NBA PlayoffsThe NBA Playoffs begin this Saturday April 20th and the Eastern and Western Conference games are definitely going to be exciting.  Check out The Source NBA Playoff first round preview and check back when we preview the second round.

Eastern Conference:


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Miami Heat (1) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (8)

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Season Series: Heat won 3-1

I’ll keep this brief because I’m sure everyone knows who’s winning this one.  The Miami Heat had a super year firing off a 27-game win streak and locking up a playoff spot way back in the beginning of March.  Just when you thought Lebron James couldn’t get better, he did, having one of the best statistical years of his career.  Not only is Lebron on track, Wade is back to his old self after playing through injury last year.  The Bucks added Monta Ellis before the trade deadline and he’s now the leading scorer for the team averaging 19.2 ppg.  They’ve also seen an emergence of Larry Sanders becoming a dominant force in the paint.  Still it won’t be enough.

Prediction Heat in 4 games

 

New York Knicks (2) vs. Boston Celtics (7)

Season Series: Knicks won 3-1

This is definitely a matchup to watch.  While it definitely won’t be anything like the Knicks and Celtics matchup of 2011, Knicks fans are being presumptuous assuming they’ll fly through round 1 and round 2.  The Celtics tend to look battered throughout the regular season and emerge as giants in the playoffs.  Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce have fight and strength like no other.  Still the Celtics are without their star point guard Rajon Rondo and Garnett and Pierce have been battling injuries that an increase in age might make more difficult.  The Knicks are a different team this year with scoring title winner Carmelo Anthony leading the charge.  They also have JR Smith who has emerged as fire shooter off the bench and who will most likely win the Sixth Man of the Year award.  They’ve found their defensive identity under coach Mike Woodson and are 7th overall in the league in points allowed. The Knicks may finally exert revenge on the Celtics and take this series.

Prediction Knicks in 6 games

 

Indiana Pacers (3) vs. Atlanta Hawks (6)

Season Series: Tied 2-2

The Indiana Pacers had emerged this season as one of the best defensive teams in the league and also had the size that many other teams lacked.  They lost their star player Danny Granger due to injury but Paul George took over and picked up the slack.  The Atlanta Hawks lost their $100 million man and leading scorer Joe Johnson when they traded him to the Brooklyn Nets.  Still they managed to have a sound season and secure the sixth seed in the East.  Albeit he’s inconsistent, Josh Smith has stepped up to the plate both offensively and defensively as an explosive, athletic player.  They also have the athleticism of Al Horford and Jeff Teague and a shooter in Kyle Korver.  Despite the Pacers slight tumble towards the end of the season I still think it’ll be fairly easy for them to defeat the Hawks.  They have lockdown defenders at nearly every position and are just second in the league in points allowed.  They’ll prove to be too much for the Hawks who still haven’t quite secured their identity.

Prediction Pacers in 5

 

Brooklyn Nets (4) vs. Chicago Bulls (5)

Season Series: Bulls won 3-1

This matchup is definitely one I’ve been predicting and looking forward to throughout the season.  The Nets and Bulls games have been dogfights and I expect no less for the playoffs.  The new look Nets have a new arena and pivotal pieces to the puzzle that has secured them the No. 4 seed in the East after missing the playoffs completely last year.  They secured All-Star point guard Deron Williams during the offseason and after a shaky start he’s returned to being one of the best point guards in the game.  Nets center Brook Lopez has improved his rebounding (one of his biggest criticism’s) and is also the best offensive center in the league leading the team averaging 19.4 ppg.  Lopez will prove to be a difficult matchup for Joakim Noah who has been battling injury.  The Bulls however have coach Tom Thibodeau who is one of the best defensive minds in the league.  Thibs has worked this Bulls squad to limit and made up for the absence of star point guard Derrick Rose.  The Bulls have one of the most complete teams in the league as everyone plays their part.

