Saturday, April 19, 2008

NBA Playoff Predictions: Round One

The NBA playoffs look like they might be the be the most wide-open we have seen in a long time, with at least 7 teams with a legitimate shot of winning it all. In the Western Conference, you have one of the best first round match-ups ever, with the Spurs taking on the Suns. Of course, that is balanced out by possibly the worst playoff team ever: the Atlanta Hawks and their 37-45 record are going to get destroyed by the Celtics. The Warriors, who had 11 more wins than the Hawks, would love the chance to take on Boston in the first round.

Here are my predictions for the first round of the NBA playoffs:

Western Conference
Lakers (1) vs. Nuggets (8)

Lakers in 5

The Nuggets squeaked into the playoffs with a hot finish to the season, and their reward is facing a deep Lakers team led by the best player in the game. The Nuggets are potent offensively, but at the expense of playing anything that resembles defense. Expect scores in the 120's, and for Kobe to drop 50 at least once in these games. The Lakers will have no trouble disposing of the Nuggets, a team that doesn't have a ton of character and will likely just give up when the chips are down.

Hornets (2) vs. Mavericks (7)
Mavericks in 7
The Mavs were a number 1 seed last year, but their first round match-up this season appears to be easier for them than their series with the Warriors last year. The Mavericks have all kinds of playoff experience that the Hornets just can't match. Chris Paul will have his way with Jason Kidd all series long, but one player can't win every game. It's easy to gameplan to slow down one player, and the Hornets don't have anyone else who can make things happen

Spurs (3) vs. Suns (6)
Suns in 7
The great Shaq experiment will be put to the test right away in this epic first round match-up. Every time these teams meet in the playoffs, it's a beautiful clash in styles that results in bloody faces and multiple suspensions. This might be the year that the Suns finally do it, and it's only partially because of Shaq. During the stretch run, the Suns have proven they don't have to run you to death to beat you, they can play a half court set. Their defense is still awful, and you can bet Tony Parker will make Steve Nash look silly, but Amare will lead the Suns past the Spurs.

Jazz (4) vs. Rockets (5)
Jazz in 6

Tracy McGrady's 0 for the playoffs will continue. The Jazz will win every home game in the series, then steal one in Houston to take move on. The Rockets are a good team, but with no Yao Ming there is no way they do any damage.

Eastern Conference
Celtics (1) vs. Hawks (8)
Celtics in 4
Congratulations to the Hawks for making the playoffs after a long playoff drought. Now meet your opponent, the Celtics, who are going to dominate you in every way. Thanks for playing!

Pistons (2) vs. Sixers (7)
Pistons in 6

I will have a full in-depth preview of this series up later today. As much as I would love to pick the upset here, the Pistons are just too good and too experienced to lose to this upstart Sixers team. Philly will make it interesting and steal one of the first two games, but that will just prove to be a wake-up call for the Pistons. It's a contrast in styles, but the Pistons can play the running game better than people think.

Magic (3) vs. Raptors (6)

Magic in 7
All eyes will be on the two superstars in this match-up as the fates of their respective teams rest on Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh. This will be a good series with two relatively evenly matched teams, but the Magic will pull it out in the end.

Cavaliers (4) vs. Wizards (5)
Cavaliers in 6

These teams meet again in the first round, and once again the Cavs will come away the winner. LeBron is too good, and he will get all the calls. Gilbert Arenas is coming off the bench for the Wizards and will give the Cavs bench fits, but he's still not 100% and Caron Butler can't do it all. This might be the most chippy of all the series, as these two teams genuinely hate each other, but the Cavs will prevail.

So there are my predictions. Got any predictions of your own or comments on my analysis? Put them in the comment section!

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