The first round of the playoffs brought a plethora of excitement to NBA fans across the country. From upsets to injuries we saw it all in the past two weeks and now we are entering the Conference Semis with some unpredictable faces. The power in the West seems to have shifted now that Westbrook is sidelined until next year and while the Heat still remain everybody’s favorite, there are a few teams that are looking to rock the boat. With 5 out of 8 correct first round picks, I am now going to try and go a perfect 4 for 4 for the Semis.
As I predicted, the Heat ran over the lowly Bucks for an easy sweep. While the Bulls won’t provide the same simplicity that Milwaukee did, Miami should have no problem making it to the next round but I don’t feel that this series will end in a sweep. I am predicting that the Bulls will squeeze out a meaningless game 4, a la the Knicks last season, but inevitably the Heat will prevail in 5. Lebron is too good and Rose is too injured.
Prediction: Heat 4-1
I am very proud that my Knicks are finally in the second round again but they are running into arguably the best defense in the Playoffs. Indiana and the Knicks provided the NBA with some of the best playoff series through the 90’s. Who could forget Miller’s heroics or LJ’s 4-point play. It’s safe to say that these two teams hate each other. Melo has a lot to prove if the Knicks are truly competing for a Title. Paul George and Indiana pose a lot of threats to the Knicks and I feel this series will be extremely tight throughout. That being said, the Knicks should be meeting the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Prediction: Knicks 4-2
I might have predicted this match up to be the Clippers vs Thunder but I feel that the Grizz will make it a much more enticing series. It was heartbreaking to see Westbrook get injured the way he did, but let’s not forget who the Thunder belongs too; he’s known as the Durantula! Durant can score and Memphis can defend. The Clippers found out first hand how tough the Grizzlies can be when they are on top of their game. A lot of analysts are writing the Thunder off with Russel being out but I don’t necessarily see it that way. The Thunder are more of a playoff-seasoned team and while this match up will probably be a lot harder without Westbrook, they will still come out on top.
Prediction: Thunder 4-3
I have to apologize to the Spurs for even questioning their ability to trounce the Lakers. San Antonio handled their business with class and ease and now they have the luxury of facing the young and hyped Golden State Warriors. In what has to be the biggest upset of the first round, Mark Jackson led his talented cast of neophytes over the starless Denver Nuggets only to have the Spurs waiting for them in round 2. Outside of my Knicks, there is no team I enjoy watching more than the Warriors, but with Duncan and Parker on the top of their games the Warriors don’t stand a shot of the Conference Finals.
Prediction: Spurs 4-1
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.
Series: Clippers 4-2
It is fair to say that the Miami Heat were the unanimous favorite to be the 2011-12 NBA Champions after having a near championship run just a year ago with their newly put together team of superstar talent. I am sure I am not alone when I say that I would have loved to punch Lebron James in the face as he made me sit in front of my TV for an announcement special called “The Decision” just so I can here his pompous ass say those painfully infuriating words; “I will be taking my talents to South Beach.” Soon after his announcement to join forces with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, the new “Big 3”, (formally the NBA Champion Celtics Allen, Garnett, and Pierce) made an outlandish spectacle where they painted the biggest bulls-eye on their backs by declaring their future predictions of not 4, not 5, not 6, but more championships for their new team. After a slow start to the 2010-11 season, the Heat pulled it together and pushed their way to the NBA Finals where the Dallas Mavericks made everyone outside of Southern Florida very happy by upsetting the NBA’s new “Evil Empire.”
Entering this strike-shortened season, Miami had the same high expectations as the previous season. The only difference this time was the fact that most of the NBA world agreed with their predictions of winning it all. Recently, as the season has been winding down, people have been changing their minds. After a scorching start to the season with a 27-7 record going into the All-Star game, the Heat have gone 13-10 since and dropped 4 games behind the 1st place Chicago Bulls. If you know anything about Basketball, then you should know the importance of going into the playoffs hot. Well the Heat have cooled off and now they see themselves facing similar scrutiny to last season.
In the Heat’s most recent game, they played the 1st place Bulls and everything went wrong from there. Derrick Rose, last seasons MVP and the NBA’s best PG, came off of his most recent injury to play in this Nationally televised battle-of-the-best match-up. Unfortunately for Rose, he did not seem healthy enough to play and scored a career low 2 points on a dismal 1-13 shooting from the field. With Rose posting those numbers one can only expect the Bulls opponent to pull out a victory. I am always one to preach that one regular season came can not define your season, but in this case I think I am wrong. The Heat had a 2 point lead with 11 seconds left when Lebron James, who is continuously scrutinized for his late game inabilities, missed 1 of 2 free throws giving the Bulls a chance to tie. Rose’s backup PG, C.J Watson came through huge with a game tying 3-pointer to end regulation and put the game into overtime. That’s when the “cry-baby Heat” from last year showed their tears once again. With slumped shoulders and pouting faces, Miami got smacked by the Bulls in OT and lost by 10.
In an NBA season you will always have your ups and downs throughout the year, but it is your job to make sure the downs do not occur around the playoffs. The Heat have shown where all of their weaknesses are with absolutely no respectable big man and probably to the shortest bench out of all the playoff bound teams. Lebron James might win his 3rd MVP award by the end of this season, but my new prediction is that his hand will still be without a ring. Dwayne Wade still looks great but with all of his injuries and lack of a 3 point shot he has shown how he can be stopped. As for “Chris Posh Spice,” I really don’t think there is anything he will do positive for this team. Bosh is a player that thrives in the post and has a smooth 15 foot jumper, but when you have Lebron and Dwayne running the offense there really isn’t much they need him for. Mike Miller has one of the best 3 point shots in the NBA but he suffers from the same problem as the Knicks Steve Novak, bad defense and doesn’t move without the ball well. Mario Chalmers and Norrice Cole will not be able to match-up with most PG’s in the East or the West. Lebron and Dwayne just don’t seem like enough right now.
I would love to see the Miami Heat lose in the first round of the playoffs, but with the likely match-up against the slumping 76ers it doesn’t seem too feasible. I predict that Miami with run into Chicago in the Eastern Conference Finals and show the same problems they did last night against the Bulls and fall short of the NBA Finals this season. Let us know where you think these Miami Heat will end their season.