The NBA Playoffs begin, and to this fan, it’s about time. Even though the regular season was shortened to 66 games, thanks to the lockout, it felt like the season went on forever. But now the games really matter. Here are my picks for the first round.
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Chicago Bulls
The Bulls come into the series as heavy favourites, but do have a big question mark in terms of the health of point guard Derrick Rose. Last year’s MVP was sidelined for 27 games due to an ankle injury and he’s not 100% coming into the series. That said, the Sixers don’t have the depth to match up with Chicago. Bulls in 5.
New York Knicks vs. Miami Heat
The most hyped series of the first round. The Heat are under immense pressure to win the title, as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are seeking to win that elusive championship that they promised. The Knicks do have Carmelo Anthony to score points, but I don’t think they have enough to knock out the Heat. It is a great rivalry, but I like Miami in 6.
Orlando Magic vs. Indiana Pacers
The biggest story of this series is a player who won’t be playing in this series. Dwight Howard is lost for the season for Orlando thanks to back surgery he decided to have now, instead of waiting until the end of the season. It is a massive blow for Orlando, who will miss their leading scorer and their post presence. The Pacers will use this to their advantage as Danny Granger is an underrated star in the post, and will eat up the Magic inside. Indiana in 6.
Boston Celtics vs. Atlanta Hawks
An interesting series. The Celtics are still relying on their old guard of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo to lead them to the promised land. With Ray Allen coming off the bench, the Celtics are hoping experience trumps enthusiasm. The Hawks have talent, led by Joe Johnson and Josh Smith, but are erratic at times. The key will be if Marvin Williams play consistent solid basketball. He hasn’t yet in his career. Give me the experience. Boston in 6.
Utah Jazz vs. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs keep on churning. Despite critics calling them too old or too slow, the Spurs still win games and now are the top seed in the West. Tony Parker had an outstanding season for the Spurs, and he could receive MVP consideration. Manu Ginobili is healthy after missing 32 games due to injury. Tim Duncan is still Tim Duncan. The Jazz were fortunate to make the playoffs, and I don’t see them having a chance. Spurs in 4.
Dallas Mavericks vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
The defending NBA Champions, struggled this season but have something to prove in the playoffs. Dirk Nowitzki leads the way for the Mavs, while Jason Kidd and Vince Carter hope to complement the big German on offence. The Thunder lost to Dallas in last year’s Western Final so revenge is on their minds. Kevin Durant is a flat-out stud while Russell Westbrook, when he’s on, is a game-changing point guard. The Thunder are on the rise while the Mavs are in decline. Thunder in 6.
Denver Nuggets vs. Los Angeles Lakers
As long as Kobe Bryant keeps playing, the Lakers are still a threat to win the World Title. Kobe is the ultimate playoff performer, whose will to win is second to none. With the development of Andrew Bynum and point guard Ramon Sessions the Lakers are still a force. The Nuggets have been a surprise this season, and made strides throughout the year. But I don’t see them matching up against the Lakers. I’m taking the Lakers in 5.
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Memphis Grizzlies
Very intriguing series. Both teams are on the rise, and have young talent bursting at the seams. The Clippers are led by Blake Griffin, who produces highlight reel dunks every night. Chris Paul provides smarts and stability at the point. Caron Butler has potential, but hasn’t yet found the consistency to make him a star in the league yet. The Grizzlies are very balanced with four starters averaging double digits in scoring. Rudy Gay has all the makings of a superstar. Tony Allen is one of the best defenders on the perimeter. Zach Randolph provides veteran leadership from the bench. Should be a great series. On a hunch, I’m taking the Clippers in 6.
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