Bulls in 5
Here is your prototypical 1-8 NBA match up. The Bulls have the best record in the NBA at 62-20 the Pacers at 37-45 have a record of a lottery team if they were in the Western Conference. This series won’t be close. The Bulls are still a young team that needs to learn how to win in the playoffs, but getting to the second round will not be an issue as this series should be over fast, with the Pacers being only able to take one game in Indiana.
Spurs in 5
The Spurs were the best in the West all season, but as the season came to an end their age and health became a factor as an injury to Tim Duncan led to a six game losing streak, while Manu Ginobili is questionable as the playoffs start. The Grizzlies in three previous trips to the playoffs have never won a game let alone the series. That you figure has to change for law of averages, and they did beat the Spurs twice during the season in March. However, the Spurs are too strong, and if they need more than five games to win this series, than their postseason is doomed.
Heat in 4
The Heat did not excel in big games in the regular season, as they only 21-19 against teams with a winning record, the 76ers at 41-41 do not have a winning record. In the regular season the Heat dominated the Sixers winning all three games, by at least nine points. The Heat will have the spotlight as the big three hit the postseason, and they will get past the 76ers quickly by dusting them off with a four game sweep, as the Sixers will have no answers for LeBron and Wade.
Lakers in 4
The Lakers slumbered at the end of the first half and came out of the All-Star Break on fire, and while a recent five game losing streak may be a concern for other teams it is not for the two time defending champs. The health of Andrew Bynum will be key, as a knee injury in the next to last game has them a bit worried, but it won’t matter in this series. The Lakers crushed the Hornets four times this year and they will make quick work here as they know they will need to keep some in reserve for the long run as the Lakers looked primed for another run.
Celtics in 7
When they played earlier in the season, Celtics star Paul Pierce scoffed that the Knicks and Celtics were not rivals, after this series is over he will be singing a different tune. The Celtics did sweep the Knicks in the regular season, but two games were close, and the season ending game did not count. The Knicks have finished strong, while the Celtics have struggled since trading Kendrick Perkins. Though Boston hit a switch in the playoffs last year that may be harder if the loss of Perkins continues to hurt them defensively as the Knicks will want to open things up. The Knicks will not win the series, but they will have fans scared as they take the Celtics the distance.
Mavericks in 7
The Mavericks have been one of the best teams year in year out in the NBA during the regular season during the last decade, but the first round has often been an adventure. Take their stunning loss to the Warriors in 2007. This year it will be more of the same as the sixth seed Trailblazers are the toughest possible early match for them. The Blazers have a solid defense with Marcus Camby and a strong sc LaMarcus Alridge. This series could go either way, but look for Dirk Nowitzki to rise to the occasion and help the Mavs slip by in seven games.
Magic in 6
These two division foes are closely matched as all four games they played this season were close defensive battles where both teams had trouble even reaching 90 points. Though three of the games were early in the season, and trades have changed both teams make up. The Hawks did take the season series 3-1, but the Magic seem to rise in the postseason as they have a better finisher in Dwight Howard. If the Hawks are to win the series they will need to contain Howard and prevent the Magic especially J.J. Riddick and Hedo Turkoglu from making big plays behind the arch. In the end it will be a close series but the Magic will slip by in six games.
Thunder in 5
Last year as they eighth seed the Thunder gave the eventual NBA Champion Lakers all they could handle in the first round, losing a tough six game series. This year the Thunder arrive in the postseason big time as they win their first series against the Nuggets. Kevin Durant is on his way to being the best player in the NBA and will be the best player on the court. While the Nuggets have played well since the Carmelo Anthony trade getting the fifth seed in the West, this is when they will miss his presence as the lack of a go to scorer will be the difference as the Thunder rolls in five games.