Somehow, it’s playoff time again in the NBA. It doesn’t seem like it’s been a year since the Dallas Mavericks won the championship. Maybe it’s because of the shortened season that the lockout caused earlier this year. Nevertheless, it’s time to sit on the couch, or in some cases, jump on the floor, cheering your team on while ignoring all the other responsibilities you have. Everything else takes a back seat to the pursuit of the ring, because it’s win or go home.
Here are the matchups for this year’s first round and a quick prediction for each of them.
#1 Chicago Bulls vs. #8 Philadelphia 76ers
Derrick Rose has been hobbled through the latter half of the season, but the Bulls expect him to be back at full strength, which adds another problem for the Sixers on top of several others. The Bulls lead the league in rebounding and in points allowed, while the Sixers already struggle to get points on the board. Philly will have a lot of heart, but in this case it won’t stop the running of the Bulls.
Prediction: Bulls sweep 4-0
#2 Miami Heat vs. #7 New York Knicks
The Knicks have been in the news a lot recently with the Linsanity phenomenon and Carmelo’s surge to the playoffs. But unfortunately for them, they have to contend with the Heat. LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have rested for the last week, waiting for this moment. Some might say that they’ll have to shake off the rust, but do you know who we’re talking about? The Knicks won’t be able to handle the Heat.
Prediction: Heat sweep 4-0
#3 Indiana Pacers vs. #6 Orlando Magic
The Magic have to play without Dwight Howard, who is out for the rest of the season. He is their go-to guy, and without him, the Magic are not big or strong enough to control the inside game of the Pacers. Orlando has some shooters that can kill you with shots from beyond the arc, so they could frustrate the Pacers a bit. But not enough.
Prediction: Pacers win 4-2
#4 Atlanta Hawks vs. #5 Boston Celtics
Both of these teams have kind of been lost in the news recently with the drama coming from New York and Orlando. This could be a fun series to watch, though. The question will be if the aging superstars like Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo can keep up with the young Hawks. The Celtics defense is one of the best in the league, so my answer is yes, but it won’t come easy.
Prediction: Celtics win 4-3
#1 San Antonio Spurs vs. #8 Utah Jazz
The Jazz have been giving it everything they’ve got for the past two weeks trying to prove that they belong in the playoffs. It’s been fun for Jazz fans to see their team make it through overtime thrillers, but do they have any energy left? There’s no chance that the Spurs are going to let an eight seed beat them in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight year.
Prediction: Spurs win 4-1
#2 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. #7 Dallas Mavericks
One of the league’s youngest teams is one of the most fun teams to watch with their blazing speed and the league scoring leader Kevin Durant. The Thunder were beat in last year’s Western Conference Finals by the Mavericks, and you can be assured that OKC is out for more than revenge. They see Dallas as just a stepping stone to the finals.
Prediction: Thunder win 4-2
#3 Los Angeles Lakers vs. #6 Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets are a swing team that seems at times to be one of the best in the league, but at others, just seems to be mediocre. So which team is going to show up will decide how the series goes. The Lakers will most likely have to play the entire series without starting small forward Metta World Peace, who still has six games of suspension left from the elbow thrown last week against James Harden of the Thunder. How much will the Lakers struggle without him? Or will they miss him at all?
Prediction: Lakers win 4-2
#4 Memphis Grizzlies vs. #5 Los Angeles Clippers
It’s been six years since the Clippers have been in the postseason. They’re competing with the Lakers for the domination of L.A., something that they’ve never been able to say. With Chris Paul and Blake Griffin leading the hungry Clips, can the Grizzlies continue their postseason magic from last year that almost got them to the Western Conference Finals?
Prediction: Clippers win 4-3
So whether your team is contending for the title, or if they weren’t one of the best 16 teams in the league, there is one thing that you can be assured of: these playoffs are going to be fun.