The end of the regular season in one of the most exciting NBA campaigns we’ve witnessed over the past half century is now upon us which means simply one thing; it’s time for a second season that should be filled with tons of action, suspense and high-quality competition. Each year the NBA Playoffs present a certain level of drama and entertainment however this season’s edition should produce peak in the height of interest amongst die-hard and casual fans alike.
Certain teams have seemed to flounder into the postseason (Spurs, Celtics, Lakers and Mavericks) while others seem to be gaining a head of steam upon entering the tournament (Thunder, Bulls, Heat and Knicks) so it will be interesting to see if those who have been playing well can continue it in hard fought postseason competition or if the struggling teams can flip a switch to enjoy the playoff success which they are accustom to.
Without further delay here is how I feel the 2011 edition of the NBA Playoffs will pan out and who will win the Larry O’Brien Trophy come the beginning of June.
1.) Chicago Bulls vs 8.) Indiana Pacers
This matchup should easily go to the soon-to-be crowned league MVP, Derrick Rose and his squad. The Pacers were just able to take one game out of four from the Bulls during the regular season and in this series they’ll probably only get one game as well. Rose will be too much for the likes of Darren Collison and A.J. Price to handle as Indiana’s scrappiness will fall to Chicago’s overall skill and smothering defense.
Prediction: Bulls win series 4-1
2.) Miami Heat vs 7.) Philadelphia 76ers
This series will probably be very brutal to observe as the Heat swept the 76ers during the season series three games to none. Every matchup in this series favors Miami, especially the fact that both teams share the same weakness (size in the paint). The Heat shouldn’t have trouble at all advancing to the second round as Doug Collins young Sixers receive their first lesson in postseason basketball from Wade, James and Bosh.
Prediction: Heat win series 4-0.
3.) Boston Celtics vs 6.) New York Knicks
From the most lopsided series in the East to the most intriguing one; this series between these once great rivals should be a classic. The Celtics are a shell of themselves since dealing Kendrick Perkins away and the Knicks are soaring entering the postseason with Carmelo Anthony finally leading the team. Even the C’s swept the season series between the two teams four games to none, this not the same Boston team that has gone to the Finals two of the last three seasons. Do I smell an upset; possibly but probably not.
Prediction: Celtics win series 4-3.
4.) Orlando Magic vs 5.) Atlanta Hawks
In this first round matchup between the two most stagnant Eastern Conference teams we have a team with no size (Atlanta’s two through five position players in the starting lineup are all between 6’7″ and 6’9″) taking on another with the best bigman in the Association (Dwight Howard). As long as Howard doesn’t rack up the technicals and gets some help from his perimeter players the Magic should wipe the court with the Hawks despite losing three of four to them during the regular season.
Prediction: Magic win series 4-2.
1.) Chicago Bulls vs 4.) Orlando Magic
If anyone watched the game between these two on Sunday April 10th which the Bulls squeaked out a three point victory as Jameer Nelson made a three-point shot (moments after time expired which would have sent the game to overtime), then you should expect more of the same in this series. The Bulls took the regular season series between the two teams three games to one and they should be able to keep a similar trend going in this series as well. Rose and Nelson should be a wonderful battle to watch and Noah and Boozer should be able to enough against Superman 2G.
Prediction: Bulls win series 4-2.
2.) Miami Heat vs 3.) Boston Celtics
The Hatfields versus the McCoys, the Montagues versus the Capulets, the Sopranos versus anyone opposing them; that is what the Heat versus Celtics has been throughout the season. The Celtics began the season defeating the newly assembled crew and took the season series three games to one with Miami winning the final meeting between the two. The C’s major advantage was having size in the paint over Miami now that advantage isn’t there and this series should be even Steven.
Prediction: Heat win series 4-3
1.) Chicago Bulls vs 2.) Miami Heat
This wasn’t the Eastern Conference Finals I envisioned in the preseason (Boston vs Miami), but it should be a good one regardless. During the regular season the Bulls swept the Heat three games to none with all three games being decided by a total of eight points. The Bulls have a major advantage in the paint and on the boards however the Heat have two major game changers on the wing as opposed to just Rose in Chicago. Neither team has the advantage as far as postseason chemistry but by the time these Eastern Conference titans clash they will both have been battle tested. I wouldn’t be surprised if all seven games in this series were decided by a combined total of 12 points.
