NBA Playoff Predictions
By Guest Blogger Tyler Daly:
We’re halfway through the second round of the NBA playoffs and I don’t know how much more I can take. Games down to the wire, physical play… TNT (who airs many NBA playoff games) is not lying when they say “We Know Drama.” If you want to see a superstar dazzle your eyeballs with uncanny shots and dunks, tune into the Bulls/Hawks series. If you want to see some young ballers try and knock off the experienced vets, tune into the Heat/Celtics series. If you want to see passionate basketball played in a college-like atmosphere, watch the Thunder/Grizzlies series. If seeing the champs getting knocked around is your thing, watch the Mavericks/Lakers series. But among all this drama, it’s hard to tell what is real. At this point in the playoffs we’re past contenders and pretenders. Every team who has made it this far has earned its spot. However, someone has to win…
Chicago Bulls vs. Atlanta Hawk (Bulls lead 2-1):
After an exciting first round upset over the Orlando Magic, the Hawks came into this series flying high. Since winning the series opener against the Bulls, however, Atlanta has begun to show how much they rely on the jump shot. In both losses the Hawks struggled to find their range and have shown that they miss having Kirk Hinrich in the lineup. Jeff Teague has done well to step up and guard Derrick Rose, but as we saw in game 3, the MVP will do what MVP’s do. In the end, the Bulls stingy defense will prevail and will lock down Atlanta’s shooters.
X Factor: Carlos Boozer. Boozer was limited to 22 minutes in game 3 due to turf toe, and is still questionable heading into game 4. He provides a secondary scoring option to Rose and without him the Hawks could make this series very competitive.
Prediction: Atlanta is able to win another one, but use up their last night of good shooting on it, Bulls in 6.
Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics (Heat lead 2-0):
Miami has been the story of the playoffs so far, silencing all of their doubters by easily handling the 76ers and jumping out to an early 2-0 series lead against the defending Eastern Conference champions. One important thing to keep in mind is the age-old phrase “a series doesn’t start until someone wins on the road.” The series now heads back to Boston, where a fired up crowd will certainly be willing their Celtics to a victory. The Heat feel extremely confident and have a new found swagger that we have not seen since they danced on stage to celebrate their arrival to South Beach. When push comes to shove, Boston plays defense better than anyone else at home in the playoffs. Look for Boston to hold serve at home and take this back to Miami tied up.
X Factor: Keeping it close. The Heat have proven over and over again this year that they can’t win in close game situations. Not only do they argue over who should take the final shot, but none of them make it. If the Celtics can keep it close, advantage Boston. Clinical finishers like Ray Allen and Paul Pierce have been there, and they will capitalize on their chances.
Prediction: Boston wins games 3 and 4 and takes their talents back to South Beach. Miami is unable to keep leads late in games and eventually that is their downfall, losing a tight one in game 7, Celtics in 7.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Dallas Mavericks (Dallas leads 3-0):
Did anyone see this coming? If you did you might be lying, because admittedly as a Mavs fan I was scared of this series. Dallas was not, however, and have scrapped and clawed their way to a 3-0 series lead. After coming back from down 16 in game 1 for a win, the Mavs locked up game 2 by only allowing 32 second half points by the Lakers. Deshawn Stevenson and Jason Kidd have done enough to slow down Kobe, and Dirk Nowitzki has proven that he can still take over games. The Lakers now seem to lack the confidence necessary to win in the playoffs, and the Mavericks are playing like they may never lose again. Combine all of this with a struggling Pau Gasol and Ron Artest being suspended for game 3 and that gave Dallas its 3-0 lead. Dallas is undefeated at home in the playoffs thus far and will look to bring out the brooms come Sunday night.
X Factor: Confidence. Bynum mentioned in a press conference that the Lakers don’t trust each other defensively, not a good sign. The Mavericks on the other hand are playing with the type of confidence that makes you tell a blackjack dealer to hit you when you’re sitting on 17. As long as the Mavs can stay in the right mindset, the series is theirs.
Prediction: The Lakers come out strong in game 4, only to blow their lead again in the second half. Dirk takes over in the fourth quarter and shows his title hunger, Mavs in 4.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Memphis Grizzlies (Series tied 1-1):
If you’re talking about surprise teams in this year’s playoffs, you must be talking about Memphis. No one (myself included) gave them a shot against the Spurs in the first round, especially not having their star in Rudy Gay. The Grizzlies made quick work of the aging Spurs, although, and surprised more by winning the series opener against the Thunder. OKC kept Memphis in check by winning game 2, and now we’re not sure what to think. Memphis heads back home, where Zach Randolph has been virtually unstoppable so far in the postseason. Randolph, who was held to zero second half field goals by Nick Collison in game 2, needs to have a strong showing in game 3 because he has become the vocal leader for this team in Gay’s absence. Kevin Durant is going to do his thing, but it’s the other Thunder players who the Grizz must focus on. If they can continue to bang inside with OKC and force Westbrook and KD into tough shots, Memphis can shock the world by going to the Western Conference Finals.
X Factor: Physical play. The advantage on the inside game goes to the Grizzlies who have monsters down low in Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. We saw that Memphis can be extremely successful against the Thunder down low in game 1, something they got away from in game 2. If Memphis can play tough and limit open looks to OKC’s shooters then they should like their chances.
Prediction: The teams trade games back and forth all the way to game 7 in Oklahoma City. Their crazy home fans inspire the team to an early lead, but the Grizzlies close out. In the end, Randolph has too much in the clutch and Memphis squeaks out a last-second win, Grizzlies in 7.