First Round

At long last the NBA Playoffs are here.  All those ‘big picture’ questions about the Miami Heat, NY Knicks, Boston Celtics and LA Lakers we’ve been beating around for the last six months can finally be answered.  The time for hype, speculation, doubt and jocking for seeds is behind us.  Proof is in the pudding.  Cream rises to the top.  However you say it, it’s time to play ball.  My favorite part of the NBA playoffs is that there’s little to no room for ‘flukes’.  By making it the best of seven series, you come out of the first round with the truly better team.  In sports, unexplainable things take place.  The Giants can beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl and VCU can make an epic run to the Final Four.  But in a seven game series that Giants team would have to beat the Patriots three more times.  After that many contests, you get a more realistic and consistent winner.  Less Cinderella’s, more proven squads.  And for me, that’s good, because I want to see the very best teams.  And so should you.  After watching the NBA as closely as I did this season, combined with the seven game series setup, I feel very comfortable correctly predicting seven of the eight playoff series.  If I hit any less than six of these, I’ll cut off my pinky toes.  So here are my predictions, and a quick blurb why…

Chicago Bulls vs. Indiana Pacers

History has shown us that to be a winner in the NBA playoffs you need star power.  The Indiana Pacers don’t have it.  The Chicago Bulls do.  It sounds a bit elementary, but it’s really the truth.  The Bulls have the league’s MVP in Derrick Rose, the likely Coach of the Year in Tom Thibodeau, a strong frontcourt to get dirty and a killer mentality.  The Bulls beat the Pacers three different times this season, all coming by way of double digits.  Pro rate the regular season right into the playoffs and that’s likely what we’ll be left with here.  In actuality, the Pacers probably don’t even deserve to be in the playoffs.  They’re a whole 8 games under .500 and by taking a peek at that roster it’s not hard to tell that this series won’t last long.  Bulls sweep. 

Miami Heat vs. Philadelphia 76ers

Doug Collins did an amazing job with the Sixers this season.  But the run has to end and Miami will be happy to do it.  The fact that the Heat won 12 of their last 14 and the Sixers dropped five of the last six doesn’t bode well for my boy Collins.  The boys in Philly picked up their game this year, especially Elton Brand playing like the old Clipper again averaging 15 and 8.  But it won’t be enough for a Miami team that’s just been itching to say ‘I told you so.’  Philly may steal a game, but when the lights are on and Wade and James are focused, not Doug Collins or Elton Brand will save them.  Heat take the series in five. 

Orlando Magic vs. Atlanta Hawks

If the Hawks can get off to a good early start they have a shot, but that’s a big ‘if’.  The Hawks are one of the worst rebounding teams in the league, so this matchup is going to be a tough one.  Mainly because of this 7-foot ogre inside that happens to be the most athletic center in NBA history, happens to be the Defensive player of the year, happens to be second in the league in rebounding while averaging 23 points a contest.  I know it’s a new season, but judging by the way the Hawks showed up last year in the playoffs, I’m not a believer.  I like their pieces individually.  Horford and Josh Smith both have had great years, but they’ll need more than that.  Atlanta can’t afford a playoff no-show for the second straight year from an overpaid Joe Johnson.  Atlanta did win their season series and Orlando does seem to have some square pieces trying to fit into round holes (Gilbert Arenas, Hedo Turkoglu).  That being said, I believe Orlando still has what it takes to get out of the first round and leave the Hawks stranded yet again.  Orlando in six. 

Boston Celtics vs. New York Knicks

The ‘new’ Knicks made basketball in the Empire state fun again.  But fun never won a playoff series.  I love the way the Knicks have been playing down the stretch, but as I’ve said for some time, the system is fundamentally broke.  They’re only two games over .500 and there’s only four other teams in the L that give up more points.  And although the Celtics have some serious issues of their own down low, they still have the number one defense in the league, and defense trumps most other variables.  This, of all the first round series, is probably the most anticipated in terms of markets and star power.  Both sides have serious doubts hovering over them as well, but in the end only one of these squads will have proved their point.  The combination of experience, poise and mental toughness will get it done for Boston, even without Kendrick Perkins.  That, and the reality that Boston still has Rajon Rondo, has me saying Celtics in seven. 