Prediction: Heat win series 4-3
1.) San Antonio Spurs vs 8.) Memphis Grizzlies
The Spurs find themselves in a familiar position sitting atop the Western Conference looking poised to make a run while the Grizzlies are making their first trip to the postseason in five seasons. During the regular season the two teams split the series two games apiece with both teams protecting their home court. Rudy Gay is definitely out of this series and there is uncertainty regarding the status of Manu Ginobili which could mean a wash at the star wing position. Either way the Spurs will be too much for the Grizz in a series.
Prediction: Spurs win series 4-2
2.) Los Angeles Lakers vs 7.) New Orleans Hornets
This series will probably be the most lopsided Western Conference series as the Hornets enter without star forward David West. The Lakers swept the season series four games to none and a couple of them were laughers. So even though Andrew Bynum’s status is questionable with his minor knee issue the Lakers still have plenty of firepower to handle New Orleans easily. Expect L.A. to gain momentum for another deep postseason run in this series despite their late season floundering (remember just one year ago the same happened).
Prediction: Lakers win series 4-1
3.) Dallas Mavericks vs 6.) Portland Trailblazers
This series could go either way both teams are deep and present difficulties for the other as demonstrated in the regular season. During their four game season series the teams split it with both teams winning on their home courts each time. The Mavericks have the experience factor going for them while the Blazers main advantage is their athleticism. Dirk Notwitzki and LaMarcus Aldridge will put up comparable numbers so it’ll be up to the likes of Gerald Wallace, Rudy Fernandez, Jason Terry and Jason Kidd to decide this series. It should be a knock down drag out affair which could surprise many with the final outcome.
Prediction: Trailblazers win series 4-3
4.) Oklahoma City Thunder vs 5.) Denver Nuggets
Get your track shoes out for this series as both teams are full of youth, athleticism, talent and depth. During the season series the Thunder took three of four games with two of the wins coming during the final month of the season (after the Kendrick Perkins deal). The two major differences between the teams (size in the paint and two dominant All-Stars in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook) are the exact reasons why the OKC bunch will be successful in this series.
Prediction: Thunder win series 4-2
1.) San Antonio Spurs vs 4.) Oklahoma City Thunder
This series will feature the old guard taking on the new guard as the Spurs have been there and done that while the Thunder appear to be the next best thing in the West. During the regular campaign the San Antonio swept Oklahoma City three games to none however all three contest came prior to the Perkins acquisition. Now that the Thunder have Perkins along with Nazr Mohammed they have the size in the interior to match with the Spurs and nullify one of the two advantages they held over OKC (other being experience). This is going to be a great series, especially if you like change.
Prediction: Thunder win series 4-2
2.) Los Angeles Lakers vs 6.) Portland Trailblazers
This series will be yet another good one during this year’s Western Conference playoffs as these two deep and exceptional teams square off. The Blazers have everything needed to give the Lakers fits during this series including a defender in Gerald Wallace who is versatile enough to guard Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom. With a healthy Bynum the Lakers have a big advantage in the paint with three seven footers who can all rebound effectively and score as well. If Brandon Roy was the player he was three seasons ago then the Blazers would have a better shot since he isn’t the L.A. should win it.
Prediction: Lakers win series 4-2
2.) Los Angeles Lakers vs 4.) Oklahoma City Thunder
The writing was on the wall for this Western Conference Final matchup for a year now when these two teams met in the opening round of the 2010 playoffs. During the regular season the Lakers won the series 3-1, but during the last game OKC looked dominant with Perk. This series should be an absolute dandy to watch and might just be the best of all the series this postseason; Bryant, Durant, Westbrook, Gasol, Odom and Harden. High-flying highlights, tough interior defense and clutch plays will all be on full display during this series. It will all come down to whether or not the Thunder are ready to take a leap instead of the next step; Jordan and his Bulls and the pistons to get through and that’s what these Lakers are to them.
Prediction: Lakers win series 4-3
2.) Los Angeles Lakers vs 2.) Miami Heat
It’s the dream matchup that everyone was waiting for, hoping for and expecting when LeBron James and Chris Bosh took their talents to South Beach joining Dwyane Wade. Kobe, Gasol and Odom vs Wade, James and Bosh; the television ratings will be through the roof and David Stern will be the happiest man in America. On the court the action won’t be as close as everyone thinks it will as the Lakers should be able to handle the Heat rather easily each and every opportunity they get. The two glaring differences between the two are the Lakers advantage in the paint and their experience of playing in several postseason series together. The series will definitely provide plenty of action and drama but in the end the Lakers will threat-peat and Phil Jackson will go out on top.
Prediction: Lakers win series 4-2