Prediction Bulls in 6 games

 

 

Western Conference:

 

Oklahoma City Thunder (1) vs. Houston Rockets (8)

Season Series: Thunder won 2-1

The Thunder surprised everyone when they traded their Sixth Man of the Year James Harden rather than paying him the max contract he desired.  Many thought it was a huge mistake and indeed it might be as Harden has gone from a bench player to a franchise leader with the Houston Rockets.  Harden paired up with point guard Jeremy Lin who also wasn’t paid by his former team the Knicks and the two together turned the Rockets season around.  The Rockets also have a shooter in Chandler Parsons who if hot will be lethal from the perimeter. The Thunder have an explosive point guard in Russell Westbrook who although may take more shots than he should, is an athletic scorer and defender.  Not to mention the Thunder have the best pure scorer in the league in Kevin Durant. While it’ll be a matchup to watch the Thunder is likely to take this one.

Prediction Thunder in 5

 

San Antonio Spurs (2) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (7)

Season Series: Spurs 2-1

Kobe said the Lakers would make the playoffs and everyone laughed, now here we are and they’ve secured the seventh seed in the Western Conference.  The road certainly wasn’t easy as they battled injuries throughout the season and the All-Star squad just couldn’t find a way to work together.  Fast-forward towards the end of the season and the Black Mamba put the team on his back playing so hard he stayed in the game playing nearly 48 minutes a night despite numerous injuries.  Things took a tragic turn however during the Lakers game against the Warriors where Kobe tore his Achilles and was done for the season.  The rest of the team rallied behind their fallen soldier and finished the mission led by Dwight Howard with the help of Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks scoring and the reemergence of Pau Gasol as not only a post presence but also a passing big man.  Before the Lakers fans rejoice however they have to remember whom they’re facing in the playoffs.  The San Antonio Spurs are coached by the greatest coaching mind in the league, Gregg Popovich.  In a surprising turn of events the Spurs added NBA veteran Tracy McGrady who returned from China after averaging 25 ppg and 5.1 assists.  McGrady is looking to finally make it out of the first round of the playoffs.  Despite the age of veteran Tim Duncan, he’s continued to dominate.  They’ll also have the return of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli who’ve dealt with injury throughout the season.  Popovich is known for resting his players as much as necessary to have them at 100% for the playoffs.  While the Lakers have finally found a formula that works for them I don’t think they’ll be able to handle the Spurs at full strength especially without their general Kobe Bryant.

Prediction Spurs in 6

 

Denver Nuggets (3) vs. Golden State Warriors (6)

Season Series: Nuggets won 3-1

The Denver Nuggets have one of the most complete teams in the league and are virtually unbeatable at home.  Under the direction of George Karl the Nuggets play smart, effective basketball and lead the league in points per game.  The Nuggets however got hit hard by injury losing Danilo Gallinari to an ACL tear and the double double “Manimal”; Kenneth Faried suffered an ankle injury.  The Golden State Warriors have crazy shooting threats in Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry who just set the record for most three-pointers made in a single season.  Andrew Bogut is finally healthy and can provide an inside presence as well as David Lee.  Though the Nuggets are shorthanded they still have an immense amount of talent left in Andre Iguodala, Corey Brewer, Wilson Chandler and Evan Fournier.  Though this won’t be one of the higher publicized matchups, it’ll definitely be an intriguing one.  I have the Nuggets pulling it out but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Warriors pulled off the “upset”.

Prediction Nuggets in 7

 

Los Angeles Clippers (4) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (5)

Season Series: Clippers won 3-1

I’ll admit this matchup was one of the hardest to write.  One of the flashiest offensive teams faces off against one of the best defensive teams in the league.  The Los Angeles Clippers have emerged as LA’s team (well at least for this season), sweeping the Lakers and capturing the Pacific Division title for the first time in the team’s history.  The Clippers have arguably the best point guard in the league in Chris Paul as well as his lob city counterpart Blake Griffin.  Aside from their highlight reel the Clippers also have one of the deepest teams in the league with Sixth Man of the Year candidate Jamal Crawford and other essential members like DeAndre Jordan and Eric Bledsoe.  They also have veteran players Grant Hill, Caron Butler and Chauncey Billups.  The Grizzlies however have the ability to suffocate the Clippers explosive offense with a dominant frontcourt of Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Tony Allen.  They’re first in the league only allowing teams to score an average of 89.3 points.  Look forward to this matchup being a dogfight with the possibility of going all the way to seven games.

Prediction Clippers in 7

– Shaina Auxilly (@Shay_Marie)

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