Finally the only playoffs I actually care about have started–the NBA Playoffs. This weekend featured 8 games in two sets of quadruple-header action. Interestingly, there were no upsets whatsoever, with all the higher seeds getting the victory except for Phoenix. It will be interesting to see if this will continue being the case as we progress through the playoffs. I’m going to take a look at each of the series and give a slight prediction as to what I expect to happen, as well as who I’d rather see winning:
Cleveland (1) vs. Chicago (8) — Cleveland leads 1-0
This one’s a no-brainer for me. The Cavs have far too much offense for the Bulls to be anything more than a blip on their radar. This showed in Game 1, where Derrick Rose was the only guy who could really put up points for the Bulls, and even he scored 28 points off 28 shot attempts. The Bulls will need Hinrich to score to cause any upsets in this series. Personally, I want to see the Cavaliers win because I think a Kobe vs. LeBron final would be interesting.
PREDICTION: Cavaliers 4-0
Orlando (2) vs. Charlotte (7) — Orlando leads 1-0
Again, this seems to be a competition between high-powered versus low-octane offense. In Game 1, Orlando got off to a huge lead before Charlotte clawed back. The Magic hung on for the win, however. I’m pretty neutral about this match-up–I don’t care for either team. Charlotte is a mix between young, inexperienced players (like Gerald Wallace) and veterans (like Stephen Jackson). Jackson sat out a portion of the game due to injury, though, so it’s probably going to be a Magic roll. I’ll go ahead and give the Bobcats a game, but that is a very optimistic prediction.
PREDICTION: Orlando 4-1
Atlanta (3) vs. Milwaukee (6) — Atlanta leads 1-0
This is a match-up that I think could get really close, especially if Brandon Jennings gets some help from his team. Both these teams are young and inexperienced, relatively speaking. If Andrew Bogut wasn’t injured, I wouldn’t be surprised if this went down to 7 games. Atlanta has secured their highest playoff seed in the last few seasons (right?) so they can consider themselves a tad unlucky for drawing a relatively hot Bucks team. I think the Hawks will hang on, though. I’m supporting them.
PREDICTION: Atlanta 4-2
Boston (4) vs. Miami (5) — Boston leads 1-0
The 4-5 match-up is always the one most likely to throw up an upset, but it seems Miami’s offense has been a bit stagnant of late. This is probably going to be a pretty low-scoring series, with an emphasis on defense. Ray Allen continued to struggle in Game 1 as the Celtics hung on to a scrappy victory. D-Wade was sublime and questionable in equal measures in the first game. For example, I couldn’t understand why he picked up his dribble outside the three point line over and over again in the 4th quarter whereas he had been getting to the hoop at will in the previous 3 periods. With Garnett’s suspension, Miami has a chance to steal one on the road. I want to see this series go down to 7 and for Miami to win, but I think Boston will hold on–as they’ve managed to in the last couple of seasons.
PREDICTION: Boston 4-2
Now for the conference that matters… the Western Conference.
L.A. Lakers (1) vs. Oklahoma City (8) — Lakers lead 1-0
OkC would be disappointed with falling to the 8th seed in the West after having such a strong season and drawing a match-up with the Lakers. Luckily for them, the Lakers have been in questionable form for the last month or so. In their first playoff appearance, the Thunder, led by Kevin Durant, seemed overawed by the occasion. KD never really got going and the Thunder followed suit. They pulled close to the Lakers a couple of time, but even with Bryant shooting horribly, weren’t able to pull out the rare win in Lakerland. The Lakers will benefit mightily from having Bynum back and Odom will bolster up a very shallow and weak bench. If a Laker starter gets injured over the course of this series, I think the Thunder may get close, but as it stands, I think L.A.’s post presence is going to be enough to pull off the win. I’ll give the Thunder 1 win at home. I’m supporting the Lakers in this one.
PREDICTION: Los Angeles 4-1
Dallas (2) vs. San Antonio (7) — Mavericks lead 1-0
The Spurs are playing with their worst playoff seed since the 90′s or something like that. With many of their key players injured this season, I suppose they’ll take a low playoff spot rather than none. In Game 1, the game stayed tight for a long time but the Mavericks managed to hold on. Dirk Nowitzki was nearly perfect, yesterday, missing just 3 shots from the field and making all his free throws. Caron Butler provided a spark that was much-needed given Jason Terry’s lackluster performance off the bench (though Terry did nail some clutch jumpers at the end). The Mavericks have had a propensity to choke in the playoffs, though. Parker is still working his way into the rotation (he’s lost his starting job to Ginobili) and Duncan is still consistent but not phenomenal. I’m going to predict an upset here and say San Antonio will win in 7. I hope to hell that I’m wrong because there isn’t a team I despise more than the Spurs.
PREDICTION: San Antonio 4-3
Phoenix (3) vs. Portland (6) — Blazers lead 1-0
Phoenix were the only home team to lose on opening weekend and hence squandered their homecourt advantage to the perennially-injured Trail Blazers. With Brandon Roy recovering from injury for at least 2 weeks, the Suns were probably expecting a first round walkover. The Blazers have learned to play without their best players throughout the season, though, going through a bizarre sequence of injuries that affected everyone from Greg Oden to Pryzbilla to Aldridge to Roy over the regular season. They managed to get healthy to secure up a playoff spot, but lost Roy almost immediately. Andre Miller has played some inspired basketball of late, and the Blazers have snapped up the homecourt advantage to set up an intriguing contest. I’m supporting Phoenix in this match-up and I think Nash and Amare will eventually be able to get the away game back. In fact, unless Roy returns earlier than scheduled, I think the Suns will win with a game to spare.
PREDICTION: Phoenix 4-2
Denver (4) vs. Utah (5) — Nuggets lead 1-0
Denver would be disappointed at falling down to the fourth seed and possibly meeting the Lakers as early as the 2nd round. However, they’ve got to concentrate on the series at hand. Unfortunately for the Jazz, it looks like they’ve been hit by the injury bug at the worst possible time. Their offense has been severely dented by the loss of Kirilenko leading into the playoffs and now Okur, whose out of the rest of the postseason following Game 1. Boozer is not at 100% either, so that puts the burden of offense squarely on the shoulders of Deron Williams, with some help from the likes of Korver and Brewer. The Nuggets looked pretty strong on Saturday night, with Carmelo looking in great rhythm. I actually think that the Nuggs will take this series pretty easily. If the Jazz had been a bit healthier, my money was on them causing the upset, but this is just too many chips to overcome.
PREDICTION: Nuggets 4-1