What an exciting playoffs it has been thus far! We’ve seen a bunch of tight games (and a few blowouts sprinkled here and there) and already two upsets. In the East, Dwight Howard’s Magic have been eliminated in the first round, which will certainly bring into focus both Stan Van Gundy’s and Howard’s future with the franchise. In the West, the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs were eliminated by the eight-seeded Memphis Grizzlies in a result that had me chortling with glee. I’m sure everyone’s heard by now how this is only the fourth time an 8th seed has knocked off the 1st seed, and only the second time since the 7-game first round series was instated.
Let me go ahead and see how I did with my first round predictions. The scoring system I’m using is +1 for correct result and +2 for correct result with correct scoreline. Max points are 16.
Bulls 4-1 Pacers (Bulls 4-0): +1
Heat 4-1 Sixers (Heat 4-1): +2
Celtics 4-0 Knicks (Celtics 4-2): +1
Hawks 4-2 Magic (Magic 4-1): +0
Grizzlies 4-2 Spurs (Spurs 4-2): +0
Lakers 4-2 Hornets (Lakers 4-1): +1
Mavericks 4-2 Blazers (Blazers 4-3): +0
Thunder 4-1 Nuggets (Thunder 4-3): +1
Okay, so I didn’t do too flash. Definitely worse than last year, when I only missed one of the first round results (but got only one of the series outcomes correct). Anyways, I’m going to shake it off and make predictions for the Conference Semis.
Chicago Bulls (1) vs. Atlanta Hawks (5)
I think it is fair to say that Atlanta surprised nearly everyone by not only beating the Magic, but finishing them off so effortlessly. In my first round prediction, I thought the Magic would easily take care of the Hawks, but I had noted that the Hawks tend to play up (or down) to their opponent’s level. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to watch too much of that series since I was moving and also because a bunch of the games were on NBATV. I did get to watch a few of the Bulls games and it seems evident that it is going to be D-Rose or nothing for the Bulls. The support cast have thus far not showed up for him consistently. Boozer is going to have to step up. This is a tough prediction for me. The Hawks have more offensive weapons and are probably a better rounded team, but the Bulls’ defense has been stellar. I’m going to ignore the upset calls from my gut and go with Bulls 4-2.
Miami Heat (2) vs. Boston Celtics (3)
This series is going to be epic. The Celtics won the first three season match-ups in tight games before being beaten to the pulp by the Heat in the last regular season game between these two teams. The Celtics somehow managed to sweep the Knicks for the only 4-0 scoreline in the first round. Although in the past I’ve said that the Celtics would have the upperhand, I think the Heat have got their stuff together. They’ll need to find an answer for Rondo but apart from that, I think they’ll be in control here. Heat 4-2.
Oklahoma City Thunder (4) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (8)
OKC must feel like they’ve dodged a bullet to avoid the Spurs, but the way the Spurs and Grizzlies were playing, I think the Thunder would have preferred going up against San Antonio. Memphis is playing very old-school basketball–almost every possession they go down to the post. Almost everyone on their starting 5 can play with their backs to the basket. It’s very hard to defend. The Thunder do have height to match-up with the Grizzlies, though, which is something San Antonio did not have. I think Ibaka will cause Randolph a lot more trouble than Duncan, McDyess or Splitter (don’t know why Blair wasn’t persisted with). I also think the Grizzlies will find it difficult to cover KD. I have no idea what the scoreline will be here, so I’m going with Thunder 4-2.
Los Angeles Lakers (2) vs. Dallas Mavericks (3)
This should also be a delectable match-up. The Lakers managed to finally get their heads in the game to overcome CP3’s valiant Hornets team. But the fact is they should have won that series a lot more easily than they did. The Mavericks, meanwhile, looked good taking care of the Blazers, who I thought would give the Mavericks more trouble. I still think the Mavs will be missing a consistent second option on offense, especially now that they will be in Lakerland and probably not getting a lot of the calls. I’m going to say the Lakers take care of this easily. Lakers 4-1.
So no upsets predicted here, for me. If I had to pick a series to be an upset, it’d probably be the Celtics over the Heat. Should be exciting stuff, though!