My favorite time of year is among us as the NBA Playoffs kick off tomorrow afternoon. This has been quite a crazy season for the NBA with new teams, (Rockets, Nuggets, Warriors, Nets) emerging as contenders and some of our perennial postseason mainstays, (Mavericks, 76ers, Jazz) find themselves watching from home with the rest of us. Regardless of who takes the hardwood, (insert joke here), we are sure to get some great competition and I am sure there will be an upset or two that will have critics and gamblers both up in arms. Here is a breakdown of how the Sports Debaters feel the first round will go down.
I won’t waste too much time on this one. The Heat have the best team in the NBA and the best player in world to go with it. Lebron James has a huge point to make and that is to let his critics, which there shouldn’t be many of anymore, know that last year was not a fluke. If you want to be better than Jordan you are going to have to get 5 more of those nice shinny things for your fingers that they give you with that beautiful gold trophy. The Bucks don’t stand a shot in hell and if Milwaukee’s sub-.500 record is any indication of how this series will go then the Heat will have plenty of time to prepare for their second round matchup. We are predicting the easy sweep for Miami in this one.
Series: Heat 4-0
What has already been a storied rivalry is about to get more intense then ever. Between the horrific Boston Bombings on top of the altercation between Melo and Garnett in the beginning of the year, this series has a shit load of emotional baggage entering the first round. Boston and New York have historic rivalries in pretty much every sport and competition, so when these two cities meet in a postseason it is nothing short of bananas. This Knicks won the regular season series against Boston 3-1 and they look to carry their current hot streak into the playoffs. With Rondo out with his torn ACL and Melo playing better then he ever has, I expect the Knicks to be able to win their first playoff series in over a decade.
Series: Knicks 4-1
The Indiana Pacers started this season on fire. They seemed to be able to shut down any offense with their stingy defense and it really seemed as if they could solidify themselves as the second best team in the East. Fast forward to today and the Pacers ended the season very sloppy and they have a lot of negative momentum entering the postseason. Having said that, the only team in the Eastern Conference Playoffs that has looked worse than the Pacers in the final month would have to be their first round opponent, the Atlanta Hawks. They will definitely deny it, but the Hawks tanked the end of the season just so they wouldn’t have to face the Heat in the second round. Don’t you worry Hawks fans because you will not have a second round to stress about.
Series: Pacers 4-2
The Brooklyn Nets entered this season with extremely high expectations due to their owner guaranteeing a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in their first year in Brooklyn. They did have a fairly impressive regular season and have the honor of hosting the nitty gritty Rose-less Bulls in the first round. This will be a tough battle for both sides and the entire series will come down to 3 points; 1) Will Deron Williams keep up this amazing stretch that he is currently on? 2) Will Brook Lopez be able to prove that he is the best offensive center in the East? and 3) Will Nate Robinson be able to shoot 60%+ from the floor while running a fluid offense? Luckily for the Nets, I think the answers to those 3 questions are Yes, Yes and No! Expect this series to be close but I feel that the Nets will have the honor of losing to the Heat in round numero dos.
Series: Nets 4-3
All season long there have been endless debates on whether the Harden deal was good or bad for the Thunder. One thing is for sure, it was definitely good for Houston. The Rockets boasted one of the most efficient offenses in the NBA and it was 100% due to the fact that James Harden separated himself as one of the leagues elite players. Sure Lin, Parsons and Asik all played important roles, but Harden put the Rockets on his back and helped them just sneak into that eighth spot in the West. Harden is going to try and prove the Thunder organization wrong as he will try and upset them in the first round, but the dominant scoring duo of Durant and Westbrook will prove far to lethal for the Rockets to handle. I do feel that Houston will be able to squeak one victory out of this series tho.
Series: Thunder 4-1
If Sunday’s matchup between these two teams is any indication of how this series will go, we are in store for an instant classic. Without Kobe, the Lakers seem to be playing with a new sense of physicality and a whole new game plan. The inside-out game that the Lakers have gone to these past 2 games is really proving to be effective. Both Dwight and Pau have each lead their own respective teams in the playoffs and they seemed poised to give the Spurs a run for their money this year. Some people are calling me crazy with this prediction but i feel that this series will be going into 7 games and while I do feel that the Spurs will pull it out with their home court advantage, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it go the other way.
Series: Spurs 4-3
The Denver Nuggets have been the silent killers this year as they have quietly inched their way into the tough fought for third seed in the West. Denver’s best trait throughout this season was their home court dominance (38-3). Even with Danilo Gallinari going down for the season with a torn ACL, the Nuggets still have a ridiculously solid rotation top to bottom. The matchup I will be watching in this series is the battle between Curry and Lawson. These two young dynamic point guards is going to be the deciding factor in the series. While Curry has one of the smoothest strokes in the game, Lawson has developed into one of the best all-around PG’s there is. The Warriors have had a great season and their head coach, Mark Jackson, may very well take home Coach of the Year honors, but the Nuggets are too deep and too good at home.
Series: Nuggets 4-2
In this repeat matchup from last years first round between the 4 and 5 seeds in the West, we are sure to get our money’s worth. The Memphis Grizzlies are trying to seek revenge for their game 7 loss at home last year to the Clippers. Now that the Grizzlies got rid of their top scorer and go to guy at the end of games, who are they going to turn to at the end of a close game? I’ll tell you who; no one! I think that the Grizzlies over performed all season long and now that the playoffs are here, I feel that the Clippers will show why this is their best team in franchise history. I expect Griffin and Jordan to dominate Marc Gasol and Randolph all series long. Chris Paul is going to have a field day with Mike Conley Jr as well. Don’t expect to see this series go to 7.