Predicting the Playoffs: Two Months of Hardcore Hoops Loom

Posted on by Robert Seitzinger (rseitzinger)
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The NBA ran a commercial campaign called "Biggest Season Yet" for 2010-11, and they were right. The craziness surrounding LeBron James' "Decision" show, the wild swings for position in both the Eastern and Western Conferences, the most successful All-Star Game so far -- it all came on the heels of the most watched NBA Finals last June.

This has been a phenomenal season, though the major concern is a potential lockout after July 1. If the owners and players' union cannot strike up a new labor contract, the league will disband (much like what is currently happening among the NFL). However, official word on that will likely not come down until late this summer, so let's enjoy the forthcoming postseason while we can!

What follows is my take on the first round. Agree with me or disagree; just be sure to leave feedback and cast your vote on the ToTs for each series and the comment box below, just so I know I'm not the only one who's super hyped for this year's playoffs.

No.1 Chicago Bulls vs. No. 8 Indiana Pacers

Winner: Chicago in four games

Vote on the series here

This series is going to be less of a contest between two teams and more of a chance for likely MVP Derrick Rose to polish his playoff skills. Expect Pacers Roy Hibbert and Tyler Hansbrough to have some great games and flashy plays, but once the Bulls come out of the gate (no pun...OK, some pun intended), they will smother the Pacers with the same defense that earned them the most wins this season. Tom Thibodeau, front runner for Coach of the Year honors, deserves a nod for building a team that will go as deep into the playoffs as the crust of a Windy City pizza.

No. 2 Miami Heat vs. No. 7 Philadelphia 76ers

Winner: Miami in five games

Vote on the series here

Andre Iguodala and crew made a great surge in the second half of the season, but their feel-good comeback story will end in the first round. Despite the hamstring injury to Lou Williams, Philly plays with a lot of heart, so I think they have the juice to win one game at home and come close in at least two others, but they're not going to get past LeBron James as he plays to prove that joining the Heat was more than a publicity stunt (is anyone else still appalled by this display of arrogance?).

No. 3 Boston Celtics vs. No. 6 New York Knicks

Winner: Boston in seven games

Vote on the series here

The recent slump from the Celtics is proof that emotion matters in this game: Kendrick Perkins was suddenly torn out of the camaraderie built between him, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and even Glen Davis. If you remove one soldier from a tight-knit unit, the rest will struggle to adjust. However, the Celts still have their core and Doc Rivers as their court general, so expect a resurgence of their old toughness that led them to the Finals twice in three years. Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire will give them hell, but the Knicks will wear down as the series drags on, and their lack of defense will really hurt against such shooters as Allen, Pierce, and KG.

No. 4 Orlando Magic vs. No. 5 Atlanta Hawks

Winner: Orlando in six games

Vote on the series here

Joe Johnson is a great player, but not a superstar (I still can't believe he got the biggest contract of last summer). Josh Smith, Al Horford, and Kirk Hinrich are all really good players who might be great. This means that Dwight Howard (who is a superstar) will win as he leads a team with more good and might-be-great players on his team (Hedo Turkoglu, Brandon Bass, J.J. Reddick, Jason Richardson, Ryan Anderson) against the Hawks, a team that during last year's playoffs stank up the court worse than a Merle Haggard fart. Oh, and GIlbert Arenas was a great player, but then he went off his meds. Now I consider him head-case good: he can still shoot and distribute with the best of 'em, but his best asset is making the other team wonder if he might just do something crazy. It's disarming, and it will hurt the Hawks even more than Howard's unstoppable post presence.

No. 1 San Antonio Spurs vs. No. 8 Memphis Grizzlies

Winner: San Antonio in five games

Vote on the series here

The Spurs may not have closed the season with the dominance they displayed throughout, but this is a well-tenured crew of playoff pros. The Grizzlies are a rambunctious little group of ballers that can attack in many ways, but they're also a team being coached by Lionel Hollins. This was his first winning season, and he has no playoff experience; case in point, most of the Grizz have never seen the postseason, and those who have don't hold much success. I expect there will be some scrappy basketball here, though this series will end with the Spurs advancing. Greg Popovich has plenty of tricks up those wily, old sleeves, so his Spurs will manage the Grizz with ease.

No. 2 Los Angeles Lakers vs. No. 7 New Orleans Hornets

Winner: Los Angeles in five games

Vote on the series here

The Lakers stumbled through the last two weeks of their season after a phenomenal run following the all-star break. Their last two games reminded us, however, that they still have the drive and determination a championship team is built on. Kobe Bryant was there to push them even amid their first five-game losing streak in four seasons. His emotions got the better of him when he muttered a homosexual slur to a ref, but he's lived down other scandals...usually by playing even harder. New Orleans has little depth on their roster, are missing two-time all-star David West, and don't have the size to handle the Lakers near the rim. Chris Paul will put up a fight, but then so did I as a scrawny first grader when the bigger kids came for my lunch money...my rabbit jabs didn't mean I kept my lunch money.

No. 3 Dallas Mavericks vs. No. 6 Portland Trail Blazers

Winner: Portland in seven games

Vote on the series here

Both of these teams feature considerable bench depth and versatility, with guys who can play multiple positions and often rotate between them each game. They both have shrewd coaches that structure their game around surgical plays involving a great-shooting big man, and both have at least two guys in at any time who can shake off the steady rhythm and just play running, full-court ball. So why the Blazers? They have the hunger. Two years of getting ousted in the first round mean they will attack the Mavs with all they have, and the Dallas core over the last few years has shown complacency in the postseason that make them vulnerable. Unless Caron Butler comes back early, they'll fall into old habits and watch this series slip away.

No. 4 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. No. 5 Denver Nuggets

Winner: OK City in seven games

Vote on the series here

The new-look Nuggets are a high-scoring machine that seems to recognize its defensive flaws and just work around them. Whether they need outside shooting, penetrating drives, or low-post scoring, they seem to find what they need and score frequently enough to be quite the contenders. The Thunder also have a lot of weapons, and they bring venerable D to the court, so I think they'll get the best of this series, which will be one of the most exciting to watch. If I'm wrong about a series, I hope it's this one, as it would mean that Carmelo Anthony left but it didn't hurt the Nuggets; you'll notice the Knicks struggled when he arrived and won't make it to the second round. Oh, karma...you just love coming back around, don't you?

Are you excited for the 2010-11 NBA Playoffs?

8859 views & 9 votes

Debate It! 1

Unfortunately, I see Dallas taking out the Blazers. The Blazers losing the first round of playoff game is just a tradition...I hope Chicago takes it all.

Posted By woodglue,

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