NBA Playoff Predictions – 1st Round
Now that that scumbag has been arrested (kudos to the American Authorities for having much more restraint than me; I would have should that bastard on the spot), we can now turn our attention to the imminent start of, in my opinion, the best playoff system in all of sports, the NBA playoffs.
Wait! Hold up. Why is it better?
In basketball, almost always, the better team wins. In Hockey, if you have a goalkeeper on fire, that is all you need. Baseball is the same with one or two dominant pitchers. American football, the sudden death factor is fun but it isn’t the true reflection on who the better team is. UEFA, too much emphasis is on away goals determining who the better team is (and don’t get me started on shootouts. Imagine if we relied on a penalty kick shootout in Rugby. Or a free throw shoot out in basketball. Exciting? Yes. But so is Wrestlemania, and that doesn’t make that a legitimate sport)
In basketball, you have shortened rotations. Usually the team’s best 8 players (unless foul trouble or injuries creep in, which happens often) up against the other team’s best 8 players. Any weakness you have, will be exposed. If you can’t rebound, play defense, score in the half court, rely too much on jumpshots, don’t pass the ball enough, you’re going to be shown the door very early. In close matchups, it becomes a test of wills. Baseball, you get the same lineups but different pitchers. You never see one pitcher play more than twice in the same series. NFL, as I said earlier, is just one game; so the familiarity is nowhere near the same as in the NBA. Same as in college basketball where the single elimination leads to those fluke plays dictating the outcome of those tournaments.
In the NBA, you have to play those players, game in, game out. First to 4. After game 5, one team will be facing elimination. And each series is like that. A total test of will as much as it is skill.
And that’s why it’s the best.
Thunder VS Rockets
You can’t tell me this isn’t what Harden wanted. He was traded to Houston because Oklahoma refused to pay him on the same level of Durant and Westbrook; now he gets the ultimate chance to prove to the Thunder that he was indeed worth it. The problem for Houston is they don’t have a consistent scorer/ creator outside of Harden. Lin, at times, can be effective, but is far too inconsistent to change the series. Had they had kept Goran Dragic and Scola instead of overpaying Jeremy Lin, and had a lineup of Omar Asik, Scola, Parsons, Harden and Dragic, I would think they’d have a great chance to beat the Thunder. Instead, I have them losing in 5 games. Thunder wins 4-1
Clippers VS Grizzlies
For all the hype that the Clippers have enjoyed in the past two seasons, they are yet to address their primary flaw; their half court offense. They are brilliant in transition, but once the game slows down, they struggle. Jamal Crawford helps them, but in many ways he is their only player who can consistently create his own shot. They defeated Memphis in last year’s playoffs on the back of some monumental meltdowns by Memphis and the Grizzlies have improved over last year’s team with Prince and going back to being an inside first team and their incredible defense. The Clippers have a better record than last season, but still have the same problems that saw them get swept by the Spurs in the second round. Grizzlies win 4-2
Spurs VS Lakers
The similarities between this year’s Lakers team and the 99 Knicks is eerie. You have a big market team, with massive hopes of reaching the finals after adding a superstar (Latrell Sprewell/ Dwight Howard) alongside their aging veteran still hungry to win a championship (Patrick Ewing/ Kobe). The team stalls out of the gate, looks dead in the water for most of the season before scraping and clawing their way into the playoffs. The aging veteran gets injured (Ewing/ Kobe), and the ideology of the team is restructured completely, and is now dependant on their new superstar and (at times) disappointing/ Frustrating player who plays the same position (Allan Houston/ Pau Gasol). The Knicks drew their old rival, the Heat in the first round. The Lakers get San Antonio. The Knicks won their series off the back of last second runner by Allan Houston. I don’t think the Lakers can do much more than win 1 game in this series. Too much depth for the Spurs. Gasol and Howard have to completely dominate this series, and with Howard’s tendency to get into foul trouble and Gasol to check out of games mentally, and the experience of the Spurs realising that this might be their last opportunity, the Spurs win 4-1
Nuggets VS Warriors
Expect a shootout in each of these games. Denver, as good as they’ve been since the all star break, are going to miss the scoring of Gallinari, and considering how up tempo of a series this will be, that will be significant. The Warriors will go small, look to score early and often, and see if the Nuggets will match them. I don’t think they can, and the Warriors win 4-2.
Heat VS Bucks
This appears to be the biggest mismatch in quite some time in the playoffs, and will likely end in a sweep. I do expect the games in Milwaukee to be competitive, but Miami realises the importance of rest and will look to end this early. Heat wins 4-0
Nets VS Chicago
There is no one in the NBA more overrated than Derron Williams. It wasn’t all that long ago that there was a significant percentage of NBA fans that thought he was the best point guard in the NBA. Since then, he has been exposed as the main reason why two brilliant coaches are no longer in the NBA. That being said, he could fire up for this series with Hinrich and Nate Robinson guarding him. I doubt it, though, and Chicago wins 4-2
Knicks VS Boston
There is no bigger fan of the way this Boston team operates than me. Doc Rivers deserves a hell of a lot of respect for his Poppovich-esque system of getting spare parts through the latter rounds of the draft and players that no one else wants and putting them in a position to succeed. Also, a lot needs to be said for Jeff Green and what he has gone through with heart surgery to playing productively. I give them all the respect in the world… but they’re running into the team that I think will win the East. Carmelo Anthony, in my opinion, should be the MVP. Chandler is a beast defensively again, and J.R. Smith continues to evolve as a scorer and defender. The Knicks have surrounded themselves with a bunch of shooters and perimeter defenders. Had Boston played anyone other than New York or Miami in the East, I’d pick them. But New York is on fire, and the Knicks win 4-2
Pacers Vs Hawks
Out of all the playoff series in the first round, this is probably the one that has the least interest. Both teams play a boring style and nobody is taking them seriously as threats to make the conference finals. Atlanta has Al Horford, but that won’t nearly be enough. Pacers win 4-0.