The time has come... for the NBA Playoffs! There's not much excitement (on paper anyways) in the 1st round outside of a couple of Western Conference series. So... let's start out there:
1-Spurs vs. 8-Memphis - Yawn. Spurs will win. However, the Grizzlies will win their first playoff game in franchise history. Don't ask me how they got swept every other time.
Pick: Spurs in 5 (but huge Memphis moral victory)
4-Ok City vs. 5-Denver - This is the most exciting first round matchup in the entire playoffs. Ok City's record since acquiring Kendrick Perkins: 19-6. Denver's record since dumping Carmelo and picking up Felton, Galinari, Chandler, and that Center, T. Mozgov: 17-7. These have been the two hottest teams in the league the 2nd half. The teams most likely to spring a major upset and make noise in the playoffs... and unfortunately playing each other. The best part about Perkins for Ok City? Not only do they get a bona fide center, they get to slide Serge Ibaka to PF (a more natural fit). The best part about Denver's trade? They get insane, active minutes from super fast PGs (Felton and Ty Lawson, though Lawson just got injured in the season finale), and they upgraded depth at SG (Chandler) and now can run the entire damn game. Look, this should be a very fun series to watch no matter what happens, but I will just assume Kevin Durant begins his ascent to super-duper-stardom and wins this series.
Pick: Ok City in 6
3-Dallas vs. 6-Portland - A lot of analysts believe Dallas is ripe for another 1st-round letdown. I don't see it. Brandon Roy's knees still aren't great. Portland did get Gerald Wallace at the deadline, and he has been playing out of his mind, but Dallas has to seize the moment while they still have Tyson Chandler and B. Haywood (because Chandler's a free agent after the season). This series isn't as interesting as Denver-Ok City, but could prove to just be another sad moment for Dallas fans.
Pick: Dallas in 6
2-Lakers vs. 7-Hornets - The Hornets lost PF D. West to injury. They have no chance, even with PG Chris Paul.
Pick: Lakers in 5
1-Chicago vs. 8-Pacers - Pacers have no shot.
Pick: Bulls in 4
4-Magic vs 5-Hawks- The Hawks have been awful, the Magic have been inconsistent. Yuck. Magic should still pull this out, if for no other reason than because the Hawks still have no one who can guard Dwight Howard
Pick: Magic in 6
3-Bos vs. 6-Knicks - The Knicks don't play any defense and have holes all over the place after giving up most of their regulars to get Carmelo this season. Rondo will run circles around Billups.
Pick: Bos in 5
2-Miami vs. 7-76ers - The 76ers are certainly the biggest surprise for playoff teams this year. They GAVE UP their starting center (Dalembert) for nothing... and because of a healthy season of Brand, and better play from just about everyone else, here they are in the playoffs. The 76ers have Igoudala and T. Young to guard LeBron (which is better than most teams). Ah.. who am I kidding.
Pick: Miami in 5
I have to keep predicting... there's no way around it (especially this year, when the 1st round matchups are so uninteresting). It's tradition for me to pick... and pick incorrectly!
1-Spurs vs. 4-Thundercats - I don't know what to make of the Spurs. They started out hotter than any NBA team in history... rested a lot of people, stumbled around a bit. I just honestly don't understand how they can guard Durant and Westbrook in the playoffs. In a bit of irony, the last game the Thunder played with Jeff Green was against the Spurs (which the Spurs won). The Spurs have yet to play the Thunder with Kendrick Perkins... and I think that could make a huge difference for them.
Pick: Thunder in 7
3-Mavs vs. 2-Lakers - The Lakers will beat whoever survives the Mavs-Blazers
Pick: Lakers in 5
1-Bulls vs. 4-Magic - This is a very important series... I think the Bulls need to win because they have enough bigs to dominate the Heat. Seriously though, it should be a great series and anything can happen. Howard should be able to do whatever he wants, and Derrick Rose will most likely be able to do whatever he wants. The Magic have just looked so out-of-sync since making all the acquisitions, and I just can't trust them this year.
Pick: Bulls in 6
2-Heat vs. 3-Celtics - It's so damn annoying that the Celtics don't have any healthy centers (Shaq injured, Kendrick traded, old men J. O'Neal and N. Krstic are all that's left. The Heat's biggest weakness, as shown again and again this season, is the fact that Chris Bosh is a terrible defender, and the center position is a huge weakness. Can KG, Big Baby, and whoever is healthy enough to play center cause enough trouble for the Heat??? Not the way the Celtics have looked of late. They really need someone to get healthy fast at center.
Pick: Heat in 6
1-Bulls vs. 2-Heat - The Bulls should be able to smash the Heat. Between Noah and Boozer (and Asik and K. Thomas off the bench), the Bulls will own the glass, control the paint, and vanquish my personal nightmare of the Heat winning the NBA crown.
Pick: Bulls in 7
4-Thundercats vs. 2-Lakers - Let's read the latest on A. Bynum: Bone bruise in his knee (where else?) No one has any idea what kind of shape he'll be in (or what kind of shape he'll be in a month from now during the heart of the playoffs). The Lakers success depends on him, but I tend to think the Lakers will make this last run before yielding (plus, Ok City in the finals would be my emotional side going too far. They could just as easily lose to Denver in the 1st round!)
Pick: Lakers in 6
1-Bulls over 1-Lakers. I'm just picking the Bulls... Bynum or not. The Bulls will win because the Lakers certainly don't have anyone to guard D. Rose.
Pick: Bulls in 7