The NBA playoff teams were set a long time ago, but it came down to the last game of the season to finalize the first round match-ups.
In the West. the Lakers did just enough down the stretch to secure the 2-seed in the West and face a New Orleans team without David West. In the East, Chicago cruised after the All Star break and locked up the 1-seed in the NBA. Miami edged out Boston in a crucial head-to-head match-up to hold the 2-seed in the East.
The 2011 NBA playoffs should be one the most entertaining in recent years and could be as competitive as ever. This should sound familiar but, here are my first round picks:
1 Chicago Bulls vs 8 Indiana Pacers
Do you really think Derrick Rose will let his team go out in the first round? With home-court advantage? Didn’t think so. Rose and the Bulls take care of business and get some needed playoff experience.
Pick: Chicago in 5
2 Miami Heat vs 7 Philadelphia 76ers
Once again, do you think LeBron James AND Dwyane Wade will let their team bow out in the first round? As much as I hate “LePrince,” I think he gets the job done. James and Wade have taken worse teams deeper in the playoffs than the 2010-11 Miami Heat.
Pick: Miami in 5
3 Boston Celtics vs 6 New York Knicks
The “Big 3 Plus 1” vs the “Big 2 Plus 1.” This is the most star-studded series featuring Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rando, Ray Allen, Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billips and Amare Stoudemire. There is no doubt the Celtics haven’t been the same since the perplexing Kendrick Perkins trade but luckily for Boston, the Knicks don’t know how to play defense. Rondo should expose the Knicks and the Celtics should move on to the next round leaving the Knicks saying a far too familiar motto, “wait ‘til next year!”
Pick: Boston in 5
4 Orlando Magic vs 5 Atlanta Hawks
These two teams met in the second round last year and it wasn’t even a series. The Magic swept the Hawks and completely dominated them in every aspect of the game. The Magic are a dark horse in the Eastern Conference because of their ability to hit the three pointer. Dwight Howard needs to have a large impact on the series for the Magic to win.
Pick: Orlando in 6
1 San Antonio Spurs vs 8 Memphis Grizzlies
San Antonio jumped out to a historic start and many believed they would never look back. Well, they didn’t look back, they ran back. The Spurs are deadly when healthy but head into the playoffs with Manu Ginobili being banged up. The Grizzlies provide many match-ups problems and possess two shutdown defenders in Shane Battier and Tony Allen. Although the Spurs have the better coach, better team and more experience, I’m calling an upset. The Grizzlies shock the 1-seed in the West and move on to the next round. Knowing my luck, the Spurs will sweep the Grizzlies and I will look idiotic. Consider yourself warned.
Pick: Memphis in 7
2 Los Angeles Lakers vs 7 New Orleans Hornets
Who thinks Chris Paul can beat the Lakers all by himself? Anyone? For the Hornets to beat the Lakers, that’s what needs to happen. Losing David West to a torn ACL put the Hornets playoff hopes in the incinerator. The Lakers should win this series with ease, but their long-term playoff hopes rely on the health of Andrew Bynum and his unstable knees.
Pick: Lakers in 5
3 Dallas Mavericks vs 6 Portland Trail Blazers
Here is Upset #2. The Mavericks have gone on tears this season but come into the playoffs playing less than stellar basketball. The Trail Blazers cause many match-up problems and the evolution of LaMarcus Aldrige make the Trail Blazers a team many should look out for. The mid-season acquisition of Gerald Wallace pays dividends and the Trail Blazers send home the Mavericks early.
Pick: Trail Blazers in 6
4 Oklahoma City Thunder vs 5 Denver Nuggets
If I could choose one series to watch, it would be this one. The Nuggets have transformed into a legitimate threat to the Western Conference with the departure of Carmelo Anthony. Ty Lawson and Raymond Felton are quick and dangerous around the rim while Danilo Gallinari has the ability to create his own shot. The Thunder are just as lethal as the Nuggets. Between Russel Westbrook and Kevin Durant, they have two players who can beat you by themselves. The addition of Kendrick Perkins gives the Thunder ridiculous amounts of length and makes them tough around the rim. The Nuggest will give the Thunder a run for their money, but will ultimately miss the absence of a superstar.
Pick: Thunder in 6
Get ready for some intense, competitive basketball. As Dickie V would say, “IT’S GONNA BE AWESOME BABY!”