Coming off yet another amazing regular season that say the defending champion Miami Heat win a historic 27 straight games, purchase Kobe Bryant defy age by averaging 27.3 points per game on 46.3 percent shooting with a career-high six assists per game before recently rupturing his Achilles tendon, decease Kevin Durant put on one of the best shooting performances in NBA history by becoming only the fifth player in league history to shoot at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from beyond the arc and 90 percent from the free throw line we head to this seasons postseason with one that has the possibility to be a memorable postseason. All that said every NBA and basketball fan should be plenty excited for this years NBA Playoffs and here I will give my best predictions for the upcoming first round series that tomorrow on Saturday April 20th all the way up to the NBA Finals.
I will start in the Eastern Conference with the number one versus eight seed matchup of the defending champion Heat against the Milwaukee Bucks that easily favors Miami and despite starting point guard Brandon Jennings declaration of the Bucks winning the series 4-2 the Bucks will be lucky to win a game let alone the series. The Heat are just playing to well right now on both the offensive and defensive end and should easily sweep this first-round matchup with a few blowouts.
In the number two versus seven seed matchup the New York Knicks will face their longtime rival Boston Celtics for the first time in the playoffs since the Celtics swept them a couple years ago in the first round. Despite the loss of star point guard Rajon Rondo earlier in the season and having an aging roster the Celtics with a fresh Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce should still put up plenty of fight as they are known to do pushing the Knicks to the brink of a very hard fought seven game series. The Knicks led by superstar Carmelo Anthony’s recently hot surge and with how well they are playing surprisingly on both ends of the floor should definitely help them to move on though.
Moving on to the three versus six matchup of the Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks, the Pacers with their strong frontcourt of Roy Hibbert and David West should easily cause problems for Al Horford and the Hawks frontcourt. Outside of a couple good games from Josh Smith the Hawks offense should struggle as a whole versus the Pacers much more physical play, defense and rebounding. Which is why I have the Pacers moving on in six.
Going onto the first-round matchup in the East the Brooklyn Nets take on the Chicago Bulls in what should be one of the more evenly and competitive first-round series. The Bulls despite missing superstar point guard Derrick Rose all season long and dealing with injuries most of the season are starting to get more healthy at just the right time. The Nets may have a team with a lot of skill and the bigger names, but the Bulls have way more depth, are a better defensive team and with the emergence of Jimmy Butler as the starting shooting guard are a scary good team not many want to face in the playoffs. That said the Bulls should win a really good six game series.
Switching over to the Western Conference first-round matchups the Oklahoma City Thunder face the Houston Rockets in the one versus eight matchup that will pit James Harden against his former team that traded him before the season started. This series should be one of the shorter ones with the Thunder winning easily in five games, but it should still be quite entertaining with all the fast-paced scoring there is sure to be. In the two versus seven matchup of the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers there wouldn’t be as much running with both teams more than likely running more half-court sets. Both teams know how win in the playoffs though, which should make for an interesting series to watch. The Spurs maybe a more solid team on both ends and the favorites to win the series, but the Lakers are not just any seventh seed and with how great Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard have been playing factored in with positive and inspirational thoughts Kobe has given the team and the Spurs not being so healthy the Lakers should pull off the upset to win a really great six game series.
Going to the three versus six matchup in the West the Denver Nuggets take on the Golden State Warriors in what should be another really high scoring series between two potent offenses that don’t play any great defense. So this series should definitely come down to who can score the most points. The Nuggets may have lost Danilo Gallinari, but their 38-3 record at home coupled with their depth and the Warriors relying to much on the three should help the Nuggets win in six.
For the final first-round series and one of the most compelling matchups, the Los Angeles Clippers play the Memphis Grizzlies for a second straight year in what should be another entertaining hard-fought series. Much like last springs matchup both teams are pretty evenly matched and you can honestly flip a coin on who wins the series. With Chris Paul leading the Clippers, them having a slightly better bench and the Grizzlies missing the shooting of Rudy Gay, whom they traded to the Raptors earlier in the season I’m rolling with the Clippers in another hard-fought seven games.
That would than setup East semifinals matchups that would be a 2011 Eastern Conference Finals rematch of the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls with the Heat winning a very hard six game series because of the Bulls lack of star power and scoring without Rose finally pushing them out and ending their season. In the other matchup it would pit one of the more difficult matchups with the Knicks taking on the Pacers. The Knicks when they want are a great team, but they also live and die a lot by the three at times. Which as we know is a formula for disaster in the playoffs. The Pacers are a far more superior physical rough-and-tumble style of defense that should wear down the Knicks and after an already tough seven game first-round series they just wouldn’t have enough to beat the Pacers. Thus my pick for Indiana to win in a hard-fought seven game series and setting up a rematch of last years East semifinals with Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals. Just like last years semifinals matchup it should come down to another very hard-fought six game series with Miami victorious to move onto their third straight NBA Finals appearance since forming the Big Three in 2010.
Moving back to the left coast that would than setup West semifinal matchups of the Thunder versus the Clippers and the Nuggets against the Lakers with the Thunder and Lakers both moving on in six. Thus setting up another semifinal rematch in the conference finals with the Thunder taking on the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. This would also be the third time in four years both team met in the playoffs with the Lakers defeating the Thunder in six games in the first-round in 2010 and the Thunder defeating the Lakers in six in last years West semis. Like last year and in 2010 it would be another very tough six game series with the Thunder defeating the Lakers for a second straight year to move on to their second straight Finals appearance with Kobe’s absence finally catching up to the Lakers. I actually honestly wouldn’t be surprised though if the Lakers went home earlier than this with Kobe out.
That would than setup a rematch of last years NBA Finals between the league’s two best players in LeBron James and Kevin Durant facing off for the Heat and Thunder for a second straight year to see who could capture the Larry O’Brein trophy. Like last year Bron would rise to the occasion along with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to help Miami capture it’s second straight title albeit in a little bit closer series than last year with the Finals going six games before Bron and company brought another title back to South Beach.