In case you missed Part 1, click here
76ers (8) vs. Bulls (1)
Don’t expect much scoring in this series (both teams allowed under 90 ppg), but do expect a quick exit from this slumping Sixers squad. If Rose can manage to stay healthy I think they run though Philly with ease. Chicago is one of these teams that regardless of the matchup plays with a chip on their shoulder so you know they’ll be fired up for the playoffs. The Bulls were the best rebounding team in the league in 2012, and I don’t think Elton Brand and Spencer Hawes are capable of doing much to stop that. This is easily the most lop sided series of round 1.
However, after reading up on Evan Turner and Derrick Rose’s unfinished business carrying over from high school, my interest in this series has increased tenfold.
Regardless, get ready to bust out the brooms. Chi-town in 4.
Knicks (7) vs. Heat (2)
The bright lights come early this year for Bron Bron. Typically, the King has been able to coast through the first couple rounds relatively under the radar before choking in the spotlight when the going gets tough. But not this year. You can bet all basketball eyes will be paying extra close attention to this series throughout. Despite Miami’s clean sweep of New York in the regular season, I have an inordinate amount of faith in the Knicks heading into this matchup. Carmelo Anthony has finally hit his grove and should be able to somewhat neutralize James, a task few have ever been capable of doing. The X-Factor in this series is going to come down to the point guards. Chalmers has proved his chops in years past for the Heat and Jayhawks, and old man Baron is another one of those guys known to elevate his level of play come playoff time. The one thing that’s for certain is that the Garden is going to rocking. If the Knicks can steal 1 out of 2 in Miami and swing home court in their favor it will change the whole dynamic of the series.
Go NY Go NY GO! Knicks in 7
Magic (6) vs. Pacers (3)
When Dwight Howard announced that he would be missing this year’s playoffs (and Olympics) to repair a herniated disc in his back, my anticipation for this series was lost faster Kevin McAllister in Home Alone 2. Orlando was going to be my sleeper team this postseason because with Howard beasting in the paint and a barrage of deadly three point shooters around the arc, I thought they might be able to catch fire and go on a little run a la 2009. But without Superman they don’t have a snowballs chance in hell. Look for Danny Granger to continue his stellar play (18.7/5 per) and defensively Paul George and Roy Hibbert will be too much for the Magic to handle.
Orlando steals one at home, but Indy cruises in 5.
Hawks (5) vs. Celtics (4).
This is the second time in four years that these two squads have faced off in the first round of the playoffs and I must say, I don’t think the outcome is going to be any different thing time around. The one area where I think the Hawks could have really made up some ground would have been in the post, but Horford being sidelined for the duration of the series nullifies that advantage. A few months back the great Bob Ryan proclaimed that the C’s were on year 5 of a 3 year plan, but ever since the All-Star break they’ve been playing some of the most inspired basketball in the league. Just like Ben Afflack’s character in “The Town”, I think these guys have one last run in them before fading off into the Florida sunshine (retirement).
Bean Town in 5
Jazz (8) vs. Spurs (1)
Pop’s boys kept on ticking and clicking this year, to the tune of 50 wins in an incredibly deep Western Conference. The Jazz were able to beat out Houston and Phoenix for the 8th spot and in process sent a huge “eff you” message to Jerry Sloan and Deron Williams. I love Utah’s big men (Jefferson/Millsap) and the emergence of Jimmy Chitwood Gordon Hayward has been fun to watch, however I think their story book season comes to an abrupt end.
Parker & co. roll, Spurs in 6
Mavs (7) vs. Thunder (2)
This may be a rematch of last year’s Western Finals, but don’t on the same results. Dallas let Chandler/JJ/Deshawn walk in hopes of landing Deron & Dwight in the summer of 2012. Solid game plan, except Dwight’s staying put and the Mavs just cost themselves a shot at another ring. OKC’s 3-headed monster is too much for any Western Conference foe to deal with, let along the aging Mavericks. My not so bold predictions for this series- KDtrey, fresh of his THIRD STRAIGHT SCORING TITLE, will drop a nickel in one game this series (that’s 50 points for the uninitiated) and Serge Iblocka’s defense will be too much for Dirk to handle.
Semi-related note: I was partying out at the Shell BackTavern in Manhattan Beach two weeks ago after the Lakers/Nuggets game. Everything was going great-it was a full house, pitchers, shots, Tiki torches, the works. My cousin CJ had just finished up telling me a story about how last 4th of July weekend Mark Cuban was there at the same bar, hammered off his ass, buying shots for everybody. I remember thinking that was pretty cool, then turning and ordering another drink. At that same moment, a jacked arm in a blue cut off tee reaches over with a $20 bill and orders two aluminum bottle Bud Lights. The guy looked exactly like Cubes, but I thought that would have been way too much of a coincidence so I didn’t stare too long. Eventually I mentioned it to my cousin, who looked down the bar and confirmed my suspicions that it was in fact Mark Cuban. By now he was surrounded by a force field of beautiful blonds, one of which was severely locked and loaded on the Cubes. I’ve always respected the way he ran the Mavs, and thought it would be pretty cool to take a shot with him so I ordered 2 shots of Tequila.
I approached Mark and his very young, very pretty lady friend, shook his hand, and asked him if he would like to take a shot with me. He pointed to the girl and instructed her to take it, but she declined. He then took his right index finger, dipped it in the shot glass, licked his finger and said “I don’t do tequila”. With that, I turned around, took the shot with my cousin, and left California with a great story.
No tequila = no first round victories. Thunder in 4
Nuggets (6) vs. Lakers (3)
I saw this matchup in person a couple weeks back and even without the Black Mamba it wasn’t ever really close. The Lakers are just too talented and seasoned to lose this early. I really like some of the moves that Denver has made recently, freeing up cap space with the Nene-McGee trade, locking up Gallo/Chandler long term and drafted Kenneth Faried. I think they steal a game or two at home but ultimately they’re just not quite there to make a post season splash just yet. Keep an eye out for a well rested Kobe this post season, this guy is locked and loaded with his eye on the prize, Terminator style. That immortal 6th championship ring is just sixteen wins away.
Lake show in 6
Clippers (5) vs. Grizzlies (4)
Aside from Knicks-Heat this is the most intriguing first round match-up for me. Both teams have a very similar style of play and thy finished within a game of each other in the standings (the difference maker being Memphis game 66 win over the Magic). Blake has taken some nice leaps forward this year for the Clips, but my fear with them is that they won't be able to play both him and Jordan in crunch time because of how atrocious they are from the stripe (both shot just 52% this past season). It will interesting to see Memphis, last year's surprise playoff team, back at full tilt with Rudy Gay and Z-Bo. Although Randolph hasn't scored more than 20 points in a game in well over a month, I still expect him to be their workhorse down the stretch. But in the end I expect CP3 to takeover and lead the Clip show past this feisty Memphis squad.-fresh (@danye33)
This ones going the distance- Clips in 7
This ones going the distance- Clips in 7