Dallas Mavericks vs. Portland Trailblazers

This one is the toughest for me to call.  I’ve seen Dallas look like the best team in the NBA at points during the season and I’ve seem them look like pathetic mental midgets.  They’ve won their last four to close the season, lost the four before that, and have had similar stretches throughout the year.  My main reason for doubting the Mavs though has nothing to do with this season.  Past playoff performances have me doubting their toughness, both physically and mentally.  From a Portland perspective, LaMarcus Aldridge will have to play at the All Star level he has all year if they’re going to have a shot.  I think the arrival of Gerald Wallace is having a bigger impact on this team than most acknowledge.  His toughness and leadership has picked up whatever slack that Brandon Roy left (who’s ppg average is now 13.9).  The Blazers are a top 10 defensive team in the league, but oddly enough so are the Mavs.  In the end, I think Dirk and his crew win this in seven.

San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies

I keep hearing that Memphis is a scary team.  What is scary though?  Winning a game or two?  Possibly, but the Spurs still have possibly the league’s best coach and proven winners.  I always say that things become redundant for a reason and just because it’s a consistent truth doesn’t mean that it’s not well…still true.  Answer me this, what do the Memphis grizzlies do well?  Rebound?  No.  Score?  No.  Defend?  No.  Assist?  No.  You’re not going to show up and beat the Spurs without your best player (Rudy Gay).   Lets not forget that the Spurs won 60+ games this year.  Little squeaky in the knees?  Sure.  But tell me this isn’t a second round team and I’ll scrunch my face in confusion and walk away.  I give the Grizz one win, maybe two max.   Spurs in 5. 

Los Angeles Lakers vs. New Orleans Hornets

The Lakers:  Too Big.  Too Strong.  Too long.  Too tough.  Too talented.  Too proven.  Period.  I won’t waste your time.  Lakers in 5. 

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Denver Nuggets

This is the series I’m most looking forward too.  Denver is playing so well since the Carmelo trade, winning 13 out of their last 18 games.  They’re playing together and they’re playing hard.  We’ve all heard the saying ‘hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard’.  But here’s the thing, in the playoffs everyone is talented and everyone is playing harder than they have all season.  When is the last time a team with zero All Stars advanced in the playoffs?  That’s a serious question.  I can’t think of it.  Denver is a good team with a bunch of guys that are 7 out of 10’s.  The Thunder on the other hand have two players that are perfect 10’s.  Durant is a top five player in the league and I’d put Westbrook as a top 15.  When talent is working hard, they win.  Nene has had a great year in Denver and leads the league in field goal percentage, but I expect Serge Ibaka to cancel him out.  I give the coaching edge to Denver’s George Karl, but Scott Brooks has come into his own as well and has had significant time with this team.  The 3-1 season series in favor of the Thunder gives some indication to how they stack up, but there’s no telling how far Denver’s momentum will take them.  My call is OKC in seven.

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3 Responses to First Round

  1. Dan R. says:

    I hope you are right with some of these, for reasons unbeknownst to most others!! LOL gimme that breeaaad….

  2. Anonymous says:

    Let’s ggooooo

    “Its the most wonderful time of the year” shoulda been written about this time when u got the nba and nhl playoffs. With this being one of the best regular seasons ever, I hope the playoffs will be the same. The first game (chi/indy) was a doozie, let’s hope it continues!

  3. Capital Region Fan says:

    Hey Zach I love the blog buddy! I just wanted to see if you knew why Shea Bromirsky was kicked off the Saint Rose team? Was it really because of drug abuse? I know that your an alumni there and so i figure you would have the inside scoop. Love the blog buddy keep it up and your going to go places!! -TC

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