27 April 2012

2012 NBA Playoffs: 1st Round Predictions

That certainly was an interesting NBA season, one that almost didn't happen. We had too many games in too short of time, leading to poor quality of play that we had not seen in the league since the last strike shortened season. Two games in two nights, three games in three nights, four games in six nights; this season will not go down as an all-time great season. But the playoffs have arrived and with that some days of rest, so how about that. Who will advance past the first round and keep their dreams of a title alive?

TV Schedule

(1) Chicago Bulls vs. (8) Philadelphia 76ers
Derrick Rose has missed almost half of the Bulls' games this year, their starting lineup has only played together a handful of times and they still had the best record in the league. Tom Thibodeau should get Coach of the Year for his work engineering fantastic defense as always and a strong winner. The 76ers really faded in the second half in order to fall all the way to the eighth seed after starting off hot and while they are really athletic on the wings, they are not very good at putting the ball in the basket, despite a great season for Andre Igoudala. I can't see the Sixers even getting one game.
Bulls in four

(2) Miami Heat vs. (7) Miami Heat
Have to give the Knicks a lot of credit. After Carmelo Anthony basically got Mike D'Antoni fired, they looked like the team we all thought they would play like at the beginning of the year. Anthony was brilliant offensively (and even played a smidgen of defense here and there), Amar'e Stoudemire got his game together and with Tyson Chandler's terrific defense (favorite for Defensive Player of the Year), this team looked dangerous. But they really miss Jeremy Lin running the point plus Chandler is out for game one. They will take a couple games from Miami but I'd still be stunned if this Heat club go out this early. LeBron James will smash Anthony on offense.
Heat in six

(3) Indiana Pacers vs. (6) Orlando Magic
Yeah so the Magic are having this thing with Dwight Howard and Stan Van Gundy and it's all awkward and stuff. So Howard will not be playing after electing to nuke the Magic's season by getting back surgery. Now the only chance the Magic have is if they get really hot from three and Ryan Anderson will have a large load to carry. A balanced club like Indiana won't struggle at all in disembarking this listless Magic team.
Pacers in four

(4) Atlanta Hawks vs. (5) Boston Celtics
I really felt that this Hawks team could defeat the Celtics but then I realized again that the Hawks will be without Al Horford, as they have for much of the season. Having Vlad Ramonovic and Zaza Pachulia playing down low does not quite fill the void. The Hawks have the athletic edge on the wings with Josh Smith, Marvin Williams and Joe Johnson plus Jeff Teague had a solid year running the point as well. But Rajon Rondo has been ridiculous this year and I think the veterans will just get by as led by Rondo and taking advantage of a soft interior of Atlanta.
Celtics in seven

(1) San Antonio Spurs vs. (8) Utah Jazz
It truly is nice to see the Jazz back in the playoffs, even though it really has only been a couple of seasons. Ty Corbin has done a nice job with this club and they have a deep frontcourt that could pose some worries for Tim Duncan and DeJuan Blair. But the Jazz are really shallow in the backcourt, which does not bode well against a team featuring Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili still playing at high levels. Like I said, nice to see Utah here.
Spurs in four

(2) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (7) Dallas Mavericks
Here we got an interesting first round matchup as this is a rematch of the Western Conference Finals from a year ago. We all know what happened then as the Mavericks came out on top en route to a championship but this team is very difference as there is no Tyson Chandler down low plus Lamar Odom was a major fail this season. Now it's essentially Dirk Nowitzki and co. and this team did struggle down the stretch. The Thunder made it look like they were coasting in the second half somewhat and they did not finish great either and while Kevin Durant is a freaking star, Russell Westbrook lights up the scoreboard as can James Harden off the pine, plus they have great defense down low, OKC is vulnerable. And Dirk will carry Dallas to a game 7 but they aren't deep enough to take out Oklahoma City.
Thunder in seven

(3) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (6) Denver Nuggets 
Finally once the Lakers actually got a point guard, they got their action in traction (like that?) as once Ramon Sessions came to town, this team took off. Kobe Bryant is still an assassin offensively, Pau Gasol is still an elite double-double threat and when he has his head together, Andrew Bynum is one talented low-post offensive player. But I really like this Nuggets team, the best in the league offensively, in the upset. They get offense from everybody (Ty Lawson, Aaron Afflalo, Danilo Gallinari, Al Harrington and even the mercurial JaVale McGee) and I think this youth, athletic and deep team will prove to be too much on the perimeter for the Lakers.
Nuggets in six

(4) Memphis Grizzlies vs. (5) Los Angeles Clippers
I really like this Grizzlies team and I think they can absolutely win the Western Conference. They play fantastic defense on the wings, courtesy of Mike Conley and Tony Allen, and down low with Marc Gasol. Plus Rudy Gay can fill up the stat sheet, particularly on offense, and overall this team can score very well. Lob City was really exciting as Chris Paul energized this team but they disappointed a little in the second half as everybody realizes that Vinny Del Negro is a terrible coach. The fact that this team flops all the freaking time and that Blake Griffin doesn't play defense doesn't help. Team is a year, and a coach, away.
Grizzlies in seven

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