And just as quickly as the NBA lockout ended, the NBA’s truncated 2011-2012 season is over and we’re headed to the playoffs. There’s been a definite fair share of drama this year, but the most exciting part of the season is finally here and for the next couple of months, we have a boat load of great basketball ahead of us. Join Vish and I in our analysis/predictions and matchups, all below the jump.
And the full schedule for the first round has been released (times and channels as well) – so check that out here.
-grizzly and vish bhatt
(1) Chicago Bulls vs. (8) Philadelphia 76ers
The Chicago Bulls came into the season as one the teams to beat in the East. Derrick Rose battled injury the entire year, but the Bulls managed to play without him. The 76ers surprised many teams this year. A young energetic team that lacks experience in the playoffs. They will have to use the same formula in the regular season in order to battle with the Bulls.
Grizzly’s Prediction: Bulls in 4. Derrick Rose could stay on the bench this whole series, and I MIGHT move it up to Bulls in 5.
Vish’s Prediction: Bulls in 4. The 76ers don’t have the experience the Bulls do. Should be a coast series for Chicago.
(2) Miami Heat vs. (7) New York Knicks
The defending Eastern Conference champions, the Miami Heat were left with a bitter taste in their mouth following a loss to Dallas in the Finals. They have a chip on their shoulder, and a lot to prove. The Knicks added Tyson Chandler but got off to a rough start. Mike Woodson has turned around the mentality of this team and they are finally starting to play together.
Grizzly’s Prediction: Heat in 5. The Heat have been resting their players intermittently, and I see very little standing in their way of a finals appearance.
Vish’s Prediction: Heat in 5. Even one win for the Knicks is pushing it. Their defense can’t match the fire power of the Heat.
(3) Indiana Pacers vs. (6) Orlando Magic
The Pacers have had a hell of a season. Between Danny Granger’s rise to stardom in the last couple of seasons and Roy Hibbert’s excellent big man skills, the Pacers have plenty of weapons. Throughout the course of the year, they’ve beaten plenty of contenders, but went 3-1 to the Magic. But let’s face it: The Magic have been “The OC” of the NBA this year, in that there’s too much dramz. Above all, no Dwight Howard, so the Magic are on an uphill battle.
Grizzly’s Prediction: Pacers in 5. The Magic have very little to play for.
Vish’s Prediction: Pacers in 5. Without Dwight, don’t see the Magic competing.
(4) Boston Celtics vs. (5) Atlanta Hawks
These two teams have been neck and neck all season, and for the last couple of weeks, they’ve just been playing for home court here. Post All-Star break, the Celtics have been one of the best, strongest and most consistent veteran teams in the league, while the Hawks have weapons in Josh Smith, Joe Johnson and Tracy Mc–just kidding. Al Horford being out may hurt the Hawks, but the Hawks remains a dangerous team.
Grizzly’s Prediction: Celtics in 6. Veteran presence and experience will help the push.
Vish’s Prediction: Celtics in 7. This will be a great 4/5 match-up and will come down to
home court advantage. I learned that the Hawks have the HC advantage, but I keep my pick with the Celtics, due to their veteran leadership.
(1) San Antonio Spurs vs. (8) Utah Jazz
With the Jazz not clinching until there was only one game in the season left, and the Spurs ending their season on a 10 game winning streak, it’s safe to say where the momentum lies. However, the Jazz have played spoiler plenty of times in the past (Anyone remember the Rockets in the late 90s?) and I can see them playing those old and worn Spurs in the ground.
Grizzly’s Prediction: Spurs in 6. Spurs are playing lights out, and the Jazz will simply be in the way. This is definitely a Finals contender.
Vish’s Prediction: Spurs in 5. Spurs are playing as well as anyone. They aren’t going to take an 8 seed lightly anymore after last season.
(2) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (7) Dallas Mavericks
That excellent series from last year’s Western Conference Finals finds itself in a redux in the first round. Definitely one of the best “marquee” match-ups on the docket. But OKC has been excellent this year, and have tightened up the loose ends. Without Tyson Chandler, Dallas is missing the defensive depth, but their bench will continue to help them win games. The James Harden injury is something to look out for. His time on the court was one of the few reasons why this team has played so well together.
Grizzly’s Prediction: Thunder in 5. OKC will send the Mavs packin’ early this year, especially after getting all sad last year.
Vish’s Prediction: Thunder in 4. Durant and Westbrook will be hard to guard by the old Mavericks team and that OKC crowd is crazy loud.
(3) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (6) Denver Nuggets
The Lakers were coming together as of late – exactly what you want to do coming into the playoffs. Then Metta World Peace decided to throw an elbow and get suspended for 6 playoff games. This Nuggets team isn’t one that will roll over. They play great team basketball and could give the Lakers a run for the money.
Grizzly’s Prediction: Lakers in 7. I think they’ll be missing key defense against a FAST team and will have to fight this one out.
Vish’s Prediction: Lakers in 6. It takes a slow start, but the Lake Show get it together in time.
(4) Memphis Grizzlies vs. (5) Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers had a chance to win the Pacific Division over the Lakers for the first time in NBA history, but they blew it with season ending losses – both of which cost them home court against the dangerous Grizzlies. Let’s not forget Memphis is the sleeper again this year, and in case anyone needed a reminder, they beat the 1 seed and took OKC to a million overtimes last year. The Clippers are young and inexperienced in the playoffs but will give the Grizzlies a run for their money.
Grizzly’s Prediction: Grizzlies in 6. The Clippers have no playoff experience, and it’ll show after they win the first 2 and lose 4 straight.
Vish’s Prediction: Clippers in 7. Chris Paul has been known to take over games and definitely has enough playoff experience to be the “go-to guy” for the Clips. I knew Grizzly would pick the Grizzlies.
Next post you’ll see will be for the Conference Semi-Finals, so sit tight.
-grizzly and vish bhatt