Games To Watch
In the East: Magic-Hawks. I’ve got the Magic on this one, but they’re really going to have to work hard, and Dwight Howard is going to have to play like an MVP. If Jameer Nelson can perform at a high level, and if the threes fall for them, I’d say magic in 6.
In the West: Thunder-Nuggets. This series really depends on Durant/Westbrook performance. Except it doesn’t. We know they’ll both play at their usual level, so the question is really how the rest of their team plays. The problem is, there’s no key player on the Nuggets for the Thunder to shut down. Since the Carmelo Anthony trade, they’ve been playing team basketball better than anyone else in the league. A couple of 30+ nights for Durant, but Nuggets in 7.
Keys to the Series-East
Bulls-Pacers: Do the Bulls still have Derrick Rose? I don’t see much difficulty in this series, but I do see lots of playing time for Chicago’s bench. Bulls in 4.
Magic-Hawks: The Magic need to remember to go to Howard in the paint occasionally. If they aren’t hitting their jump shots, they tend let things get away from them. Remember: Superman is there to bail you out.
Heat-Sixers: The Sixers have really picked up recently, but the Heat should still be able to handle them as long as Bosh feels like actually playing defense on Speights. In a worst case scenario for the Heat, they would lose the first two games and fall apart in the way they’ve shown they’re capable of. But with the series starting in Miami, that seems unlikely, so Heat in 5.
Celtics-Knicks: Both of these teams are underperforming coming into this series, and a lot may depend on bench performance. If Carmelo plays to his full potential the Knicks could be a tough team for the Celtics to handle, but they’ve got experience and more potential. Celtics in 6.
Keys to the Series-West
Lakers-Hornets: Unless Chris Paul can…learn to fly? Even if they’re coming in off a losing streak, the Lakers win this series in 4 games.
Thunder-Nuggets: While Durant and Westbrook will put up the biggest numbers, the question here is more about who’s around them. The Nuggets work exceptionally well together as a team, and this series is really going to come down to how the rest of the Thunder team plays. I’m expecting at least one big performance from Harden, and the Thunder need to remember that Cook is a three-point threat who could give them a boost if he’s shooting a high percentage. This should be one of the toughest matchups, and it’s difficult to say this, but: Nuggets in 7.
Mavericks-Trailblazers: The Trailblazers are looking pretty good coming into this series, whereas the Mavericks recently gave up the two seed to the Lakers. The Mavs have the better team only by a slim margin, and a good deal of it depends on Nowitzki, but they should win in 6.
Spurs-Grizzlies: The Spurs may have been up and down lately, but they remain one of the best teams in the NBA and should be able to easily win this series in 5 games. The first loss will wake them up and keep them focused on their drive towards a loss to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.