Whew….after the grueling marathonic 82 regular season games, the NBA Playoffs is finally ready to begin! More often than usual, this season’s NBA provided some nice surprises like the Bulls getting the overall best record, the Spurs possibly being one of the more consistent teams even with their old guards, the struggles of the Heat and Lakers, etc.
Anyhoo, here is how the playoff bracket stacks up and my bold (and biased) predictions..
Bulls (1) vs Pacers (8): Chicago’s form has been sparkling (9-0) heading into the playoffs. They even managed to steal the overall top-seed ranking from San Antonio on the very last day of the regular season. Not since the Jordan era has Chicago been this excited. I expect no surprises here with Derrick Rose (leading candidate for regular season MVP) guiding his club to an easy 4-1 victory.
Heat (2) vs 76ers (7): Miami has been tuning up well for the playoffs too. They have seem to have settled down after a mid-season turmoil and I don’t forsee Le Bron and co. having any difficulties with Philly, with only their bench being the strong point. Miami to sweep the series 4-0.
Celtics (3) vs Knicks (6): Arguably the marquee matchup of the first round. Boston’s failure to hand on to the 2nd seed may cost them dear as they have been thrown into a battle with the new-look Knicks, who can get hot on any given day. if the Amare-Carmelo tandem starts clicking, it could be a shock of Boston, who have been beset with recent injuries. On formbook, I will predict a Knicks upset in Game 7.
Magic (4) vs Hawks (5): After some mid-season trades, Orlando seems to have gathered enough momentum to make a strong charge in the playoffs. With Howard complemented with reliable wingmen, their potent 3-point arsenal could prove crucial as they take on the dangerous Hawks, who hopes to discover their early season form. May be a battle but Orlando should prevail 4-2
Spurs (1) vs. Grizzlies (8): The top seeded Spurs were limping into the playoffs with Ginobli injuring himself in the final game. Duncan has only just recovered, so I guess they would really need their deep deep bench to step it up. Luckily for them, they are paired with Memphis, which I think do not have the playoff pedigree to trouble San Antonio. Spurs to coast through this one 4-1
Lakers (2) vs Hornets (7): LA were the other team that was limping into the playoffs, after a sensational winning streak after the All-Star weekend. In their second last game, they just barely beat a makeshift San Antonio team and in the final game, they needed Kobe to knock in a late 3-pointer to force OT and eventually winning to snatch the 2nd seed from Dallas. Luckily for them, they will face up with a New Orleans team that has dramatically slumped over the final weeks. Both very tired looking teams but I do not expect any upsets here. Lakers to win this one comfortably 4-1
Mavericks (3) vs. Trailblazers (6): This could turn out to be the toughest first round draw in the West. As in previous WC playoffs, the seedings are a bit deceiving with all 8 teams almost equally strong on every other night. Just compare East’s 8th seed, Indiana (37-45) and its West counterpart, Memphis (46-36). Anyway, Dallas have always known to choke in the playoffs and Portland presents a very possible banana skin. Tied 2-2 during the regular season, Dallas’ veteran players may find it difficult to cope with the speedy youth from Portland. However, i would believe the inclusion of Tyson Chandler this season has made Dallas more formidable, and with the league’s best road-team (together with Miami), they should be able to cope with this first round threat. Dallas to win a grueling test 4-2.
Thunder (4) vs. Nuggets (5): Oklahoma has been pretty consistent throughout the season and with on-form Kevin Durant on its side, they can be pretty confident of going far and posing a threat to the rest of the Conference. Although the Nuggets earned the 5th seed, I do not see them going far after Melo left, but Oklahoma’s playoff inexperience will result in a close contest. Thunder to steal this one 4-3.