Saturday, April 19, 2014

Quick and Dirty NBA First Round Predictions

Sorry this isn't longer or more thought out, but I got crunched on time this weekend, and am now just scrambling to get these out before tip off. Which means they'll probably be better than any well reasoned picks...

Leastern Conference

Toronto v. BROOKLYN - Nets in Six

Brooklyn is designed for ugly, painful to watch, playoff basketball, and pretty much managed their lineup so that everyone would be fresh for the real season. The Raptors are happy to be here, and have some advantages down low; Brooklyn also spends way too much of their crunch time minutes staring at Joe Johnson as if he's actually a good basketball player or something. But having said that, props to the veteran guile of Paul Pierce, Deron Williams and Kevin Garnett. They'll advance. But for the love of your eyes, don't watch it.

INDIANA vs. Atlanta - Pacers in Five

Don't get carried away by Indy's struggles down the stretch, and the fact that Atlanta has some nice ball movement and recent competence. The Pacers can still bring A-level defense and have options in slowdown grind ball, while the Hawks have large chunks (Elton Brand, Lou Williams, Kyle Korver) of the Meh, I Say, Meh Era of Sixers Basketball. Watching this series might qualify as a diagnosable condition.

MIAMI vs. Charlotte - Heat in Five

The Heat have been a sub .500 team for the better part of a quarter of the season, and Al Jefferson might average something 30 and 15 in this series against a bunch of sluggy Florida bigs. But Kemba Walker is going to enjoy this series about as much as root canal with rear entry, and Miami will hit enough threes to make this look easier than it is. Surprisingly watchable, though.

Washington vs. CHICAGO - Bulls in Six

Basically the flip side of the Raptors-Nets series, with Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau using waves of defenders and schemes to neutralize PG John Wall, and soon afterward, the entire Wizarding community. This is the time of year when people remember that Joakim Noah is the best real center in the NBA.

West

LA CLIPPERS vs. Golden State - Clippers in Seven

Everyone's favorite pick for the series to watch. This might have gone to the Dubs if their bigs were healthy, or if Marc Jackson wasn't a borderline NBA coach who gets emotional buy-in much more than, well, actual coaching savvy. But against Chris Paul and Doc Rivers, they don't have enough to overcome that, assuming Paul doesn't get hurt again. This might be the best series of the playoffs, between two fun teams to watch that really, truly hate each other. Stay up, DVR it, I don't care, just watch it.

OKLAHOMA CITY vs. Memphis - Thunder In Six

This is not your old-school Grizz, with expert coaching and tenacious defense and great halfcourt playoff offense. The bigs have faded this year, the coaching change didn't help, and their bench has fallen off quite a bit. So they'll give the Thunder a scare, and win on some night where Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook shoots his team in the foot, face and manhood... but not four times in seven games.

SAN ANTONIO vs. Dallas - Spurs in Four

Why so down on this Mavs team? Because they are frauds that relie on guys like Samuel Dalembert to rebound, need Monta Ellis to provide effective offense, and Vince Carter to keep having an oddly useful late career arc. Against the relentless Spurs engine, they will stay in games for a while, then get ground into dust by the crazy deep energy and killshot mindset. If the Spurs that you had heard of were younger, everyone would be talking about a dynasty.

HOUSTON vs. Portland - Rockets in Seven

The other great first round series, with sneaky great crowds, highly matched teams, and tremendous individual matchups -- can Dwight Howard guard LaMarcus Aldridge? can Patrick Beverly clamp up Damian Lillard? can the Rockets really go run and 3 in the playoffs with strong inside advantages? can the Blazers take advantage of a superior starting lineup in a playoff season where rest is usually nor a problem? -- and so on. In the end, I like James Harden too much to go the other way.

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No reason or time to predict the second round just yet. Enjoy the games, people! Especially the ones from the lonesome crowded West...

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