BDCi’s NBA playoffs week 1

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Photo of Stephen Curry, James Harden, Zach Randolph and Joakim Noah

(BDCi) — The regular season is over and now it’s time for the NBA playoffs. It’s time to find out who will step up and who will falter. Who will be the NBA champion and who might fall a little bit short. Each week, there will be a breakdown of each playoff matchup to keep fans well informed of the latest in the NBA playoffs.

Western Conference Matchups

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

The biggest headline that jumps out in this matchup is James Harden will be playing against his former team. Harden was traded by Oklahoma City last Halloween so this should be very interesting. The biggest problem for Houston is they do not have a solid defender who can matchup with Kevin Durant so I see Houston looking to double-team Durant as much as possible to force someone else to beat them. That means Jeremy Lin will have his hands full trying to stop Russell Westbrook one-on-one. Houston is a very young team with really no playoff experience besides Harden and Omer Asik. When the game is on the line, how is this young Rockets team going to respond against a great Thunder team? Oklahoma won the season series 2-1. I think the Thunder win this series because they have more experience and are a better defensive team than the Rockets.

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

These two teams just played last Sunday with the Lakers narrowly pulling out the victory. The Lakers needed the last day of the regular season to even get into the playoffs and beat Houston to get the matchup with the Spurs. For the Lakers, the question remains, can they win in the playoffs without Kobe Bryant? It is not just Kobe’s points that the Lakers will miss but also his leadership and will to lead his team when the games matter the most. The Lakers really had a tough time against Houston because the Rockets double-teamed Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard when they got the ball in the post and forced the Lakers’ perimeter players to step up. If the Spurs implore that same tactic, they have a great chance to win this series. They are led by their big three of Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobilli. The Lakers are a terrible defensive team particularly on transition defense so if Parker can get in the fast break, the Lakers will be in trouble. I think the Spurs win this series because they have more weapons and the Lakers cannot win in the playoffs without Kobe.

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

This a series that I feel could possibly go the full seven games. The Denver Nuggets have had a great season, particularly at home where they only lost three times during the regular season. The Nuggets have had some injury issues with their point guard Ty Lawson who is back for the playoffs but they lost Danilo Galinarri for the season with a torn ACL. They will miss his outside shooting and ability to spread the floor. For the Warriors, they need to show that they can handle the playoff intensity. Also the Warriors got back Andrew Bogut, who missed with a sprained left ankle, the same ankle he fractured and required surgery last season. If he can be healthy, it provides an inside presence the Warriors will need if they want the rebound battle. For the Warriors, their scoring will come from the backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. If the Warriors can figure out a way to win in Denver, they have a good shot to win the series. The Warriors are 31-37 all-time against the Nuggets. I think the Nuggets are the more dynamic team and the pressure will get to the Warriors as the Nuggets will advance.

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

This is a rematch of last season’s first round series that went to seven games with the Clippers prevailing. Again, this series could just as easily go the full seven games as the high flying Clippers match wits with the physical Grizzlies. The Clippers feel pretty good about themselves having beaten the Grizzlies three out of four times during the regular season including last Saturday’s victory that earned them home-court advantage in this matchup. Memphis comes into the playoffs having won nine of 11 games, a better mark in that span than the four teams seeded ahead of them, including the Clippers. The Clippers know how to beat the Grizzlies and I think that they win this series but it won’t be easy by any means.

Eastern Conference Matchups

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

This is a matchup that really does not have much bite. The Miami Heat have had a great season, including their 27-game winning streak and they locked up the number one seed with weeks to spare. After winning it all last season, everyone is gunning for them but the Bucks are not that team. There will be a nice matchup in this series as Milwaukee Bucks shooting guard Monta Ellis goes up against Miami Heat shooting guard Dwayne Wade. Both are competitors and it will be fun to see them go at each other. The Bucks have lost nine of 11 games heading into the playoffs and the Heat have so many ways of beating a team that the Bucks do not match up well. The Heat should win this series in a sweep.

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

kevin garnett battles with carmelo anthony

Photo by: toptenz.net

This is a great matchup between two teams that have a heated history. The Knicks and Celtics are bitter Atlantic division rivals and played two contentious regular season games that featured some on court and off court fireworks between Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Garnett. Look for this series to be very physical and very intriguing. The Knicks haven’t won a playoff series in 13 years while the Celtics haven’t lost a first round series in the Garnett era. This series is basically a jumping shooting team in New York versus the stingy defense of the Boston Celtics. Whoever can execute better wins this series but it will be a dogfight. This series can go to seven games but I think what hurts the Celtics is they just do not have enough offensive prowess to keep up with the Knicks and this were not having Ray Allen or Rajon Rondo hurts the Celtics. The Knicks will win their first playoff series in 13 years but it will be grueling.

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

It’s been pretty impressive that the Pacers secured home court advantage while missing their leading scorer Danny Granger for most of the season. F

or most of the season, Indiana was the best defensive team and had improved play from Paul George and steady point guard play from George Hill. Indiana lost five of six games down the stretch as their defense went AWOL. For the Hawks, they lost five of seven games and lost their hold on the number five seed. The Hawks are also not healthy as they lost Lou Williams during the season to a knee injury and key reserve forward/center Zaza Paculia to an achilles injury. They still have injury issues as Al Horford is battling a sore shoulder and Josh Smith is battling tendinitis in his knee. These teams split their four regular season games with each winning two on their home court. This should be interesting as the physical Pacers who like a deliberate pace match up with a Hawks team that wants move up and down the court. This series could go either way but the Hawks have the advantage as the Pacers have being all out of sorts lately falling behind by 20 points in their last six games. The Hawks move on in this series.

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

This is going to be a gritty matchup with two evenly matched teams. The Nets are back in the playoffs for the first time in six years. Moving to Brooklyn obviously must have helped them. The Bulls have had a tough season as everyone wai

ted around for Derrick Rose to come back and he has not. Now the Bulls are seeded fifth and are lacking momentum heading into the playoffs. Both of these teams rely on their defense to win games as they are not high scoring threats. The Nets average 88.8 points a game, good for 28th in the NBA while the Bulls are 89.3, 27th in the league. Whatever team rebounds better and plays the best defense will win this series. It certainly will not come down to offense. The pressure is really on Brooklyn to win this series. The Bulls are more interested in the offseason as they need Derrick Rose to return. However, this grind out defensive series favors the Bulls as head coach Tom Thibodeau is a defensive minded coach. This probably will go six and I think the Bulls win as they won the regular season series 3-1.

Stats: NBA.com

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