BDCi’s NBA Playoffs 4.18.14
(BDCi) — The regular season officially ended on Wednesday and it’s time for the real drama to begin with the playoffs that start on Saturday. Each week every series will be previewed and the Brazilian athletes will be previewed in the next edition of this article when the playoffs have gotten underway.
EASTERN CONFERENCE FIRST ROUND
(1) Indiana Pacers vs. (8) Atlanta Hawks — The Hawks come into the playoffs as the biggest playoff longshot. They slipped in with a below .500 record and now get the daunting task of facing the best team in the East. The Hawks are in the playoffs for the seventh straight season but it was not easy to get in this year as the team struggled losing their best player Al Horford to injury back in December and having a rookie head coach. This is the second year in a row that the Hawks and Pacers meet in the playoffs. Last year, Indiana won the series four games to two. During the regular season, these two teams split with Atlanta coming away with a surprising 107-88 victory in Indianapolis less than two weeks ago. So, Indiana should not overlook Atlanta. For Indy, getting the number one seed was quite important but it will be insignificant if they get upset in the first round. For Atlanta, without a clear cut star, everyone is going to need to step up if they want a chance. For Indiana, they need to play like they played in last year’s playoffs and they will go far.
(2) Miami Heat vs. (7) Charlotte Bobcats — This is going to be a very interesting series as it pits the veterans against an upstart young team. The Miami Heat won the regular season series 4-0 but now it is the playoffs and things can change. Look at Miami as they did not have the same season they had last year when LeBron was in a class by himself and the defense was outstanding. This season, Dwyane Wade missed a lot of time and Chris Bosh failed to be a consistent No.2 behind LeBron. Nobody said it was easy to three-peat and it looks as though the Heat are tired. They probably can make it through Charlotte but the rest of the playoffs will be interesting. For Charlotte, they need to forget about the regular season and realize it’s the playoffs and they get a fresh start. Al Jefferson is the key for Charlotte as everything works through him and the Heat will have trouble. If he and Kemba Walker are clicking, watch out Miami it could be a long series. For Miami, they do not come into the playoffs with the same kind of momentum as last season. They gave up the number one seed and now need to see what do they Heat have and do they have enough. Chris Bosh needs to step up and help Lebron if the Heat are too be successful and also you never know what D-Wade will bring.
(3) Toronto Raptors vs. (6) Brooklyn Nets — These are two teams from the same division so they certainly know each other well. They also are again a veteran team against a young upstart team. The Nets are loaded with playoff experience while the Raptors have three starters who have never been to the playoffs. These two teams split during the regular season with three of the four games coming down to the wire. These series could go the full seven games but the playoffs are a different animal and this is where the Nets should have the advantage. It seems Jason Kidd wanted the Nets to play Toronto rather than Chicago. His team now needs to prove that. The schedule certainly favors them as the Nets get two days off between game 1,2,3 and 5. That makes a big difference for Kidd in how many minutes he play Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. For Toronto, they certainly can hang with Brooklyn especially with Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross. They are very talented but sometimes experience trumps talent. It should be a great series.
(4) Chicago Bulls vs. (5) Washington Wizards — These are two different teams with the Chicago Bulls excelling on defense and struggling on offense against a team in the Wizards who are average in both categories. The Bulls do not need to score a lot of points, they just need to score more than the other team can against their air-tight defense. That will be a challenge for the Wizards but the Wizards did win two out of three during the regular season. They ended the Bulls five game winning streak in January and then beat them again four days later. Two weeks ago, the Bulls got their revenge but the Wizards were without Nene. The keys for the Bulls are their stifling defense and also if they are knocking down threes with D.J Augustin, Kirk Hinrick and Jimmy Butler, they will be successful. For the Wizards, John Wall is their go-to guy but if they can get some consistent offense from Nene and Marcin Gortat, this can be a very interesting series. The last time the Wizards advanced past the first round, it was in 2005 against the Bulls when they won the series 4-2. Watch out for Trevor Ariza to be the wildcard for the Wizards as Jimmy Butler could be the breakout star for the Bulls.
WESTERN CONFERENCE FIRST ROUND
(1) San Antonio Spurs vs (8) Dallas Mavericks — This is classic showdown in Texas as the always steady San
Antonio Spurs but heads with their in-state rival Mavericks. The key for the Spurs this season had to be their bench as this should have been the season when the Spurs were to show how old they are. It did not happen and they still claimed the top spot in the difficult West. Even though the Spurs swept the season series, it is now the playoffs and it’s Dirk Nowitzki so anything can happen. For the Spurs and Mavericks they are two of the best three point shooting teams in the NBA but the Spurs unselfishness and ball movement will get them more open looks. This series while it will be interesting and nice to see a couple of future Hall of Famers in Nowitzki and Tim Duncan but the Spurs are too deep, healthy and committed to make one last run at the Finals. Plus they would love to make up for last year’s collapse in game 7 of the Finals. Dallas will put up a fight but in the end it should not go more than five games.
(2) Oklahoma City Thunder vs (7) Memphis Grizzlies — These two teams meet yet again in the playoffs. For the third time in four years, these two heavyweights will matchup. In 2011, these two teams were up and coming and OKC outlasted Memphis in seven games to advance to its first Western Conference Finals. Last year, Memphis got their revenge and took down OKC who were playing without Russell Westbrook. OKC won the regular season series 3-1 but that will not mean much now that it is the playoffs and the lone victory for Memphis came when Westbrook did not play. Also Marc Gasol and Mike Conley played in three of those games and defensive stopper Tony Allen played in just one. This series could come down to the wire as both are very physical and know each other very well in the playoffs. The edge has to go to OKC as Kevin Durant has had a marvelous season and it will only get better in the playoffs. This series could go seven games but OKC will come out on top.
(3) Los Angeles Clippers vs (6) Golden State Warriors — This is another series were the two teams do not like each other and know each other well coming from the same division. These two teams split their season series with both winning at home and with at least one team scoring 111 points or more in three of the contests and a lot of scuffles. The best matchup will be Stephen Curry against Chris Paul. They are both the engines to their team and make them go. Emotions are going to run high in this series and whatever team can keep that in check will be successful. Losing Andrew Bogut hurts the Warriors defense but they have other capable defenders in Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala.The Clippers are the number three point defense team while the Warriors are terrific from behind the arc. Something will have to give and it will be a great series to see these two go at it.
(4) Houston Rockets vs (5) Portland Trailblazers — This series should be quite fun and high scoring as both teams love to shoot the 3 ball. The Rockets take and make more 3s than any other team in the league and Portland ranks third and fourth in those categories. It really will come down to who can play defense down the stretch. Dwight Howard is back after missing eight games with an ankle injury and he says he is ready to go. Howard will have his hands full trying to stop LaMarcus Aldridge. Both teams have a couple of All-Stars on their side and it will be very entertaining. The Rockets have a slight edge since they have Howard back but do not count out the Blazers who had the best record in the West back in March before an injury to Aldridge set them back. While Aldridge is the work horse, do not forget about Lillard who can turn it up a notch. Whatever team makes the big defensive play down the stretch will win the series. It should be exciting.