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By Miguel Lloyd
Ok, so for some of you guys who have just started to follow my blog, I started my career in writing and broadcasting in sports. I am a die-hard NBA fan, and more specifically love the Lakers and have played the game all my life. With that being said, its time for me to take a stand and put my predictions out there.
First let me say that, I don’t see a dominant team in the field this year except maybe the one team no one wants the see…The San Antonio Spurs. They are getting hot at the right time and they have one of the two best coaches(Popovich and Rivers are the creme of the crop) in the game. But the playoffs are all about match ups. So read on.
First Round Matchups
No. 1 Chicago Bulls vs. No. 8 Philadelphia 76ers
This will be any easy one to pick only because of the Sixers lack of fire power and the Bulls play the best team defense in the league. The Bulls have proven that they can play without Derrick Rose, so the only Achilles heal I see for the Bulls in this round is how long will it take for the reigning MVP to get his legs under him in the playoffs. That will be key to how long they last in this years playoffs, but it shouldn’t be a huge problem versus the Sixers.
Prediction. (Bulls win 4-2)
No. 2 Miami Heat vs. No. 7 New York Knicks
This will be the “pressure busts pipes” series. The names on the marquee will give the feel that this series should be better than it will be. After this season that has included all the Miami Heat “hate” machine and the Jeremy “Linsanity” Lin hype, we are settled on what we thought the Knicks and the Heat should have been from the beginning. A Carmelo lead team that can score a bunch and the loaded Heat. The one difference is that with Mike Woodson as the Knicks coach, they are playing better team defense than earlier in the year. I don’t think that the Knicks have enough in the backcourt to stop Wade from going crazy and I still don’t believe Melo and Amare have figured out how to coexist, but I think it will entertaining.
Prediction (Heat 4-2)
No. 3 Indiana Pacers vs. No. 6 Orlando Magic
Ok. This won’t take long. The Magic are without their only defensive presence in Dwight Howard. Coach Van Gundy has probably already boxed up his office in his mind, and the Pacers are playing some of the best basketball in the NBA right now. Just because a dead clock is right twice a day and that the Magic tend to heat up from the outside every few games, I give the Magic one game. Other than that, I think they have already set up their summer vacation plans.
Prediction (Pacers 4-1)
No. 4 Boston Celtics vs. No. 5 Atlanta Hawks
This series has the potential to be interesting, not because of talent but because of ole’ father time. Talent wise, I still believe that the Celtics bring more to the table. 3 HOFers and the best set up man in the game in Rondo. They are a year older though, and Ray Allen has been hurt. The Hawks have talented players like Josh Smith, Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams but do they have anyone to stop Paul Pierce’s fade away when the game is on the line. Not to mention, Doc Rivers will put them in the position to win games in this series. I do see it going 7 games with the home court making the difference.
Prediction (Celtics 4-3)
No. 1 San Antonio Spurs vs. No. 8 Utah Jazz
Quietly, probably because they don’t draw the TV audiences of the “sexier” franchises, the Spurs never seem to get the nationally televised games that the Lakers, Knicks, Heat, Bulls or Oklahoma City squads do. They just consistently win ball games. For the second year in a row, the Spurs are the #1 seed in the west. The difference I see this year is the infusion of youth in this lineup and a healthy Manu Ginobili. This is a totally different team when he is healthy. He is that guy who has battled the likes on Kobe Bryant for years and dominated the rest. Matchups have been an issue for the Spurs in past years, but I don’t think that will be a problem in the first round this year. Look for them to dominate the young Jazz team en route to a possible run to the finals.
Prediction. (Spurs win 4-1)
No. 2 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. No. 7 Dallas Mavericks
No one believed the Mavs could do it last year until it was done. Win the NBA crown. On the surface, they were a team that was laden with perimeter shooters and an on again off again super star in Dirk Nowitski. Well if you look at the nuts and bolts of last years team to this one, they lost a dominant inside presence in Tyson Chandler that would bang and rebound the few misses they had last year to give them second chances which they took advantage of. Well they are running into a bad matchup for them this year. OKC is poised to make a deep run into the playoffs with 2 of the leagues most dominant scorers in Westbrook and Durant, toughness inside in Abaka and Perkins and a great bench player in Harden. I still question how deep this team can go because of the mentality of Westbrook. In his mind he is option 1, not Durant. That will be problematic for them to win a championship, but it may be good enough to get them to the finals. Synopsis…Youth and Talent over experience in this round.
Prediction. (OKC win 4-2)
No. 3 LA Lakers vs. No. 6 Denver Nuggets
As I mentioned, I am a Lakers fan, but I promise you I will be fair in this assessment. The Lakers filled their biggest void in letting go of Lakers legend Derek Fisher for the youth of Ramon Sessions. Honestly with the dominance of the lead guards in the west, they needed someone who could compete at the position to offset the fact that they are going to see either, Parker, Westbrook or Paul in the west and possibly D. Rose in the east, if they make it that far. Sessions also makes their second team better because Blake can play his role as an effective back up, not a starter. Bynum must NOT take games off and Gasol needs to get used to some pounding in the playoffs for them to make a run. No need to say much about Kobe because we know what we will get from him after 16 years. The Nuggets will not lay down easily and if the Lakers don’t take them out early, they will find themselves in a dog fight that Kobe and his legs do not want.
Prediction. (Lakers win 4-2)
No. 4 Memphis Grizzlies vs. No. 5 LA Clippers
Lob City Vs. The Team no one wants to see in the playoffs. Last year the Grizzles from the 8th position and with the tougher of the two Gasol brothers made a heck of a run in the playoffs. All without their best perimeter player in Rudy Gay. Well they are loaded this year and poised to be a major disruption in the offices of the TV network execs, because they may be the only team besides the Spurs that America just doesn’t like falling in love with on TV. Nonetheless, they’ve earned this seeding for a reason. The Clippers will come in with their high wire act and Griffin will surely get some highlights, but as I have said a lot this year, his “poster” game will not be enough. His post game will have to step up for them to win this series. I don’t think he has enough to offset what the lefty Zach “Zebo” Randolph is going to do to him on the post. It will be entertaining, but won’t be enough for this Clippers team this year. Losing the veteran leader Chauncey Billups will ultimately be the difference.
Prediction. (Grizzlies win 4-3)
These playoffs will be fun. There may be one or two “cakewalks” in the first round, but don’t be surprised if they turn into series, as well. This condensed schedule has made some of the older guys legs tired as they entire into the second season. Fortunately they’ll get more rest and practice time this time of the year than they have all season. It should be good.
Check back with me as we get through round one for the my conference semi predictions.