The NBA Regular Season has come to an end, the Playoffs begin tomorrow afternoon and from where I’m standing, only one thing is certain – the Miami Heat is the team to beat, a feat that feels like a real longshot. But what fun would it be to just hand them the title. Let’s take a look at all of the first round series’ and see if we can guess who will move on. We’ll revisit this at the beginning of each round, so, stay tuned to Sweet Home Sports all through the NBA Playoffs.
This could be a very, very competitive 1 vs 8 series. James Harden goes up against his former team, now as the leader and face of the Rockets franchise. The Rockets are a high scoring offense that depends primarily on Harden to score the majority of those points, which they will have to if they want to make this a series. Omer Asik will make things difficult down low, and if Harden can penetrate affectively, look out for Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin on the wing who can get hot from 3. Harden will most likely get his points in a series where he’ll be highly motivated against his former team. What could hurt him is that he’ll likely have to be assigned to Kevin Durant, who is going to make him work on the defensive end and possibly pull some of his energy on the other end of the court. The Rockets can also go small and force Serge Ibaka out of the paint. But Harden can only do so much, and the Thunder are stacked. Westbrook could the key to this series if he can expose Jeremy Lin on defense and Kevin Martin is a proven scorer who might find himself open and often with so much attention on Durant and Westbrook. And while Asik is a great low post defender, he may get caught helping on penetration and leaving Ibaka or Perkins open to score. This will be a competitive series with a lot of close games, but the Thunder will outlast the Rockets. Thunder in 6.
Even without Kobe Bryant, the Lakers are a scary 7th seed, and the Spurs as still getting over injuries to Manu and Tony Parker, and may still be without Boris Diaw. Dwight Howard is been better without Kobe on the floor, and Pau Gasol is coming off a triple double in the final game of the season and is playing as well as he’s played all year. This series, however, may come down to depth, which the Spurs have. Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Tiago Splitter all average double digit scoring off the bench, and unless Pau and Dwight just go off every night, the Lakers may struggle to score consistently against a very good San Antonio defense. Spurs in 6.
This series is a tough call. The Nuggets have the better complete team, but the Warriors have the two best players in the series. This will be a series with very little defense and a lot of scoring. It is going to come down to big plays at the ends of games, where Steph Curry will excel. He can make big shots and come up big at the end of games, and Denver really doesn’t have that guy. Iguodala has been that guy in the passed, but, has taken a step back in his overall production this year and has yet to prove he’s able to lead a team very far into the playoffs. I see a major upset coming. Warriors in 7.
The final first round series in the West is a repeat of last year’s first round series between the Clippers and Grizzlies. And this greatly rests on whether Blake Griffin can make the next step and be a serious star come playoff time. But these two teams match up really well. Randolph and Gasol down low vs Griffin and Jordan. Conley vs Paul at the point. I believe this is another series that will go seven games, with both teams pulling out huge wins in elimination games. The teams had identical records in the regular season, and both were very good at defending their home court. And if this goes 7 games like I think it will, the Clippers will be able to close it out in Game 7 at home. Clippers in 7.
Sorry Milwaukee. Heat in 4.
Sure the Celtics appear to be the end of their run with Garnett and Pierce. But never, ever count this team out. Doc Rivers is an incredible coach, who knows how to win in the Playoffs. Pierce and Garnett are proven veterans who will not go down easily. And the Knicks, as good as they have been in the regular season, have not yet proven they could be a threat in the playoffs. Carmelo Anthony has not shown us yet that he is a superstar who can lead his team to a championship the way LeBron James and Dwayne Wade already have. The Knicks bigs are banged up, and if Pierce can contain Melo and force him to pass (which, lets face it, he is not prone to do), they will struggle to score. I am going for the major upset here, and giving it to the Celtics in 6.
Its the official NBA-TV series of the season! This actually could be a good series – unfortunately not many people will see this series because it lacks in high profile superstars and overall sexiness. Paul George has really emerged this year in the absence of Danny Granger. Atlanta shouldn’t be slept on, they have a number of good players in Smith and Horford, but unlike Indiana, they lack that player who can step it up when the games matter. Pacers in 5.
If you read my last Playoff Preview post, I picked the beat up Bulls to lose in the first round. And now it appears they will be out Joakim Noah for most, if not all, of this series. But playoff experience goes a long way, and the Bulls have been, at very least this year, fighters. The Nets are still in the first year of this current lineup and there are growing pains, as proven previously by Miami and this year the Lakers. The Bulls struggle to score, but are still one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. I also don’t think the Bulls will lose at home in this series, and will take at least one on the road in Brooklyn. I think the Bulls will use one of their advantages this season, which is that opponents aren’t sure who to stop without Rose in the lineup. The Bulls will win this series of Carols Boozer can get over his post-season struggles and play the way he has been playing all season. Even without Joakim Noah, I still think the more experienced Bulls and coach Tom Thibodeau will be too much for Brooklyn. Bulls in 6.
Stay tuned for more insights throughout the playoffs, as well as previews just like this before each round!