Bulls in 5
For the second straight season the Bulls have homecourt advantage through the entire postseason. What makes it remarkable is that they did it with 2011 MVP Derrick Rose missing nearly half the season with injuries. Of course in the playoffs the Bulls will need Rose if they are going to go the distance. Derrick Rose’s presence will be more important the deeper the Bulls go, as they should face little resistance from the 76ers in the first round. Simply put the Sixers do not have the weapons to even put a scare in the Bulls who at the most will lose just one game in the series.
Spurs in 5
Last year the Spurs held the number one seed in the Western Conference, but after an injury to Manu Ginobili in the final game of the regular season they became vulnerable to the upset and were upended by the Grizzlies. Facing the Jazz this time around the Spurs are certainly going to be more prepared and harder to catch by surprise. The Spurs are healthier and while Ginobili has a reduced roll on the team it is hard to imagine a team with their championship pedigree losing in the first round again.
Heat in 5
Health could be a key in this series as the Heat had some injury concerns as the season came to an end. The Knicks meanwhile have dealt with injuries all season, as they never have truly had a complete roster all season. The Knicks continue to be without Jeremy Lin and Amare Stoudamire has yet to look like an All-Star, though Carmelo Anthony has played his best basketball of the season. In the regular season the Heat swept the Knicks and just present too many matchup problems and will win this series in four or five games.
Thunder in 6
Last year this was the battle in the Western Conference Finals as the Mavericks beat the Thunder on the way to the NBA Championship. However, the Mavericks are nowhere near the team they were last year, as key losses off the championship team like Tyson Chandler and JJ Barrera will make a repeat very difficult especially after Vince Carter and Lamar Odom both failed to deliver up to expectations. Meanwhile the Thunder with the 1-2 punch of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are the clear team to beat in the West.
Pacers in 5
In the regular season the Magic won three of four games against the Pacers, and if both teams had their full rosters the Magic would have certainly would have been the favorites. However, with Dwight Howard on the shelf after back surgery the Magic have no chance to win this series. The Pacers quietly and almost unnoticed had one of their best seasons at 42-24, earning the third seed in the Eastern Conference led by Rob Hibbert and Danny Granger. Even if Howard was healthy, you would give the Pacers at least a fighting chance. Without Howard, the Magic will not have a chance as they will be lucky just to get out of the series with just one win.
Lakers in 5
There are several teams the Lakers do not match up well with and certain teams that are smooth sailing for the Purple and Gold. The Nuggets are one of those teams that are a layup for the Lakers. In the regular season won three of four match ups with Denver. While all the Lakers wins were close, they had the weapons in the end while the Nuggets just fell short. Every game may be close in this series, but who will take the game winning shot for the Nuggets? The Lakers come in and Kobe Bryant should be nice and rested and when the game is on the line for the Lakers you just know he will be looking to make the big play.
Celtics in 6
After a slow start, in which fans in Boston began wodering if it was time to break up the Big Three, the Celtics got healthy and grabbed another Atlantic Division Championship. In fact as they season came to an end the Celtics were one of the hottest teams in the Eastern Conference. While the Bulls and Heat are clearly the class of the East, the Celtics could be a good darkhorse. Though they first must get past the Hawks, who will not be a pushover. Even when the Celtics won it all in 2008 they had trouble with the Hawks needing seven games too win their first round series. This too promises to be just as close, but in the end the Celtics have more weapons and will win in six games.
Grizzlies in 7
Last year the Grizzlies had a coming out party in the playoffs as they stunned the Spurs in the first round, for their first ever playoff wins and series victory, winning over fans in Memphis for the first time in their ten year history. They even played well in the second round despite falling to the Thunder. This time around fans expected more of the same, as they have a team that is a good fit for playoff success led by Rudy Gay, and Marc Gasol, while Zach Randolph after missing much of the season is getting healthy at the right time. For the Clippers Blake Griffin is a postseason rookie, while Chris Paul has been here before and played well. This is nearly a tossup series, but doubts over Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro and the Griz experience will be the difference.