to not have to take on Melo and the Knicks. Kudos to Doug Collins for getting as much as possible out of a team with Andre Iguodala and not much else, but the ride is over. Expect Lebron & Co. to sweep this series and make a statement that the Heat are ready for the postseason. Prediction: Heat in 4
#3 Boston Celtics vs. #6 New York Knicks
The 1st round match-up with the most star power: the Big 3, Melo, Amare,Spike, historic franchises – what’s not to like? I expect Melo to shine in this series and show the NBA why the Knicks gave up the farm to get him. Still, 1 doesn’t overcome 3, and Boston gets by in a hard fought series (that will have consequences for them down the road) Prediction: Celtics in 6
#4 Orlando Magic vs. #5 Atlanta Hawks
Otherwise known as the “Battle of Two Teams Whose Windows are Nearly Shut” series. Both of these teams suffer from the affliction of the early 2000s Trail Blazers/Kings and current day Mavs – having enough talent to deceive yourself into thinking you’re actually relevant, when you never really were (and consequently, never having high enough draft picks to facilitate a legitimate rebuilding effort). This will be a battle between two relatively evenly matched teams — expect the Magic to pull it out purely on the basis of homecourt advantage and a slight edge in playoff experience. Prediction: Magic in 7.
#1 San Antonio Spurs vs. #8 Memphis Grizzlies
Have things ever looked worse for a #1 seed with 61 wins? On top of some questionable end of season rotations by Pop, the aging Spurs go into their first round match-up with their most valuable player banged up, and having to face a formidable opponent in the Memphis Grizzlies. Still, this Memphis team has yet to prove it has been able to do anything in it’s franchise playoff history, so Spurs fan doesn’t need to worry just yet. They’ll get more of a series than they bargained for, but manage to live for another day (though perhaps, not for long). Prediction: Spurs in 6.
#2 Los Angeles Lakers vs. #7 New Orleans Hornets
What you love about Kobe — he may have missed every shot leading into the final minutes of the final regular season game vs. the Kings, but that didn’t stop him from essentially jacking up a three at the end to save what has become a tattered Lakers season. As a #3 seed, things would have looked grim for the Lakers – as a #2 seed, they actually look quite ideal. The Hornets should be a much easier tuneup than the Thunder last year for the Lake Show — expect them to give up one game because, well, they’re the Lakers. Prediction: Lakers in 5.
#3 Dallas Mavericks vs. #6 Portland Trail Blazers
This year’s trendy “upset special” is the 3-6 matchup in the West. Folks have been jumping on the bandwagon of a Trail Blazers team jumpstarted by the emergence of LaMarcus Aldridge and the addition of Gerald Wallace. This should be a close series. (if for nothing else then, do the Mavs ever make ANY playoff series easy for themselves?) That being said, don’t underestimate homecourt in a series like this, and the Mavs have it. Prediction: Mavericks in 7.
#4 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. #5 Denver Nuggets
This is perhaps the most anticipated matchup in the first round. Two up-and-coming teams who are bringing it hard and have young talent to spare. Frankly,I just don’t see how the Nuggets pull this one out. Oklahoma City, as the Lakers’ found out last year, may have the most daunting playoff homecourt in
the field, and as we know defense win championships. With Perkins, Ibaka, and Sefalosha playing, the Thunder have a better defense than they’ve ever had. The Nuggets will make this a fight, but the talent disparity will win out in the end. Prediction: Thunder in 6.
#1 Chicago Bulls vs. #4 Orlando Magic
Before the Bulls look forward to a match-up vs. the Heat or the Celtics, they cannot overlook a veteran Magic team that has been there before. Nelson, Turkoglu, and Howard are going to present match-up problems that will require all of Rose’s skills to overcome. All this said, the Bulls pull out this series solely because one team is headed in the right direction, and one team is not. Mr. Momentum will carry the Bulls through. Meanwhile, Magic fans brace themselves for perhaps a final 12 months with Superman. Prediction: Bulls in 7.
