17 April 2014

2014 NBA Playoffs: 1st Round Predictions

The NBA Playoffs kick off this Saturday afternoon. Yes, this has been a hit-or-miss season for the most part in some aspects, but the playoffs should still be wild and can't miss. You are excited, I am excited, we all are excited. Should be a good one.

Here are my predictions for the opening round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs.

TV Schedule & Announcers

1 Indiana Pacers vs. 8 Atlanta Hawks 
If the Hawks had Al Horford at their disposal, this would be a different story. Of course, if Horford was not lost for the season back in December, the Hawks would not have struggled to get into the playoffs but alas. Atlanta may have been six games under .500 for the year but they did split the season series with Indiana and with mediocre the Pacers have looked over the past few weeks, you should not be surprised if the Hawks steal a game.
Pacers in 5

2 Miami Heat vs. 7 Charlotte Bobcats
There is no question that Charlotte, in their final year as the Bobcats, has been a great story. New coach Steve Clifford has done brilliant work and has helped to greatly improve the defense where they sit fourth overall in points allowed. Al Jefferson has been a beast down in the paint and Kemba Walker has been a solid scorer in the backcourt. That's all good, but they would be happy simply to avoid a sweep which I think is going to happen.
Heat in 4

3 Toronto Raptors vs. 6 Brooklyn Nets 
This is a series that I have really gone back and forth on. On one hand, this Raptors team has been tremendous since the Rudy Gay trade and were led by excellent seasons by Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan as well as quality seasons by a number of fellows. But they are pretty inexperienced for the playoffs, unlike their competitors. Brooklyn is very experienced and they seem to have found their game after Christmas as a small lineup featuring Paul Pierce at the four thrived. But this is still a club that is a bit unpredictable. However, I think that experience and more of those smaller lineups will prove to be the difference for Brooklyn.
Nets in 7

4 Chicago Bulls vs. 5 Washington Wizards
Everybody knows that the Bulls' defense is fantastic as always and is strong enough alone to win a series but it's their offense that has been plugging along without Derrick Rose and Luol Deng as they have relied on Joakim Noah as their facilitator, a role he has filled brilliantly. D.J. Augustin came to town in December and he has been surprisingly strong, and Taj Gibson has been very good as well. But they are relatively uneven, particularly when their offense does not show. Washington is also uneven but it's more due to inconsistency . But boy, is their talented backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal fun to watch. I give the edge to the more experienced and the defensively stronger club of the two to get on by.
Bulls in 6

1 San Antonio Spurs vs. 8 Dallas Mavericks
The Mavericks may only be the eighth seed, but they have had a very good season. Their offense was awesome at times as Dirk Nowitzki had yet another brilliant season, Monta Ellis looked rejuvenated and Jose Calderon was a solid addition at the point. But they are also a bad defensive club and were swept by the Spurs in their regular season series. They may be able to steal a game but it will be a hike to do more than that.
Spurs in 5

2 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. 7 Memphis Grizzlies
Kevin Durant has been unconscionably amazing this year and will probably end up as the MVP. And a Thunder team with a healthy Russell Westbrook will be a championship contender as they are this year, and Serge Ibaka is pretty damn good too. All of that said, Memphis is going to make this a series. They are a tremendous defensive club that will make every game a grinder, they are healthy, they have the size to punish OKC down low and they have been playing excellent basketball. I do think Memphis can win this series, but Durant is too damn good to go out this early.
Thunder in 7

3 Los Angeles Clippers vs. 6 Golden State Warriors
Even as they have put together their first 50 win season in 20 years, this Warriors squad still has the feeling of being a disappointment after high hopes after acquiring Andre Igoudala. But Igoudala fought injuries and had arguably his worst season since he was a rookie. Their chances are weakened without Andrew Bogut, but that could also help them play to their strengths in small ball. Stephen Curry is the kind of guy that when hot can single-handedly win you a game or two, but beyond that, I don't see an upset against a strong Los Angeles club.
Clippers in 6

4 Houston Rockets vs. 5 Portland Trail Blazers
I do not think that the Rockets are a championship team, but that does not mean that they are not very good. Anytime you pair a couple of stars like James Harden and Dwight Howard you will be a team to watch out for. Chandler Parsons is a bit of a heat check guy from the perimeter, and Patrick Beverely can get into seemingly any point guard's head. Portland has had an excellent year and they have a strong duo of their own in Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge, and guys like Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews and Robin Lopez are all various forms of quality. That said, Houston is still better across the board, particularly on defense, and that will be the difference.
Rockets in 5

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