I had been meaning to do a predictions article with all of the CelticsLife writers, but ran out of time.
And then I had been meaning to do a more substantive breakdown of the match-ups myself, but ran out of time.
So now, with the clock ticking under an hour (at the beginning of writing this) -- it's time for a quick and dirty predictions rundown, plus polls for you guys to vote in.
Lets get 'er going.
#1 Pacers vs #8 Hawks
The Hawks walloped the Pacers just two weeks ago in Indiana, leading by as many as 35 as Frank Vogel yanked all five of his starters just four minutes into the game. Atlanta isn't a very good team, but they do create match-up problems by putting five guys on the court who can shoot the three. They launched the second most treys in the league, and were fifth in threes made.
So I expect them to get hot a few times and win two games, but at the end of the day, the Pacers will wear them down with their frontline.
Prediction: Pacers in 6
#2 Heat vs #7 Bobcats
Unfortunately for Heat haters, the Bobcats have not beaten Miami since the big three was assembled four seasons ago. That's a run of futility basically unmatched across the NBA, and I just can't see this series being overly competitive. Big Al has been a revelation this season, but Charlotte just does not have an answer defensively for LeBron (I know, very few teams do).
Charlotte gets their first ever post-season win -- but that's it.
Prediction: Heat in 5
#3 Raptors vs #6 Nets
I did a podcast the other day where I said the Nets would win in seven, but the more I think about it, the more this is a tough match-up for Brooklyn. Toronto is young, athletic and hungry, with most of their players making their post-season debuts in this one. Their fan base will also give them a legitimate home court advantage.
I badly want Brooklyn to advance to play Miami, giving Pierce and KG one last chance at LBJ, but I think young legs prevail in a classic.
Prediction: Raptors in 7
#4 Bulls vs #5 Wizards
The final series gives us an epic contrast in styles. The up-and-down Wizards led by young guards John Wall and Bradley Beal vs. the slow-em-down, grind-em-out Bulls led by Tom Thibodeau's defense and Joakim Noah.
I think this will be another long series, mostly decided by how Washington can penetrate that stingy Chicago D. If they settle for mid-range jumpers all series, this will be quick, if they can use their athleticism to get to the basket and create open looks from three, they can win this thing.
But I can't pick against Chicago with home court vs the Wiz.
Prediction: Bulls in 6
#1 Spurs vs #8 Mavericks
The Mavs are a gritty team led by Dirk and a bunch of veterans, but San Antonio is a buzz saw. I don't see anyone in the playoffs beating the Spurs this year, and this has all the makings of a quick series.
Prediction: Spurs in 5
#2 Thunder vs #7 Grizzlies
Memphis has been the best team in basketball since Marc Gasol returned from injury, and they have the advantage in the paint against everyone in basketball, OKC included.
With that said, with both Durant and Westbrook healthy, the Thunder are just too difficult to outscore. They score a combined 55 on an average night, just too big a gap for the Grizz to bridge over seven games. Last year they got the job done with Westbrook out, but that's not the case this year.
Prediction: Thunder in 6
#3 Clippers vs #6 Warriors
Oh my, this is going to be fun.
In case you missed it, the Clippers have taken the leap. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are both playing the best basketball of their careers, Chris Paul is still Chris Paul, and the Clips are fully healthy entering the playoffs.
On the other side, there are some questions hanging above the Dubs. Why do they struggle to score at the end of close games? How serious is the Mark Jackson situation? How can they overcome the Andrew Bogut injury?
I love watching the Splash brothers, but the Clippers are rolling.
Prediction: Clippers in 6
#4 Rockets vs #5 Blazers
Portland is another team I really enjoy watching, and Damian Lillard might be a sneaky top-five most exciting player in the league. But Houston is crazy deep, with two of the top ten players in basketball, Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik coming off the bench, and Chandler Parsons and Terrence Jones playing out of their minds.
Again, I like a long series, but home court prevails.
Prediction: Rockets in 7
So yea, I see a lot of chalk in Round 1.
But down the line, I see a couple of upsets. In Round 2 I have Chicago over Indy, Miami over Toronto, Spurs over the Rockets and Clippers over the Thunder.
Spurs over the Clippers in the WCF, Heat over the Bulls in the ECF.
Spurs over Miami in 6 games to win it all.
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