#2 Miami Heat vs. #3 Boston Celtics
The ultimate grudge match, and my personal favorite of all pre-Final matchups we could possibly see. The individual skills of Lebron and D-Wade vs. the team-oriented philosophy of Doc Rivers‘ Celtics. With Kendrick Perkins and a Celtics team with more swag, I probably lean towards the Green men. Without Perk, the Celtics seem like mortals, and the Heat seem ready to finally put the old men to bed. The final nail in the coffin will be the Celtics not being able to rely on homecourt to push their tiring bodies through what will be an epic Game 7. Prediction: Heat in 7.
# 1 San Antonio Spurs vs. #4 Oklahoma City Thunder
Don’t look now, but the kids have arrived at the party. Perkins brings all of the things the Thunder lacked last year: rebounding, defense, and most importantly, swag. That swag has rubbed off on his teammates and has the entire Thunder team acting like they’ve been there before. The Spurs, on the other hand, feel like a team that may have peaked to early and don’t enough gas in the tank for a long playoff run. Oklahoma City comes of age in this series while Durant continues to evolve into a tier 1 NBA talent. Prediction: Thunder in 6.
#2 Los Angeles Lakers vs. #3 Dallas Mavericks
Yawn. The Mavericks fall into the same category as the Jazz (and many other Western Conference teams in the last decade). Good, but not good enough teams designed to be Laker fodder in the conference semifinals. No difference this year. Move on, nothing to see here. Prediction: Lakers in 5.
#1 Chicago Bulls vs. #2 Miami Heat
America’s MVP vs. The Stat Geek’s MVP. Good vs. Evil. Wind vs. Sun. Position this however you will – but this promises to be a great matchup. At the end of the day, two factors will rule: (1) the Bulls overachieved a bit during theregular season and are not quite as good as they seem and (2) the Heat have a huge chip on their shoulder from everyone telling them what they couldn’t do during the regular season (and by the way, finished the season on a 50-17 tear). Rose will be clutch and prove why he deserves the accolades he’s been getting this year, but in the end, the talent of Lebron and Wade will prevail. Rest easy Bulls nation, your team is ahead of schedule and will be back in this position soon. Prediction: Heat in 6.
#2 Los Angeles Lakers vs. #4 Oklahoma City Thunder
This is the appropriate match-up for the Western Conference Finals, because in my mind, these are the two best teams in the Western Conference. The Thunder will give the Lakers as many fits as they gave them last year and Perkins will make a huge difference down low, but in the end, a healthy Kobe and Bynum will push the Lakers over the top. This series will also be the beginning of the discussion around whether Durant and Westbrook can proceed another level from top notch all-stars to potential NBA legends (a vast leap, and one still much in doubt for both of these players) and therefore make the Thunder true championship contenders. Prediction: Lakers in 6
Which bring us to…
If ever there was a basketball equivalent to Armageddon, this is it. The longawaited Kobe vs. Lebron match-up is here on the greatest stage in basketball. Both of them are in, or close to their prime, and both of them have comparable situations (Kobe has a slight team edge in talent, but Lebron has homecourt). This matchup, this year, will decide many questions for years past, and perhaps, years to come. There will be incredible subtexts to this series as well. Can Kobe match MJ with 6 rings, and if so, what is
his legacy? How does Phil Jackson go out in his final year as an NBA head coach? Is Lebron destined for greatness, or just the greatest that can’t seem to close the deal? This series is a coin flip. The deciding factors? The Lakers’ length and the ability of Ron Artest to keep Lebron to just being merely great (and not legendary). If it goes 7, I think the Heat win it, but I don’t think it will. Prediction: Lakers in 6.
The NBA championship will once again roll through the crime-filled, bonfire starting, van tipping region of the beautiful LA downtown (otherwise known as the new old Pasadena for you LA natives). Kobe can now buckle down on his ultimate career quest: one upping MJ in titles.