Despite my apprehensions about predictions, I have doled them out anyway (especially when I don’t have ideas.) This aversion to predicting comes from the inherent fact that no one can truly predict the future unless they are clairvoyant or have a time machine. It is at this point in my article where I would like to clarify that I am in fact somewhat clairvoyant, in that I did predict a Packers victory in Super Bowl XVI, when in fact their playoff picture was in doubt at the time. (Gloating much?) So my readers, I give you my NBA playoff predictions.
To add to all the unpredictable fun, this weekend has shown that upsets are in the making this year. I mean, who would have thought that even with a (semi-) healthy Andrew Bynum, the Lakers would be trounced by Chris Paul’s best Magic Johnson impression? Or that Zach Randolph had matured enough to lead his Grizzlies to a defeat of the over-the-hill gang, the Spurs? And let’s not forget Sunday’s upset of Orlando by Atlanta, and the almost-upset of the Thunder. Taking into account those games, here are my predictions for the 2011 NBA Playoffs:
(1) Spurs vs. (8) Grizzlies: Despite the upset in San Antonio, I still believe that Popovich’s team has the experience and level-headedness to rebound in this series. They won’t be too shaken because of this loss. And come on, if this series does come down to the wire, who do you think would be more reliable to make a clutch shot, Tony Parker or Mike Conley? The Spurs rush the Grizzlies and take the series 4-1.
(2) Lakers vs. (7) Hornets: As I intimated earlier, the key to the Lakers success in this series is the health of Andrew Bynum, or more generally, a big man to relieve Kobe’s scoring pressure and to muscle up on Chris Paul. It will, however, take time for this to happen, and I see the Hornets taking another game in N’awlins after the Lakers win on Wednesday. But the Lakers will eventually overcome their team difficulties to take the series 4-2.
(3) Mavs vs. (6) Blazers: Jason Kidd looks rejuvenated and the Mavs are playing good team defense. Despite the fact that LaMarcus Aldridge has carried the Blazers on his back this season, the pressure of the playoffs is too much for him to handle. The Mavs take this series 4-0.
(4) Thunder vs. (7) Nuggets: The Nuggets are the quintessential team: each player produces in his specific role in George Karl’s game plans, while the Thunder sport some of the games best young guns in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. I expect some shootouts in what I hope to be the best first-round series in the Western Conference. Although Karl’s team plays more like a unit, they are still too inexperienced as a group to playoff pressure, which is why I expect the Thunder to win this series 4-3.
(1) Bulls vs. (8) Pacers: No contest. Psycho-T vs. D-Rose? Yeah, that’s what I thought. The Bulls win the series 4-0.
(2) Heat vs. (7) 76ers: For all their struggles this year, the Heat aren’t going to cave easily. Despite a too-close-for-comfort win in their first game matchup, let’s remember that they have LeBron and D-Wade on their team. The Heat take this series 4-0.
(3) Celtics vs. (5) Knicks: This will be the best series of the first round in both the Western and Eastern conferences. The rivalry’s renewed and from what we have seen so far, the series looks like it’s going to be a thriller. Let’s hope Chauncey Billups will be able to make the festivities to make the game much more competitive. But I still can’t shake the feeling that the Knicks are what the Nuggets used to be before the trade �" with Stoudemire in the mix. But wait, is that really much of a difference in terms of defense? The Celtics’ experience and tenacity will carry them out of this series 4-3.
(4) Magic vs. (5) Hawks: The Hawks stole won in Orlando but I fully expect three-time Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard to steal the show the rest of the series. The Magic take this one 4-1. Besides, I can’t bear to part ways with Stan Van Gundy’s moustache this early in the playoffs.
(1) Spurs vs. (4) Thunder: Tim Duncan’s last hurrah ends here. The Spurs won’t be able to handle the youth and speed of the Thunder in this semi-final matchup. The Thunder take the series 4-2.
(2) Lakers vs. (3) Mavericks: What a delectable matchup. From what we have seen in the past few weeks, it seems that the only player that is hungry for a win on the Lakers is Kobe Bryant. However, I don’t think Kobe will be able to pull off the wins all by himself against Dallas’ team defense. I think Dirk and Mark Cuban’s boys will take their talents to the Conference finals after a tough-fought 4-2 series win.
(1) Bulls vs. (4) Magic: Despite the fact that Dwight Howard is the Defensive POY, it still seems he is the only player on the Magic who plays defense. Chicago on the other hand, has been the epitome of defense this season. I expect a Bulls victory in this series 4-0.
(2) Heat vs. (3) Celtics: After a long and bruising battle with the Knicks, I don’t think the Celtics will have enough gas to make it out of the Miami Heat’s Playoff Revenge Tour. Of course, they have been saying that for the past three years, so I make this prediction with a grain of salt. The Heat win the series 4-3.
(3) Mavericks vs. (4) Thunder: I think this is the year the Mavs finally break through the Western Conference playoffs and return to the Finals �" the Thunder will have many more chances in the future. The Mavs take this one 4-3.
(1) Bulls vs. (2) Heat: As much as I would like to see a repeat of the 2006 NBA Finals, the Bulls will win this series. They will prove that it takes more than mega-signings to win playoff games and that it involves a team that is willing to clamp down and play team defense. D-Rose is playing like he is on fire and he has shown (2009 Eastern Conference First Round vs. Boston) that he can show up in big games and lead his team. The Bulls take this series to the wire, 4-3.
Bulls vs. Mavericks: Will youth get served in this series? Or will Dallas finally exorcise its demons and win their first NBA Championship? Both teams will be hungry and have talented players to effectively play both offense and defense. Something tells me that Dallas will have that extra push and win, but not without a fight from D-Rose and the Bulls. Dallas ultimately wins this series, 4-3, in dramatic fashion.
Those are my predictions for this year’s NBA Playoffs. As hindsight has taught me, what will most likely happen is that I will laugh over these predictions just like how I laughed after I taunted the Chiefs and Bucs when they were 4-0.