Heat in 4
It was 30 years ago when Moses Malone said, “Fo Fo Fo” predicting the 76ers to sweep their way through the playoffs. As this year’s postseason begins can the Heat sweep their way to a second straight title? They will be overwhelming favorites in every round and will likely repeat unless they suffer a key injury. The Bucks do have some solid players led by Monta Ellis and a solid man in the middle in Larry Sanders, but they just don’t have a chance to beat the Heat. LeBron James looks like a man on a mission and as they rolled over teams in their 27 game winning streak I see them rolling over everybody in the playoffs, starting with the Bucks who will be lucky if they are within ten at the end of any of the four games.
Thunder in 6
There is no doubt that the Thunder are the team to beat in the Western Conference and that they are the best team in this series, but of all the possible eight seeds the Thunder could have faced the Rockets present the most problems. One player who will take the series as a personal vendetta is James Harden, who was traded from OKC to Houston just before the season. The former sixth man for the Thunder has become a true All-Star in Houston. The Rockets also have a top notch defenseman in Omar Asik as they try to turn up pace with Jeremy Lin at the point. This is the type of pesky team that could drive the juggernaut crazy. However, in the end too much Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will be the key as the Thunder albeit shaken advance to the next round.
Knicks in 7
The Knicks and Celtics are rivalry renewed, meeting in the playoffs for the second time in three years. The Knicks who have not won a postseason series since 2000 come in with the second seed after finishing the season strong. The Celtics meanwhile limp in as they have not been the same team since Rajon Rondo got hurt. However, with the experience of winning series, which the Knicks don’t have led by Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce this series will be anything but easy for the Knicks, who will have all the pressure on their backs as the Celtics need only to have a strong showing. The Knicks are clearly the better team with Carmelo Anthony leading the way and J.R. Smith providing a spark of the bench, that is why they will win but the series will go the distance.
Spurs in 4
The Lakers are the most fortunate team in the playoffs as they managed just to win enough games before losing Kobe Bryant that they were able to cruise against teams resting players in their final game to grab the seventh seed. This would be an interesting matchup if Kobe Bryant was on the floor, but without him it’s a mere sparring match for the Spurs. The veteran Spurs known there is a lot of wear on their tires and finishing a team as quickly as possible is the goal. The Spurs are deep and strong and Tim Duncan has found the fountain of youth, and looked like the MVP of the past at times. The Spurs also have a strong home court edge which will make stealing a game early nearly impossible for the Lakers. This series will be over quickly as Coach Mike D’Antoni will have no answers for Gregg Popovich.
Pacers in 5
These teams split four games in the regular season, but the Pacers hold a distinct advantage in the front court which will make it nearly impossible for the Hawks to win the series. The Pacers led by Roy Hibbert, Paul George and David West were the best rebounding team in the NBA, while the Hawks ranked 23rd. West and George proved to a potent duo on offense as well averaging 34 points combined per game. Things are not much better for Atlanta in the backcourt as George Hill is the best ball handler on each of these teams’ rosters. The Pacers are also very solid disciplined team that should be a tough out for anyone in the playoffs and will take this series rather easily. The only chance the Hawks have is if Al Horford and Josh Smith are able to take over the series.
Nuggets in 7
This could be one of those no place like home series, as the Nuggets have a tremendous home court edge, while the Warriors come in the healthier team. The good news for Denver is leading scorer Ty Lawson looks healthy and ready to go, but without Danilo Gallinari the Nuggets will not be full strength. The Warriors who were not expected to contend for the playoffs have banked on David Lee on the boards and Stephen Curry from downtown to drive them forward and any team that has a three point shooter as good as Curry is dangerous, because when he has the range the Warriors will be hard to beat. A key for the Nuggets will be their bench and Andre Iguodala, who must win the battle of the boards, and the Warriors must win be perfect at home, because they won win more than one in Denver.
Bulls in 6
Of all the teams the Nets could have drawn in the first round the worst match up for them is the Chicago Bulls. During the regular season the Bulls won three of four meetings with Brooklyn, a team with almost no playoff experience. The health of Joakim Noah could be a big factor in this series, but even without their man in the middle the Bulls are a team that could easily out physical the Nets. This is a big problem for Brook Lopez who has struggled in the past against bruising teams like the Bulls. The Nets do have an offensive edge if Deron Williams can get on fire. However, against the Bulls defense that will be a hard task as they are designed to shut down the opposing team’s best player, as Coach Tom Thibodeau may be one of the best defense minds in NBA history.
Clippers in 7
A rematch of one of the best first round series promises even more excitement as the two teams have begun to develop a nice rivalry after last year’s seven game war and battling to the last game of the season this year for home court in this series. The Griz rely on defense with Marc Gasol emerging as one of the defensive best big men in the league, while the Clippers with their athleticism are one perhaps the most exciting team in the NBA. This series will be a battle and it will be tight as every game should be close and every game should be exciting as the Memphis defense looks to give the blues to Lob City. In the end talent will win as the Clippers with Chris Paul have a MVP type season and Blake Griffin’s monster dunks will be the difference.