Will anyone challenge the Miami Heat in the East? Will the Pacers get their shit together in the playoffs? Should I give a damn about the other teams in the East? Will the Spurs avenge the collapse in last season’s NBA Finals? Could anyone stop the Thunder in the West?
I could go on and on, but let’s get this 2014 NBA Playoff preview started, …shall we?
#1 Indiana Pacers vs. #8 Atlanta Hawks
Analysis: The Pacers have struggled headed into the playoffs and split the season series 2-2 with the Hawks. In fact, I would not have been but so confident that the Pacers would advance out of the first round if their opponents would have been the Bobcats, Nets, or even the Wizards. Fortunately for Indiana, the Hawks are so God-awful that it could moonwalk its way into the second round.
Prediction: Pacers in 5.
#2 Miami Heat vs. #7 Charlotte Bobcats
Analysis: The Heat won the season series 4-0 vs. Charlotte, and had over a 10-point margin over the Bobcats. Keep in mind that LeBron James once dropped 62 on the Bobcats’ defense. Don’t sleep on the Bobcats. They play great defense, grind, and have a top-level interior player in Al Jefferson. Unfortunately, Charlotte has a hard time scoring – not good news when facing the two-time defending champion Heat. The Bobcats are good enough to win a game (maybe two) in this series, but Miami is just too damn good.
Prediction: Heat in 5.
#3 Toronto Raptors vs. #6 Brooklyn Nets
Analysis: The Nets and Raptors split the season series 2-2. The Nets obviously tanked down to grab this matchup. In spite of both teams splitting the regular season series, Brooklyn has some cats that are playoff-tested in Paul Pierce, Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Kevin Garnett. Toronto is a talented team with a nice story, winning their second Atlantic Division crown in franchise history. However, the Raptors are in for a rude awakening when they learn what post-season basketball is all about.
Prediction: Nets in 6.
#4 Chicago Bulls vs. #5 Washington Wizards
Analysis: The Wizards won the season series 2-1. Like the Raptors, the Wizards are playoff neophytes compared to the more playoff-grizzled Bulls. I think the pressure of the playoffs coupled with Chicago’s intensity on defense will overwhelm the young Wizards.
Prediction: Bulls in 6.
#1 San Antonio Spurs vs. #8 Dallas Mavericks
Analysis: The Spurs won the season series 4-0. The Spurs and Mavs are two of the best perimeter attack teams in the NBA, and are extremely playoff-seasoned. Both are well-coached – while Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich is one of the best in the business, Rick Carlisle is no slouch himself. I think this will be a very competitive series, but the Spurs are just a bit better.
Prediction: Spurs in 6.
#2 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. #7 Memphis Grizzlies
Analysis: The Thunder won the season series 3-1. These teams are meeting for the third consecutive year in the playoffs. While the familiarity should help the Grizzlies in this series, we are all seeing a different Kevin Durant. I mean, who on the Grizzlies is capable of keeping him in check? Who will be able to score at a relatively similar clip to keep pace with this Thunder team? The bottom line is that Memphis simply can’t score, and that will play in OKC’s hands. Plus, Durant is on a mission.
Prediction: Thunder in 5.
#3 Los Angeles Clippers vs. #6 Golden State Warriors
Analysis: The Clippers and Warriors won the season series 2-2. This is a different Golden State than what we’re seeing now, thanks to the Andrew Bogut rib injury. This Warriors team is going to rely heavily on Jermaine O’Neal and probably David Lee at the five. Not a good thing knowing that they would go up against an athletic and brawnier frontcourt led by Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Plus that Chris Paul dude is not bad and will probably make a little noise in this season. All and all, this should be one entertaining series. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, aka the “Splash Brothers”, will light it up from the outside. But I think Clippers’ Doc Rivers will out-coach Mark Jackson in the end.
Prediction: Clippers in 5.
#4 Houston Rockets vs. #5 Portland Trailblazers
Analysis: The Rockets won the season series 3-1. If you like 3-point shooting, this is the series for you. The Rockets and Blazers are one and three, respectively, in 3-point attempts per game. The only difference between these teams is that the Rockets are a bit better defensively. Dwight Howard will be a difference-maker down low, with Omer Asik coming off the bench. And James Harden is a bonafide superstar who is on a mission. The Blazers are good, and have a bright future. They are just too green for the playoffs right now.
Prediction: Rockets in 6.