The NBA Playoffs are just about to get underway, and I felt about giving some predictions on each of the match-ups that we have this year. The one thing I enjoy about the match-ups this year, is that everything is very wide open. The Heat are at the tail end of their dominance, and while LeBron is still the best player in the NBA, the rest of his team is suspect. The Pacers have been awful of late, the Spurs are great but could fold if they have to face the Thunder, the Thunder themselves might not have enough help outside of Durant, and there are a number of potential sleeper match-ups. So here’s a quick series of thoughts and prediction for all eight series.
San Antonio Spurs (1) vs Dallas Mavericks (8)
This is the most sure series in the first round. The Mavericks have some kind of incredible season, because looking at that lineup, there’s no way this team should’ve made the playoffs, let alone win 50 games. Dirk Nowitzki had one of the best seasons in his career, Rick Carlisle certified himself as one of the best coaches in basketball, and their oddball supporting cast of Ellis, Calderon and Vince Carter have surprisingly worked. But none of this matter as they’re going up against the machine known as the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs have made everyone is well rested, and are looking to have some big performances from guys like Patty Mills and Marco Belinelli who have both been great. The Mavericks had a nice little run getting here, but the Spurs are going to roll right over them, en route to their second round matchup.
Predictions: Spurs in Four Games
Houston Rockets (4) vs Portland Trail Blazers (5)
This could end up being one of the best series in the first round. Both teams anchored by superstar guards, Harden and Lillard, and superstar low post players, Howard and Aldridge. If I had to make one guarantee about this series, it would be that very little defense will be played. Both teams are putrid on defense, but are super efficient on offense, and let those threes fly like wild. A lot of the Rockets success will come down to whether or not Patrick Beverley can play a lot of minutes because he’ll be essential against Damian Lillard, and trying to keep him contained. However, in a series that’s so close, with two teams that are so close, I almost always go with the team who has the best player. James Harden is that guy, so I’m going Rockets in this one.
Prediction: Rockets in Seven Games
Los Angeles Clippers (3) vs Golden State Warriors (6)
If only Andrew Bogut weren’t hurt. Then the Warriors could not only have a legit shot at winning this series, but at even making to the finals, or the West finals at the very least. But sadly, this is not the case, so we’ll have to settle for the most entertaining series in the playoffs. This is like the Rockets-Blazers series, but with faster teams, and better players. Chris Paul vs Stephen Curry? Yes please. Blake Griffin vs essentially the entire frontline trying to fight him? That sounds amazing. It’ll be interesting to see a playoff series, with Blake Griffin turning into the top five player in the NBA this past season. How does the alpha dog game work between him and Chris Paul in playoff pressure? Regardless, this series is going to be nuts, game to game. I expect Curry to win a game by himself, the Warriors to have one ridiculous three point shooting game, but the Clippers are just a better, and more complete team.
Prediction: Clipper in Six Games
Oklahoma City Thunder (2) vs Memphis Grizzlies (7)
Now it’s time for the NBA nerds series. This series might not have the firepower of the Clippers-Warriors or Rockets-Blazers series, but it pits two teams that have such an amazing set of matchups. The Grizzlies are the absolute worst team for the Thunder in round one, as they force the pace to slow down, and can just focus on beating the crap out of the Thunder with their physicality. Scott Brooks could be the deciding factor in this series, and not in the Thunder’s favour. If he spends too much time with Perkins on the floor, and trying to play big, then he’s going to get beaten around constantly. Marc Gasol has remerged as one of the best centres in the game, and if you give him even a slight advantage, he’s going to kill you. Of course, one team has Kevin Durant, and that team is going to win, despite the Grizzlies coaching and size advantage.
Prediction: Thunder in Six
Indiana Pacers (1) vs Atlanta Hawks (8)
This should be a clean sweep for the Pacers, but with how terrible they’ve been playing, not only do I think they lose a game that they throw away, I also think they could be pushed to the limit. The Pacers have gone from dominating the Eastern conference, to limping into the playoffs, and lucky they don’t have to play a team like the Knicks or another team with a legitimate star. From on court issues of shots, to serious off court issues, I’m looking your way Paul George, this team has been free falling of late. Still, they are playing the Hawks without Al Horford. They will inevitably throw a game a way, but they still win this series. The real question is, has the damage been done when they play a good team in round two?
Prediction: Pacers in Five Games
Chicago Bulls (4) vs Washington Wizards (5)
I’m really torn on this series. On one hand, I really like the matchup the Wizards get here, as I think that they can get better shots than the Bulls can, and John Wall is about to have his coming out party. On the other hand, Randy Wittman vs Tom Thibodeau is a wash. The Wizards definitely have the overall star power, and fire power in this series, especially with Nene coming back in time for the playoffs. The aforementioned Wall is on the precipice of breakage through to stardom, and I think he could be a real alpha dog in this series, just making things happen against a great defense. A guy like Bradley Beal could also be a potential wild card, as he could be one of those guys who can get hot quickly, and win a quarter or two, and even swing a series. On the other hand again, Wittman is an awful coach. And Joakim Noah is the third place guy on my non-existent MVP ballot. Regardless of all this, I think I’m going to go out on a limb on this one and take the Wizards. The Bulls just can’t score when they need to. Running plays for Jimmy Butler won’t cut it.
Prediction: Wizards in Seven
Toronto Raptors (3) vs Brooklyn Nets (6)
I’m not going to be a homer… I’m not going to be a homer… I’m not going to be a homer… I can’t help it, CANADAAAAAAAAA! It makes me beyond happy as a huge supporter of Canadian basketball in this country, to see the Raptors succeed so much this season. The fans deserve this more than anything, and they just have such a likeable team. Unfortunately, the worst matchup they could’ve gotten in round one is the Nets, and in round two, they’d have the Heat. Yikes. Fortunately, they have the backcourt advantage, as well as having the best player in the series, DeMar DeRozan or Kyle Lowry depending on your preference. As for the Nets, they shamelessly tanked the final game to get the Raptors, but the basketball gods could smite them for that. It’s scary seeing how much playoff experience this team has, but everything rides on how Deron Williams performs. If we get alpha dog Deron, who’s outplaying Lowry, then the Nets win. If we get sulking, constantly being beat, and taking bad jumpers Deron, then the Nets will seriously struggle. So give me Canada’s team.
Prediction: Raptors in Six
Miami Heat (2) vs Charlotte Bobcats (7)
Unfortunate that the Bobcats get the Heat here, because I honestly thought they could’ve given the Pacers a run for their money, with Al Jefferson constantly eating Roy Hibbert’s lunch. Oh well. Al Jefferson will just have to settle for eating the Heat’s combination froncourt’s lunch instead. Big Al is going to being averaging 25+ point, and probably have one of those super fun 35 point and 20 rebound games. but regardless of how well Al plays, this is the Heat we’re talking about, and even though Kevin Durant is the MVP this year, LeBron is still the overall best player in the world. He’s not losing on round one, even though we might only see the 50% version of Dwyane Wade, and mangled mess of a rotation. The Heat aren’t losing this series, but could be vulnerable next round depending on who they play.
Prediction: Heat in Five Games