The regular season has come to an end and we are just days away from the start of the playoffs. There are some great matchups going into the weekend, along with a few mysteries. Will the Lakers and Celtics be able to overcome their recent struggles? I’m not too sure how everything will pan out, but I’ll be picking my favorites from round to round, so let’s start now…
Chicago Bulls vs. Indiana Pacers – The Pacers had a great season and were actually one of the few teams that were able to defeat the Bulls during their run late in the season. With that being said, they don’t stand a chance against Chicago. Derrick Rose is on fire right now and it’s rubbing off on his teammates. The Bulls hustle every night they’re on the court and the Pacers will not be able to keep up with them. These games may be closer than I expect, but the outcome will be the same… Chicago wins it in 4.
Miami Heat vs. Philadelphia 76ers – The Heat have also caught fire recently and are taking that momentum with them into the playoffs. Miami swept the season series against the 76ers, 3-0, and shouldn’t have much trouble doing the same in the post season. They are easily the best team in the East when they bring their ‘A’ game, but tend to slack off from time to time, giving away games to unworthy teams. I don’t expect the Heat to take off many nights in the playoffs, but they’ll be able to against Philly, so I will take Miami in this series, in 5 games.
Boston Celtics vs. New York Knicks – This may actually be the most exciting matchup of the first round. Boston clearly has the experience and edge in this series, but the Knicks bring so much intrigue to the table. They have struggled since they traded Kendrick Perkins to the Thunder and are in desperate need of some sort of spark. On the other side, Carmella Anthony is one of the most dangerous closers in the NBA and will give the Celtics major problems throughout the series. With the experience Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnet bring to the court, it will be just enough to get by. I’ll pick the Celtics to win in 7.
Orlando Magic vs. Atlanta Hawks – Who can forget this matchup from last year’s playoffs. The Magic embarrassed the Hawks in 4 straight games, outscoring them by like 110 points – or something in that area – and quickly moving on to the second round. Atlanta was able to take 3 of the 4 games against Orlando this season and will be looking for revenge. While it seems to be a great rematch, I’ll put my money on Dwight Howard powering his way into the second round. Sorry Atlanta fans, but get ready to lose in the first round for the second straight year, to the same opponent. Slight improvements from last season, but the Magic will win this series in 6.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies – San Antonio quickly propelled themselves to the best record in the West this season and maintained the best record in the league up until the very last game. While their experience and age has proven to be their friend, it’s also become their enemy. Ginobli has been in and out of injury over the last couple of years and suffered an elbow injury on Wednesday night. The Spurs may have made some noise during the regular season, but I believe their strength will wear out soon. With that being said, it won’t wear out in the first round, which is why I’m picking the Spurs to win this series in 6.
Los Angelas Lakers vs. New Orleans Hornets – The Lakers started the season a little shaky, but no one was too concerned until they lost to the Cavaliers right before the all-star break. Everyone’s panic meter started to rise, but they answered the criticism by winning 17 of 18 after the break. Everything seemed to be going their way until they once again started to struggle and lost 5 straight games. Andrew Bynum is injured at the moment, but they have proven they can win without him. I don’t know how long it will last, but they will make it through this round and beat the Hornets in 6.
Dallas Mavericks vs. Portland Trailblazers – This matchup was a little bit more difficult to decide on. The Mavericks need to make a run here in the playoffs and you know Dirk wants a ring more than anything. Psychologically, the Mavs are weak. They have the same core group and have come up short in the playoffs, year after year. Along with that, the Trailblazers are a very “under the radar” type of team and will not be intimidated at all with this matchup. The season series was tied, 2-2, both teams winning on the road, and they are evenly matched. If the Mavs can’t come out to a quick start in the series, I’m afraid they’ll do too much thinking and find themselves out in the first round once again. With all of this being said, I think the Blazers will shock the league and come out on top in 7. This is my upset of the first round.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Denver Nuggets – I am a big fan of the Oklahoma City Thunder. They may be young and inexperienced when it comes to the playoffs, but with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook leading the team, they are headed in the right direction. The Perkins trade was great for them, not just for his experience, but also because he has been able to free up Serge Ibaka, who has been playing great. The Nuggets are playing better than anyone expected after getting rid of Carmelo and they will look to prove everyone wrong by making a run in the playoffs, but the Thunder have to much speed and scoring for them to handle. I’m picking Oklahoma City to take this series in 6.