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2012 NBA Playoff Predictions – First Round

As I write this post at 1:30pm Eastern, the playoffs have just begun…here are my predictions:

WEST

  • San Antonio sweeps
  • OKC in 5
  • LA in 7
  • Memphis in 6

EAST

  • Chicago sweeps
  • Miami in 6
  • Indiana in 6
  • Boston in 6

More on these picks below.

Eastern Conference First Round:

Chicago vs Philly – Chicago should sweep the 76ers. Philly seems to be sliding a bit right now, but more importantly they just can’t muster the offensive production to overcome Chicago’s defense. This series will be a low-scoring affair, with 5 games only a small possibility.

Miami vs NY – Miami in 6. While Melo will certainly show up big in at least one prime-time game, his poor defensive habits and ball-stopping play will hurt his team as much as his offense helps. Ditto for Amare, who’s mediocre offensive contributions will be a non-factor when compared to his defensive lapses. Perhaps if Jeremy Lin were healthy the outcome would be a little closer, but as of now NY’s best players are Melo and Chandler, and those two aren’t enough to overcome LeBron, Wade, Bosh, a solid cast of role players, and an under-rated coaching staff.

Indiana vs Orlando – Indiana in 6. I’d still pick Indiana if Dwight Howard were healthy, as Indiana’s combination of excellent defense and athletic youth will give Orlando fits. However, since they’re a young team, I fully expect Orlando to outfox them at least once and likely twice. Helping Orlando’s cause is the fact that Stan Van Gundy outclasses his counterpart in Indiana (Vogel).

Atlanta vs Boston – Boston in 6. Boston’s defense has been outstanding over the last third of the season, and something tells me their status as an underdog makes them incredibly dangerous. Atlanta, for all their talent, relies too heavily on Josh Smith, a chronically immature player who probably won’t ever win anything at this level. Joe Johnson is the x-factor here, but I don’t think he’ll outplay Pierce. Most importantly, Atlanta has no answer for Rondo.

Western Conference First Round:

San Antonio vs Utah – San Antonio sweep. Utah’s massive front line combination of Jefferson, Favors, and Millsap is sure to cause problems for San Antonio’s defense, but Utah’s defense is completely outclassed by the Spurs. Considering that San Antonio’s coaching staff is smart enough to come up with a variety of schemes to counter Jefferson (Utah’s best player and biggest advantage), I don’t see any way Utah wins a game. Their defense just isn’t that great.

OKC vs Dallas – OKC in 5. Frankly, all my study tells me that this will be a sweep, but Dallas probably has another gear they’ve been saving for the post season. Still, OKC outmatches Dallas at every position but one…and I don’t think Nowitzki can carry Dallas any further than Durant can carry OKC.

Lakers vs Nuggets – Lakers in 7. As a Nuggets fan, this is a series that’s close to my heart. While I’m genuinely curious to see how L.A. matches up with any number of Nuggets small ball line-ups, I’m reminded of the fact that L.A. has two players Denver can’t match up with. The first is a guy named Kobe. The second is Bynum, who is too big and too good for any of Denver’s young bigs. Still, Denver is going to trick L.A. into running a little more than they should, and that means they could make this a series.

Memphis vs Clippers – Memphis in 6. The Clippers biggest asset is Chris Paul, a guy who seems to elevate his game during the playoffs. However, Memphis has more talent at every position except point guard, a deeper bench, and arguably a better coach. There’s also the fact that Paul has a groin injury and that Tony Allen is going to make Paul’s life very very difficult.

Some Other Notes

1. Obviously, injuries can change the outcome of a series. I’m not owning any prediction where a team’s best players don’t show up to play every game (Chicago and the Clippers in particular).

2. The Knicks are incredibly overrated as a playoff team, mostly because NY media types love the home-town team. Don’t be surprised if this series is a big fat dud.

3. The Nuggets are going to have to find a way to play some combo of Al Harrington, Kenneth Faried, and/or Danillo Galinari on the floor at the same time if they want to win the series, but none of these players can possibly hope to contain Bynum or Gasol. Denver will use a variety of tricks to try and manage this mis-match, but I fully expect to see either Mozgov or Koufos on the floor all game long. That’s not going to help Denver’s offense.

4. Dallas could surprise everyone, but I don’t think so. Looking back at years past, it’s the same team Dallas had before Chandler arrived – one that laid a couple of 1st round eggs (most famously against the 8 seed Warriors).

5. All the stats tell me that the Clippers should win their series, but the match-ups are strongly in favor of Memphis. Will be very interesting to see this one.

6. While I admit I’m a bit of a Nuggets homer, I see this series being close. In years past, the 1st round has always seemed to be the toughest for LA (seems like they use the 1st round to get up to speed), and I genuinely believe that Denver’s scoring ability at the perimeter will make this a tough series for low-scoring L.A. Obviously, I’m hoping for an upset.

7. If you’re reading this after the fact and my predictions are wrong, feel free to give me the business in the comments below. Just know that I, unlike you, made the effort to predict the outcomes publicly. No points are awarded if you don’t even bother to play.


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